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Improving Education

A new approach to testing and staffing education

Back 10 years ago the state of New Usa faced the same problems as most other states. Teachers wanted higher salaries, school administrators pushed for merit pay, legislators demanded accountability and parents were clamoring for better teachers.

But teachers didn't want merit pay or accountability, administrators didn't cared about better teaching or accountability, legislators rejected higher salaries, and parents didn't understand any of it.

Then a decade ago the State Board of Education proposed the "Performance, Position, Pay" (PPP) plan which was then enacted into law. It was in that year that a new State Achievement Test (SAT) was administered to every elementary and secondary pupil in every school. School SAT averages were computed and recorded and then the schools were ranked on SAT performance low to high.


The State Department of Education had prepared a state-wide teachers salary schedule (the teachers of New Usa were made state civil servants the previous year.) The schedule had two kinds of step raises. There was the "Years of Service" salary steps which were minor increases in pay. Then there was the PPP salary schedule with large step increases, the highest step being twice that of the lowest.

The PPP salary steps were then applied to the schools inversely according to "average SAT scores," or ASATS. In other words, the teaching positions at the Urba school in Old Town which had the lowest ASATS were assigned the highest PPP salary step. The teaching positions in the school with the second lowest ASATS, Rura, the next highest PPP salary step. In New Subura where with the highest ASATS, the teaching positions received the lowest PPP salary steps. In other words, the worst performing schools got the highest teacher salaries.

Three years later New Usa retested all the school children in the state. In addition to this new set of ASATS measuring each schools average student achievement, a comparison was made with the original scores... in other words, the new scores minus those of three years ago. This difference was the net change in achievement, either positive or negative. Next the schools were ranked on this difference. Then the PPP salary steps were reapplied to this new ranking, again the teaching positions in schools with the lowest net change in achievement receiving the highest salary.

Now this may seem as though the least competent teachers (those in schools ranked low in net achievement change) were being rewarded. But this is where the more recent ASATS ranking comes in. According to the Performance, Position, Pay Act, "all teaching positions in the state shall become open every third year. The filling of these positions shall then proceed as follows: the teachers in schools showing the greatest gains in net change in achievement shall have first choice of any position in the state. Then teachers in school of consecutively lesser net change in achievement shall have consecutively less priority in choice of teaching positions, such that the teachers in the school showing the least net change in achievement shall have last choice of teaching positions."


So that next year all teaching positions became vacant. The apparent "good" teachers in New Subura, where net change in achievement happened to be greatest, all received first choice among all teaching positions in the state. Some stayed in New Subura since they didn't mind the lower salary and felt comfortable teaching smart, middle-class kids in a modern building. Other teachers wanted the higher pay , so they moved out to places like the Rura school. But most so called "good" teachers opted to work in Urba where salaries were not only double, but teaching would be a challenge. Many of the former teachers in Urba (where the net change in achievement was so low) quit while some took lower salary positions in places like New Subra.

Three years later, after another round of testing, another reshuffling of teachers occurred, but to a lesser extent. This time Urba achievement gains improved with more proficient teachers. But since it's ASAT was still relatively low (because not all the "good" teachers were that good,) it retained its higher salaries and attracted other talented teachers to fill positions left vacant by those for whom the challenge was too great.

Over the years the best teachers migrated to the worst schools and made a difference while incompetent teachers found it not worthwhile to stay in the teaching profession, not even in the schools of New Subra where teaching was easy. New teachers filled open positions and would face the same culling of the ranks

Overall, while the differences in student achievement across the state have diminished, education on the whole has improved. And teachers have earned higher salaries, school administrators attained merit pay, legislators realized accountability and parents got better teachers.