Bush, Bloomberg Stump For Changes In No Child Left Behind Act

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Florida Governor Jeb Bush and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are together pushing for changes in the No Child Left Behind Act, which is up for renewal at the end of 2007.

Their chief criticism of the Act championed by Bush's brother, president George W Bush, is essentially that the Act is all stick and no carrot.

Two specific changes they would like to see include a grading system for school performance and the linking of teacher pay to their performance. Both of these things are being used in Bush's Florida and are under consideration in New York City's massive school district.

The No Child Left Behind Act gives schools a pass/fail grade of sorts and punishes schools that are failing. The Florida system grades schools like students with grades from A to F. This, they claim, gives schools passing with a C the desire to strive for an A.

There is a desire to grade teachers as well with some part of their pay dependent on their performance. With the strength of education unions, it is unclear how such a system would be implemented.

As to the proposal to grade schools, I can see no down side; and, it should be an improvement over the de facto "pass/fail" system the current act provides.

Tying teacher pay to their performance sounds like an obvious incentive, but I think there are a few issues that would make it difficult to have much of an effect. Also, details of this proposal are still a bit sketchy making it difficult to gauge its impact. That said, we can do some if/then analysis of what it might mean.

If the goal is simply to give bonuses for good performance (i.e., all carrot, no stick), it is likely that such a proposal represents an increase in cost with only a marginal return. I don't believe teachers become teachers for the money and therefore the lure of bonuses for performance is likely limited in its ability to foster a push to do better. It is more likely that many teachers believe they are doing their best and that some will just start getting paid better for what they are already doing.

On the other hand, if the goal is to reward good teachers and "punish" bad ones, there would be significant hurdles on the punishment side. With strong labor unions, it would be difficult to lower their pay. With the tenure system, it would be difficult to let them go. If they were let go, they would be difficult to replace. The likely result would be an increase in class sizes.


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