Teachers: Collaboration more important than cash


A survey released last week by Scholastic Inc., and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows that teachers believe there should be multiple ways to measure student performance, and that student performance should be part of their yearly reviews.

More than 40,000 teachers in every grade and state were interviewed for the survey, “Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on America’s Schools.”

The survey revealed a truth that is obvious to most teachers but comes as a surprise to many outside the classroom: Standardized tests should not be the sole measure of student achievement, as is currently the case with the odiferous No Child Left Behind law and Minnesota’s own Graduation-Required Assessment for Diploma (GRAD). Assessment should be driven by classroom experiences, ongoing formative assessments during class, performance on class assignments and class participation.

“Having clear measures of student achievement is critical to teachers; they rely on student performance data to innovate and differentiate instruction in a variety of ways,” the report stated.

Also, the respondents expressed an opinion long held among teachers but little expressed among lawmakers and policymakers: The most satisfying part of their work is their time with peers and students. They also crave supportive leadership.

“Teachers say higher salaries, while important, are not as critical in retaining effective teachers as other, non-monetary rewards. Teachers say that the most accurate measures of their own performance are student engagement and student growth over the academic year,” the report found.

How do we apply the results of this national survey to Minnesota’s education system?

  • We refuse to participate in No Child Left Behind until it is fixed to our satisfaction by Congress. Minnesota must measure student achievement on more than one test.

  • We allow for rigorous yet more general ways to show mastery of essential subjects to achieve graduation. Minnesota must measure knowledge gained through better means than the GRAD test.

  • We correct Q-Comp to resemble what teachers need and demand. Minnesota teachers want collaboration and the state should allow more of it. Tearing up the salary schedule has more to do with politics than it does with education.

  • Which brings us to the final point: The teachers’ demand for supportive and innovative leadership should not stop at the school building door or the administrator’s office. Teachers must demand supportive leadership from Capitol Hill and the governor’s mansion. In Minnesota, anything less is unacceptable.