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Attorney Tyler Cramer is guest blogging today about how schools could link test scores to educators, its benefits, and what some of the complications might be in doing so. This is his third post for the day. Send him your comments, questions and counterarguments at tcramer@cramerlaw.net. — Emily Alpert

Former San Diego Unified school board member Frances O’Neill Zimmerman wrote:

Eliminating the “Business Roundtable for Education” itself is apparently easier than getting rid of dated “business-model” ideas held by former Roundtable chairmen.  Your business-based notions that charter school “competition” with public schools or linking teacher pay/employment to student test scores will truly improve the quality of public education in this country are just old-fashioned anti-union fantasies. Recent Rand evidence has shown that charter schools are often poorly-run financially and do NOT exceed public school achievement. And if students themselves are not accountable for their test scores in any way, how then can teachers’ livelihood be tied to them?

Systemic public education reform is sorely needed, but it cannot be based on narrow political fixes such as you or Arne Duncan or our ever-pragmatic President Obama propose. We need the kind of investment in public education reform that we just saw spent on the automotive and finance sectors of our economy. I think American students are as important to our future as GM or Goldman Sachs.

Here’s the response from Cramer:

Always good to hear from you. Couple of corrections though, in agreeing to do this blog, I speak for me, not the Business Roundtable for Education or any other organization with which I am now or was previously affiliated. Second, while the BRE strongly supported charter schools in many ways, I have always believed charters should be subject to the same accountability criteria and utilize the same assessment tools, including longitudinal data systems, as public schools.

While Ms. Alpert’s lead indicated I am a proponent of tying teacher and principal evaluations in part to student performance, I’ve spent two decades trying to help schools become more efficient and effective with the resources they’ve got. In short, I’m a big advocate for tying ALL educational inputs, including principals, teachers, instructional strategies, pedagogies, curriculum, text books – you name it –   to longitudinally measured student performance. (see my other blog post)

We spend a huge amount of public money on K-12 education in California. I believe the 2008-2009 all in education budget was somewhere around $72 billion. Both our taxpayers and our 6.3 million public school students deserve adults and systems that are focused on wringing the absolute most learning out of every dollar.

Last but not least, you bring up an excellent point about student accountability. What I believe is becoming “old fashioned” is the 1990s axiom that “students don’t fail, teachers fail them.” Without giving educators an easy excuse path, I agree students should take some responsibility for their academic failures. Likewise, as is done in San Diego Unified with its Project Recovery, there should be avenues by which students can redeem their academic careers. 

— TYLER CRAMER

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