South Dakota Referred Law 16: Education Reform Act

The complete text of the refeferred law is as follows:

Title: An education reform act to establish a teacher scholarship program; create a program for math and science teacher bonuses; create a program for teacher merit bonuses; mandate a uniform teacher and principal evaluation system; and eliminate state requirements for teacher tenure.

Explanation: Referred Law 16 is an education reform act with five key components. First, it establishes a scholarship program for eligible college students who commit to teach in South Dakota in critical need subject areas.
Second, the referred law creates a program to provide state-funded annual bonuses for eligible math and science teachers.
Third, the referred law develops a separate “Top Teachers” bonus program. This program provides annual state-funded merit bonuses for up to 20% of each school district’s full-time certified teachers, as awarded by the local school boards. Alternatively, a school board may enact its own program for teacher bonuses, using these state-provided funds. A school board may opt out of these merit bonus programs altogether, resulting in re-allocation of its merit bonus funds to other participating school districts.
Fourth, the referred law mandates a uniform statewide system for evaluating teachers and principals, including a rating system.
Fifth, the referred law eliminates state requirements for continuing contracts (“tenure”) for teachers who do not achieve tenure by July 1, 2016. School boards may, in their discretion, choose to offer continuing contracts to non-tenured teachers.

Yes” is to enact the education reform act.
No” is against the referred law.

While I may quibble with some of the details in the education reform act, I find the idea of rewarding excellent behavior to be long overdue in the realm of public education. Further, the idea of extending a life-long contract to someone because they have managed to stick it out for X number of years is, once again, contrary to how most of the business world works. Tenure tends to be a perverse incentive. I would rather that poor teachers find something else to do which is better suited to their skills and abilities than to stay on because they can.

Constant Conservative recommends a “Yes” vote on Referred Law 16.

5 thoughts on “South Dakota Referred Law 16: Education Reform Act

  1. To review: merit pay doesn’t work. It has counterproductive results in knowledge work. Ask Daniel Pink. Ask Microsoft.

    We don’t have tenure: we have continuing contract. The only protection it affords is that, at the end of a school year, if the school decides not to renew the contract of a teacher whom it has deemed good enough to rehire at least four previous times, the school must provide a written reason for that change of mind. That teacher may then ask for a hearing before the school board to argue the stated reason(s) for non-renewal That’s a modest but important protection to keep schools from dumping good teachers for bad reasons.

    And statewide teacher evaluations based 50% on standardized tests will do active harm to the quality of education in your schools without providing you any reliable data on who’s really a good teacher.

    1. People work harder and do better if they know they will be rewarded accordingly. The knowledge industry is different but not so different that people’s motivations are any different than in any other industry where they are paid for their efforts.

      The difference between tenure and continuing contract sounds like a distinction without much difference. As far as “dumping good teachers for bad reasons” I think it is up to the school board to determine who is and who is not a good teacher. That is the point of a local board, after all.

      While I would agree that placing too much weight on standardized testing is unwise, such tests are a reasonably objective measure of performance–and evaluations should be as objective as is possible to ensure that they are equitable.

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