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Teacher pay pegged to standardized test scores

Tucker asks Mark Pudlow, the spokesman for the Florida Education Association, if Florida's plan to pay teachers based on how well their students do on standardized tests is a good idea.
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Beginning next year, teachers in Florida will have their raises and bonuses tied to the standardized test scores of their students.  Jeb Bush is standing firmly behind the policy.  Some in the education establishment claim exams cannot possibly measure how much teachers have taught their students. 

Mark Pudlow is the spokesman for the Florida Education Association, a group that is appealing the new pay for performance program.  Tucker discussed the controversial plan with Pudlow.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, "THE SITUATION":  What’s wrong with rewarding teachers for doing an especially good job?

MARK PUDLOW, SPOKESMAN, FLORIDA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: There’s nothing wrong with rewarding teachers for doing a good job.  In fact, we wish the state of Florida would come up with a plan that made a little bit more sense than this one does. 

We’re a state that teacher salaries are far below the national average, more than $6,200 below the national average.  We have a high cost of living.  We have a situation where housing costs are going through the roof.  And we really need to address the base pay before we look at a performance pay plan. 

CARLSON:  Well, why do that?  Wait, why do that?  In any other enterprise, public or private, people who do a better job are compensated more.  That’s a good thing.  Those sort of pressures, competitive pressures make people better, more efficient, better teachers.  Why wouldn’t you want those kind of pressures brought on teachers in Florida?

PUDLOW:  I don’t have any problem with—with rewarding teachers who do an excellent job.  The problem is with this particular plan. 

This particular plan was imposed by the Department of Education, the governor, and it had no input from the teachers in the state of Florida, from the school boards, the school districts.  It’s just an imposed plan that bases the worth of education in Florida on a single standardized test. 

CARLSON:  Look, nobody is saying that this test or any other test can measure comprehensively, completely what a child knows.  I mean, of course not.  But you’ve got to have some measure of it.  And nobody has thought of a better one. 

Moreover, kids are judged on these tests.  I mean, these tests and the SAT and all sorts of tests are what people determine how much kids know.  Why shouldn’t—if they’re good enough for the kids, why are they not good enough to judge the teachers by?

PUDLOW:  Well, it’s not the sole determinant of what children are judged on.  They’re also judged on the papers they write, the report cards that they do, their class work, how they behave.  They’re judged on a myriad of determinants. 

And we think that this is just a simplistic way of determining the worth of a teacher.  It’s kind of—it’s kind of silly, when you think about it, that just this one test that’s taken on one day of the year is going to determine whether a teacher is deemed outstanding or not. 

CARLSON:  Well, I don’t know, I mean, what’s the alternative?  I mean, I sort of understand what you’re saying, but you and I know you don’t want teachers judged at all on their performance.  You just want them paid more money, because you’re a member of a union.  And I get that.  And I’m not even attacking you for it. 

But if this isn’t an accurate measure, what’s a good way to reward teachers who are good, and what’s a good way to punish teachers who are bad?

PUDLOW:  Well, if you’re going to have a performance-based pay system, and we’re not opposed to that, what you need to do is you need to have all the partners that are involved in this, the school boards, the school administrators and the teachers deciding the—the rationale and the—whatever measures that you use to do this. 

CARLSON:  OK, but you’re arguing process.

PUDLOW:  But you need to have a funding source in place.  You need to have a clear and transparent system so that a teacher knows that if they do A, B, C and D they’re going to be rewarded as an outstanding teacher. 

CARLSON:  But this is—but this is the clearest and most transparent possible system.  It’s a standardized test.  You fill in the bubbles.  I mean, there’s no favoritism possible.  The test scores are read by a machine.  And there’s no cheating.  So you either make the grade or you don’t.  That’s kind of the appeal of this whole system. 

PUDLOW:  Well, that is, if you trust the test.  And this test in Florida is shrouded in secrecy.  Teachers can’t look at it.  Parents can’t look at it.  There’s no way to determine just how accurate a measurement it is. 

CARLSON:  See, but you have no evidence—hold on.  This is silly.  You have no evidence that it’s not accurate.  I mean, if you do, I’m welcome—I’m more than happy to hear it, that this test is somehow deeply flawed, but you’re just saying it could be flawed. 

I guess my point is people want accountability from teachers.  They have them in private schools.  Those teachers are paid a lot less than you guys are, as you know.  And they have accountability.  If they’re bad, they get bounced out immediately.  That’s why private schools are better than public schools.  So why not introduce that in the public system soon?

PUDLOW:  Well, private schools aren’t better than public schools.  That’s for sure.  I mean, there are good public schools.  There are good private schools.  There’s bad public schools and bad private schools.  And you know that, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  The appeal of private schools if a teacher is bad, you can boot him right out.  In a public school where everybody is a card carrying union member, you can’t do anything about bad teachers.  And you know that that’s true.  And that’s why people are very frustrated by it.  So why not have a system that makes sure we recognize and reward the good guys and recognize and bounce the bad guys?

PUDLOW:  Well, every—every contract in the state of Florida has provisions for disciplining teachers that aren’t doing their jobs.  So I don’t see where you say that it’s impossible to bounce teachers. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Because I know a lot of parents who are frustrated by it.  That’s how I say it.  Plus I need the newspaper.  But that’s even off topic.

Mark Pudlow, I appreciate your coming on and giving us your point of view.  Thank you