Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Other Opinions · Performance - based...
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Performance - based silliness

Stephen Tuttle - January 18th, 2010
Performance-based silliness
Children are our future. We know this not just because it’s so painfully
obvious but because political candidates tell us this every election
cycle. In fact, it’s one of the campaign clichés on which we can count,
election after election after election.
As companions to their clichés, the politicians will demand uber-qualified
teachers, a more demanding curriculum to better prepare our children for
the future, more advanced technology (because the future is all about
technology), and expect greater involvement from parents. As a bonus,
because we are desperate for federal funds, we will play along with No
Child Left Behind requirements and develop a statewide standardized test.
It will be perfect. We get it, already.
What many of us don’t get is the latest fad – performance-based salaries
for teachers. It sounds so logical, doesn’t it? We have these tests, all
students take them, so why not pay teachers according to the results?
After all, that’s the way the “real” world operates.
(At this point, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention my
wife is a teacher.)
It’s true enough those in the private sector are paid, at least to some
degree, based on how they produce. We’re told there is no reason teachers
should be immune to this reality. They are supposed to be educating our
children and we now have a standardized basis on which to judge how
they’re doing.
There are some subtle differences.
In the private sector people apply for jobs. In corporations of any size a
Human resources department investigates those applying. Applications are
filled out, work histories are checked. The applicant is matched to an
appropriate opening within the organization based on a job description.
The applicant undergoes a period of training to familiarize himself or
herself with the corporate culture. A probationary period is standard
operating procedure. Performance evaluations are given at predetermined
If the newly-hired employee performs well, salary raises and/or bonuses
are forthcoming. A career path is developed. Promotions and more raises
are possible. If the newly hired employee does not adhere to expectations,
they will surely be terminated and the process begins again with another
new hire.
Now, imagine you are a manager or supervisor. You have 25 individuals for
whom you are responsible. None applied for the job. No background checks
were undertaken. No job descriptions exist. You have no say as to whether
or not they are under your supervision. You must take whoever is sent
your way. A handful of your new “employees” are self-motivated
over-achievers. Most are not. One or two do not speak English as a first
language. Another small group has learning disabilities, making it
difficult for them to do their job. No matter. You will receive little
support from your bosses. Your budget is being cut. You are not allowed to
discipline your little group, much less fire any of them. All of them
will likely be promoted regardless of their performance. You have nine
months to whip them into shape. Your salary and your future are dependent
on their performance on a test that presupposes they can all perform
equally. You are a teacher. Your “employees” are children. Welcome to
the world of performance-based education. Good luck.
It is quite preposterous. Every bit of research ever undertaken shows
children learn at different speeds and at different times in their lives.
The child who struggles and falls behind in the third grade might excel in
the sixth. Too bad for that third grade teacher. The foundation that may
have been built by that third grade teacher that only became evident years
later will be irrelevant. Performance-based evaluations will not take into
account a child’s economic disadvantage or abusive home life. The kid did
poorly on The Test – too bad for the teacher.
We could try something more logical.
We could return classroom discipline to the teachers and hire
administrators who support them. We could quit whimpering about
children’s self-esteem. No child should ever be berated or humiliated,
but there has to be a consequence when little Jason sticks a pencil in
Tiffany’s eye. And mistakes should be noted and corrected.
We could make sure parents understand the rules and the consequences. And
that rules will be enforced.
We could put administrators in the classroom a few times a year, as
substitute teachers, so they understand the realities of today’s
classrooms and students.
We could allow school districts to fire incompetent teachers. The bad ones
are no secret and they can negatively impact a student’s learning for
And we could stop adopting fads, like one-size-fits-all standardized tests
and performance-based salaries that do nothing to better educate our
Yes, I have a distinct and admitted bias for teachers. But ask yourself if
you’d like your future to be determined by the test scores of 25

Political consultant Stephen Tuttle is a new columnist for the Express.
He formerly wrote for the Arizona Republic.

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