Recently Senate majority leader Del Marsh penned an op-ed for  The headline read, Why can’t Alabama keep good teachers?  We need to reward excellence.  Unfortunately once again the good senator shows that when it comes to knowing much about education, he is way over his head.

For example, he says in the article, Research suggest that when teachers and schools are incentivized to excel, they will and student growth will increase.”

Apparently neither senator Marsh or any of his staff have ever heard of the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University.  This unit, in cooperation with the RAND corporation, conducted a landmark study with nearly 300 math teachers grades five through eight in Nashville several years ago.

The press release announcing study results says in the opening paragraph, “Rewarding teachers with bonus pay, in the absence of any other support programs, does not raise student test scores.”

The release continues, “If teachers know they will be rewarded for an increase in their students’ test scores, will test scores go up?  We found that the answer to that question is no.”

Bonus amounts were $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000.  A total of $1.27 million was paid in bonuses throughout the study.

Another statement from Senator Marsh, “We can turn around our poor reputation in teacher staffing and much of it comes down to commonsense policy changes that treat teaching like the important profession it has always been.”

If education is an important profession, then why does the senator never ask Alabama educators for input on the education policy he sets forth?  I can not find a single educator in this state who was asked to help draft the RAISE Act.  And remember, this is the same senator who sponsored the Alabama Accountability Act and later boasted that leadership made sure educators had no knowledge of the bill.

Another gem, “For the teachers currently in our schools, we must provide them real professional development.”

Sounds good–until you realize that the RAISE Act the senator is working on says that in the future no teachers will be rewarded for getting advanced degrees.  I suppose he does not consider a Masters or Doctorate in Education to be professional development.

Senator Marsh is certainly correct in his concern about a looming teacher shortage.  We’ve spoken about this before.  But he needs to pay attention to the messages he sends when he passes charter school legislation that says teachers don’t have to be certified and when he passes an accountability act that says we can give money that should have gone to the education trust fund to private schools that don’t have to be accredited.  It does no good to talk about how important the education profession is when your actions demean and discourage public school teachers.

Last year Georgia surveyed 53,000 educators in an attempt to find out more about why teachers leave the profession.  Senator Marsh thinks it is all about money.  But Georgia teachers said the top three reasons are: 1) number and emphasis of mandated tests, 2) teacher evaluation method and 3) level of teacher participation in decisions related to profession.  Of the top eight reasons, compensation was never mentioned.

The RAISE Act will increase the emphasis on testing in Alabama, it will use a highly controversial teacher evaluation system that has been proven unrealizable time after time and we excluded educators from having input on this bill.

In other words, Senator Marsh, the RAISE Act does all the things that causes teachers to walk out the door and never come back.