News From the States

K-12 Testing

The well-regarded St. Louis Metropolitan Student Leadership Program has been eliminated by the local district due to funding limitations. Associate Superintendent Charles Brown explained, “We’ve had to ask ourselves to what degree will programs we keep improve test scores.” He added, “I used to be the director of the program, and I know it was important and helped kids.” Greg Freeman, a columnist at the Post Dispatch newspaper commented that though the program’s work did not seem to produce higher test scores, “it often materializes in other ways, by producing better citizens.”


Denver teachers have agreed to a pilot program which bases financial rewards on their students’ performance. In groups of five schools, teachers will try out one of three indicators on which rewards will be based: 1) scores on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills; 2) tests and classroom work; or 3) student improvement in classrooms where teachers have taken a professional development course to improve their teaching skills. Teachers receive $500 to participate and $1000 if goals are met. At the end of the two-year pilot, a panel will recommend a permanent system for determining pay increases, which the teachers’ union would have to approve.


Though the pilot was endorsed by the union, it may generate harmful educational consequences, such as narrowly teaching to the test, and undermining cooperation among teachers, who might be competing for a limited pool of raises. The project is similar to a failed nineteenth century British policy which was dissected in “Payment by Results: An Example of Assessment in Elementary Education from Nineteenth Century Britain,” by Brendan A. Rapple, Education Policy Analysis Archives at:


A history of failure is not stopping other districts from initiating such programs. The Colonial district in Pennsylvania has implemented a bonus program based on student test scores. In response, almost all the district’s 350 teachers have signed a petition condemning the plan and vowing the give the bonuses to charity.