Lander Auditorium was the scene for the public debate on the motion “This house would attach teacher compensation to student performance” on Wednesday, October 12. On the Affirmative, Karimu Mohammed gracefully opened the debate by setting up the model. He proposed that the teacher compensation be based 20% on local evaluation of student performance, 20% on state evaluation of student performance and 60% on evaluations of other teachers and that teachers be labeled as ineffective, developing, or effective based on these evaluations, so that the problem teachers can get help and the methods of the effective teachers can be identified and used.
Nina Datlof responded by first and foremost conceding that the status quo is failing, but the model that side Government presented is not effective in ameliorating it because it does not address the root cause: money. Nina argued that certain students and schools are doing poorly because of a lack of resources, and not necessarily because of poor teaching. “Standardized tests are a terrible indication of teaching, but a good indicator of socio-economic status.” Levan Bokeria defending the solvency of the model by claiming that if you are a good teacher, people will want to send their kids to your classroom and if not you will get fired, so if anything the quality of teachers in poorer areas will improve. He also claimed that even if opposition claims about socio-economic status and test scores are true, students in these poorer areas have the most potential for growth, so they will attract more teachers. Alap effectively emphasized how side government could not possibly believe in its own model if only 40% of job security rest on student performance. He continued to say that this new model will be disastrous for education because it cuts out a whole range of subjects that can not be tested in a standardized manner, such as music and art. In addition, he mentioned how the model provides an incentive for teachers to unethically correct answers on these tests. As he was on the subject of the ineffectiveness of the model he accepted a POI from Karimu, where he proceeded to use his psychic powers to predict Karimu’s intended question, justifying his premature answer.
In his next speech, Karimu corrected the misinformed belief that the model cuts out holistic education by making the claim that writing and basic math are a pre-requisite to many of the subjects that side opposition was advocating. He then went on the question what holistic education really means, because in the status quo only 5 % of Rochester students are competitive. Wrapping up, Nina eloquently stated how the model will only equalize public and private schools because one of the main incentives for teachers to stay in the public school system, tenure and job security, will be stripped, resulting in good teachers being pushed to the private sector. This effect will only worsen the problem, as the children from higher socio-economic backgrounds will continue to receive a good education, and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds will be once again pushed to the side.
URDU would like to extend our gratitude to Dr. Logan Hazen, assistant professor at Warner School’s higher education program, and Courtney Hanny, PhD candidate at Warner school, for publicizing the event. Additionally, we’d like to thank our guest judges, both PhD candidates at Warner School, Jon M. Ferguson (who is doing classroom research) and Burke Scarbrough (research on standardized testing). Ferguson voted for the opposition, and Scarbrough voted for the government. Shortly after, they shared their thoughts on how the public debate went and the topic itself. Here are the videos from the debate: