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Teachers, Parents Mobilize Against CMS Plan To Pay Teachers For Test Scores

Teachers and parents in the Media Center at East Meck High School last night discussing a plan to oppose the district’s "pay

CMS students have been taking a new set of tests this week. School district officials plan to use the scores on those tests as a yardstick to decide what individual teachers should be paid. The plan is not going over well with many parents and teachers. More than 1,100 CMS parents and teachers representing dozens of schools have signed an online petition insisting that standardized tests not be used to determine how much teachers are paid. "This is something that is affecting all of us at all schools, all across the county," says Pamela Grundy, the parent of a CMS student and an organizer of the effort to stop the district from implementing a "pay for performance" plan that uses test scores to set teacher salaries. Grundy joined about 75 parents and teachers gathered last night at East Mecklenburg High School to strategize their plan for opposing CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman's "pay for performance" proposal. Gorman recently sent an online video to teachers defending the new battery of standardized tests, in addition to the End of Grade tests, he wants to use in measuring their effectiveness. "Yes, it'll be more assessments than we've done in the past," Gorman says in the video. "But we need to have assessments so we know which students are learning and which are not and what they're learning and what they're not so you can have that information to shape your knowledge as a teacher." But so far, many teachers say the new tests they've been required to give their students this week have been confusing, poorly-written and too time consuming. For example, in kindergarten through second grade, the tests are given to students one-on-one and can take an hour to finish. Depending on the size of the class, the testing will take days. Parents and teachers who've signed the online petition say they're not opposed to rewarding teachers whose students make exceptional progress. Nor are they against firing teachers with students who consistently fail. But they say basing a teacher's pay primarily on student test scores does not reflect all that a teacher does in a classroom. "Not all students can test well - not all adults test well - and not everybody should be evaluated on one instrument," says one CMS first grade teacher who wouldn't give her name. Most of the teachers at last night's meeting declined to give their names and have signed the petition anonymously. Many say they've been asked by their principals not to go public with their concerns. Gariann Yochym is an exception. She teaches 9th Grade English at East Meck. Her principal has not asked her to keep quiet - which is why last night's meeting was at the school. Yochym actually says she'd welcome more evaluation of her work. "I think it would be beneficial to have people come in and observe me on a regular basis and see what I'm doing," says Yochym. "I also think we could have portfolio based assessments where students are able to develop things over time and not just base a teacher's pay off of one (test) day." Parents and teachers at last night's meeting say they hope to pack the CMS School Board meeting next Tuesday to show their dissatisfaction. They're also rallying in Raleigh to oppose a measure that would let CMS launch "pay for performance" without teacher approval.