Thursday, April 06, 2006

Survey Says! (Evergreen Freedom Foundation Version)

A couple of weeks ago the Evergreen Freedom Foundation sent out an email with their usual siren’s song of dues rebates, grants, and other resources. The EFF is the loyal opposition to the Washington Education Association here in the Evergreen State; the sniping between the two has been going on for years.

A part of this email was an opinion poll asking questions about different aspects of education today. After you take it you can see the results, and there’s some interesting information to be found. The poll was limited by the number of responses (some of the questions had barely more than 200 responses), but it does give a glimpse into what people are thinking.

Who should evaluate the effectiveness and value of a teacher? (196 Answers)

Administrators: 55%
Parents: 4%
Union Officials: 1%
State Superintendent: 1%
All of the Above: 39%

I’m surprised that they didn’t make Other Teachers one of the choices—that’s an idea that’s been out there for a number of years (there's been a lot of work in that regard in Ohio). I’m also a little surprised that All of the Above was the 2nd place choice, in that I’m not sure how you would involve the SPI, union officials, and parents in a fair evaluation system. Parent evaluation is a great principle, but what percentage do you look for? If 80% of the parents are happy, are you a good teacher? In my experience the parents are often happy if the kids are happy, which is a variable that could easily cut both ways in an accountability system.

What is the most important consideration in determining a teacher’s base pay? (132 Answers)

Teacher Performance: 0%
Student Success: 16%
Seniority: 17%
Qualifications Such as Education and Certification: 67%

I think the EFF took some of the punch out of the questions when they separated teacher performance and student success, since the two are essentially the same thing. The fifth question, though, gets back to the idea of merit pay:

Should you be paid based on your effectiveness as a teacher? (191 Answers)

No: 41%
Yes: 59%

That’s an eye-popping result. Again, small sample size, teachers who elected to take the survey are quite possibly those who support the EFF’s agenda anyway, but nearly 60% saying that pay and effectiveness should be linked is unexpected.

The next three pages of the printout that I have deal with the NEA’s political expenditures. It’s easy to see the bias in the survey when a question like this:

Do you agree with the NEA’s $65 million in political expenditures?

is immediately followed by:

Should the WEA/NEA use your dues to support organizations you disagree with?

Notice how the NEA expenditures are linked with the WEA without telling how much the WEA spent on political activity. I’m sure the EFF has those figures, and I’m frankly glad that there is someone playing the role of watchdog, but they would be far more successful if they carried themselves in a more intellectually honest fashion.

One other question that jumped out at me:

The Attorney General recently said public employee strikes are illegal. Should the WEA continue to threaten illegal strikes when negotiating contracts? (199 Answers)

No: 43%
Yes: 57%

The legality of teacher strikes is an open question, depending on who you ask. When I was on the bargaining team for our new contract last year we had a pretty good go-around as to whether strike language should be kept in the contract at all. The WEA says that they’ve never been explicitly outlawed (see here), but the judge in the Marysville decision in 2004 said that they are in issuing a back-to-work injunction (see here), and the EFF has a good write-up on the question at their website here. It’s the nuclear option, but the majority in this poll believed that it should be kept.

I'm hoping that the EFF will release the full results of the poll in a couple of months; it would make for great discussion.


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