media
March 11, 2009

Iannuzzi: NYSUT supports federal efforts to 'make standards standard'

Source: Post Journal (Jamestown)

In a recent interview with the Post Journal (Jamestown), NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi comments on the Obama administration's proposals for learning standards, charter schools and 'merit pay.'

The complete interview is available online at http://www.post-journal.com/page/content.detail/id/525451.html. Excerpts follow.

On national learning standards:

''A really simple statement like 'at what point is a child able to divide by two digits?' is not a terrible thing to codify nationally,'' he said.

Individual state standards are created in consideration of the No Child Left Behind act, which allocates funding based on results of state standardized testing. According to Iannuzzi, states with higher standards see worse results, causing standards to be driven downward in many states and hurting American education as a whole.

Within the context of No Child Left Behind as it is currently structured, according to Iannuzzi, funding is done backward, with schools being punished for not reaching desired results.

''It doesn't make a lot of sense,'' he said

On merit pay:

Iannuzzi said Obama's proposal to reward teachers for improved student achievement is an intriguing one, but only if the extra money is distributed at a schoolwide level and not to individual teachers.

''Everybody would share in the bonus, including the cafeteria workers who keep the kids happy at lunchtime and the custodians who make sure it's a clean and neat environment for students to learn,'' he said. ''Everybody gets a piece of creating student success. If you're calling that 'performance pay,' it's very different.''

Iannuzzi says the extra pay would be counterproductive if it were to be provided on an individual level, as it might prompt teachers to avoid taking on students who may be difficult to teach. If funding were given on a schoolwide level, he says, it would allow schools to focus their best teachers on the most challenging students.

On charter schools:

''Lifting the cap [on the number of charter schools allowed in some states] doesn't address those concerns that [President Obama] admitted are out there, which is the drain that charter schools have on mainstream public education,'' he said. ''Unless you address the drain issue, lifting the cap is just going to make that drain significantly more of a drain.''

The ''drain,'' according to Iannuzzi, is that charter schools siphon tax money from public schools while many of them are performing at the same level or worse.

Read the complete interview: http://www.post-journal.com/page/content.detail/id/525451.html.