This is a tale of two teachers.
Everybody knows a Teacher A and a Teacher B.
Let’s introduce you to hypothetical Teacher A and B, both 4th grade teachers who appear in classrooms all across Iowa.
Each has 15 students in their respective classrooms and have taught ten years with bachelor’s degrees as required by Iowa code. The students in each of their classrooms are from similar backgrounds with comparable abilities. Iowa students, while becoming increasingly more diverse, are still some of the most homogeneous and teachable as compared to anywhere else in the nation.
Teacher A is very dedicated to her profession and students and she recognizes that for them to succeed, they need to develop and master the fundamentals of math, science, reading and social studies. Teacher A utilizes tried and true methods that are responsible for Iowa’s noteworthy heritage in education.
A is very responsive to the needs of the students, often staying after work to help students who have questions and prepare lessons for the days ahead. A is usually available by telephone at home in the evenings and on weekends and identifies struggling students who need extra attention. Teacher A gives routine feedback to the students and parents about academic progress.
Teacher B, while following recommended curriculum, shows movies in class, goes on many field trips and allows students to deviate from the fundamentals to pursue fun activities.
Teacher B is out the door as soon as the bell rings and does not arrive at school until shortly before the first bell in the morning. Teacher B spends weekends pursuing his or her own credentials and exploring the newest untested education fads.
At the end of the year, Teacher A has finished teaching students the fundamental skills and all of her students demonstrate at least one year of academic growth. They are now at 5th grade level and are ready to do 5th grade work.
Teacher B’s students, on the other hand, have not mastered the fundamentals and on average show only about a half of a year’s worth of growth. These students will not be ready for 5th grade material and will only continue to fall behind their peers.
So when it comes time to reward pay raises, how many believe Teacher A will get more money and benefits?
If this were in any other sector of the economy – private sector companies, insurance, small businesses, manufacturing, community banks and others – not only would B be not be awarded with the same pay and benefits, B’s employment status would likely be in question.
But Iowa’s education system is much different.
Since both teachers are represented by union bosses, they get the exact same pay raise no matter how students perform.
Unfortunately, Iowa’s education system is becoming increasingly unfair to both our outstanding teachers and students and threatens the economic strength of our sons, daughters, granddaughters, grandsons.
Because of this system, many of our best teachers become frustrated and quit and it is virtually impossible to remove an underperforming teacher from the classroom.
Iowa’s system has not discouraged the chasing after every new educational fad. We have spent billions of new dollars adopting the latest fads, provided generous teacher bonuses, increased teacher salaries and added technology into the classroom only to see Iowa’s once proud heritage slip because of stagnant or declining student achievement.
It is time to change course and begin to reward teachers based on whether their kids are learning rather than by tenure or credentials bargained for by union bosses.
Not only is it time to pay our best teachers handsomely, it is time to remove teachers from the classrooms who are not performing.
Additionally, we must put the focus back on classroom teachers and eliminate positions not directly dealing with student achievement. We must get back to the true definition and purpose of education.
Iowa’s education system needs dramatic reform, a serious attitude adjustment and a major effort to clean up its act – and soon!
Senate Republicans will continue to work to make changes to our education system, but it is also time for the good teachers of this state, the ones who truly do care, to rescue their noble profession from the union bosses and out-of-touch education elite.
The very kids we are supposed to be educating today – the future of our communities, state and nation – are counting on each and every one of us. It would be a tragedy to let them down.
State Senator Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) is the Iowa Senate Minority Leader