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Make Teacher Accountability Like CEO Accountability

I always have to laugh when reformers argue that teachers are shielded from accountability compared with executives in the corporate world.  Consider the following:  In 1978, the average chief executive of a large company was paid 26 times more than the average worker.  By 2014, he/she was paid 300 to 700 times more ("A Better Way to Reward CEOs," The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 1). 

These same reformers will reply that at least if chief executives don't produce, there are consequences.  But what are they?  If they fail to meet their goals, they typically don't lose their bonus.  They just get less of it.  So instead of a $1 million bonus, they get perhaps 10 percent less.  That's not bad.  But what if they are eventually fired for one reason or another?  They receive a golden parachute worth millions.  For example, let's see what happens to those at the top at Equifax responsible for the massive security breach ("Consumers, but Not Executives, May Pay for Equifax Failings," The New York Times, Sep. 13).  If the past is any indication, they'll emerge unscathed ("Consumers, but Not Executives, May Pay for Equifax Failings," The New York Times, Sep. 17).

My point is not that teachers' salaries should be equivalent to that of CEOs.  Instead, it's that accountability in the executive suite is not nearly what is claimed. There are notable exceptions, but they are rare ("When the Rich Said No to Getting Richer," The New York Times, Sep. 5).  That's why calls to hold teachers responsible for how their students perform via the value-added metric is as flawed as assuming the contribution made by CEOs to profit is substantial. There are too many other factors involved in both cases.

What teachers do for their students is harder to measure than executive performance.  Yet reformers refuse to accept that argument.  Instead, they demand that a single standard is needed.  I'd agree if teachers would receive even a small fraction of what CEOs get when they don't produce expected results.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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