OPINION: management without objectives, goals, incentives, consequences, or common-sense

Imagine the Arizona Cardinals incentivized like Scottsdale public schools. All Arizona Cardinals would have the same base salary, adjusted only to reflect the years they’d been in the NFL and the number of football courses they’d taken after college graduation.

Loyd Eskildson

Loyd Eskildson

Thus, any Cardinal who had been in the NFL the same number of years and completed the same coursework after graduating as Carson Palmer would be paid his same base salary — regardless of position, number of games played, or skill. Like SUSD teachers, excellent and hard-to-recruit players could not be given raises unless “similar” others also did.

Full-time Cardinal players for over three consecutive years would have tenure, and be entitled to appeal dismissals in court — a difficult, expensive procedure. Performance incentives would be small, with two-thirds awarded according to team performance and one-third according to individual performance/assessment.

Since SUSD’s superintendent and principals have no performance incentives or contractual goals, neither Cardinal Coach Arians nor his assistants would either.

If this is such a good way to motivate excellence, why don’t the Cardinals use it? Why does SUSD? Teacher unions claim that rewarding teachers for individual performance
“undermines teamwork.” Obviously the Cardinals don’t agree. SUSD’s method isn’t supported by evidence — pupils assigned to top teachers have been found to learn about three times as much as those assigned teachers near the bottom.

Yet, rather than utilize these measures and give large rewards, almost all public schools either ignore the topic, or go through the motions (briefly observe teachers twice/year, rate almost all as “exceeds” or “meets” expectations, fire nobody, and pay little or nothing extra for excellence.)

Rewarding teacher excellence requires careful and objective assessment, and is bitterly opposed by teacher unions working to protect incompetent and ineffectual members. Union opposition also impedes effective evaluation of textbooks, curricula, teaching methods, technology, and Arizona’s historically low achievement standards.

SUSD’s leaders, however, prefer to pretend everything is wonderful.

Most American public schools use this or a similar approach that discourages motivation and excellence. Jaime Escalante, the late Hispanic inner-city superstar algebra teacher of “Stand and Deliver” fame wasn’t emulated — instead, he was generally disliked by others for his excellence, especially by his vice-principal. It’s clear why America’s pupil achievement has barely budged in the last 50 years — despite a near tripling of inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending.

SUSD has lost thousands of pupils to charters and other competitors in recent years, and is anticipated to lose close to another thousand next school year. The result — having to reduce spending by about $10 million/year. One would think averting the ensuing chaos and preventing/reducing would losses in the future would be everyone’s top priority.

However, this topic has not even been on a board agenda, the acting superintendent and principals have no contract incentives to act, and is only indirectly addressed in some teacher contracts. Instead, board priority is now on getting approval to spend about $140 million for building/renovating emptying elementary schools.

Bring in Coach Arians!

Editor’s note: Mr. Eskildson is a former education professional and resident of Scottsdale

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