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Inside Intelligence: About Teachers, Charters and Choice...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in government and politics, we asked about teacher assessments, charter schools and school choice.

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Student achievement ought to be included in teacher evaluations, according to two-thirds of our insiders in government and politics. And while 60 percent of them do not think charter schools should be allowed to use public buildings for free, nearly half said those schools should get the same per-pupil funding that public schools get from the state.

Should students be allowed to choose which public schools they attend, subject to availability? Yes, according to 80 percent of the insiders.

We collected comments along the way, and a full set of those is attached. Here’s a sampling:

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Should assessments of public school teachers be based on student achievement?

• "How we determine student achievement should not be tied exclusively to test scores. If a bunch of kids show up to 3rd grade unable to read and they all came from Mr. Jones' 2nd grade class, then Mr. Jones deserves an immediate and thorough audit."

• "Teacher performance should be based on outcomes like everyone else in the work forces. Showing up is not good enough. And one size fits all should be eliminated. All classrooms are not equal. An underperforming school that is brought from failing has achieved more than a school that improves their level of excellence. An F to a B is shows more grade improvement than from an A to an A+"

• "This should be one element among several, but it can not be the sole measure. Too many other factors influence student achievement."

• "Achievement, not standardized tests."

• "Define achievement. Is it the progress a student makes from Aug - May/June or is it the end product in May/June? Also, how do you account for the 'achievements' of naturally bright kids? Should a teacher receive high marks because she happens to teach AP Chemistry whose students perform well, while a fourth grade teacher is stuck with slow learners? Achievement doesn't seem like a meritorious method of assessing teachers."

• "A teacher is supposed to take a child who doesn't know "something" and teach them that "something". If one can't assess the teacher on how successful they are at transferring essential knowledge and skills, then why measure them at all?"

• "But only in part. If teachers are allowed to actually TEACH the core subjects - reading, math, science, WRITING - then yes - test for achievement in those areas. But DO NOT force teachers to teach for a test or what will be covered on a test. Why is it that we no longer teach HANDWRITING?"

• "What else should they be based on? We evaluate coaches on wins. We evaluate lawyers on results. We evaluate stockbrokers on successful investments. We evaluate real estate agents on results. We evaluate our elected representatives on results. I obviously could go on and on. This is not to say that we shouldn't take a lot of things into account, such as effort and growth, but results are what matters for our kids, so results should matter in evaluation."

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Should charter schools be allowed to use public buildings for free?

• "Yes, but only if they follow the same state imposed rules that public schools need to follow."

• "If a public building is empty then filling it with students is one of several worthwhile ways to keep it maintained."

• "I think it depends. I'd favor charters using unused or under-used buildings but absolutely dead-set opposed to building new buildings at taxpayer expense and turning them over."

• "They are public schools and when not in use buildings should be made available."

• "If they want to be free of public rules they should want to be free of public spaces. Use our spaces, play by our rules."

• "There is always a cost in using a building, even if it is just in the maintenance. Those costs that result from the building's use by the charter school should be borne by the charter school. At the same time, profit by the lending entity should be avoided."

• "Charter schools are public schools. They should have access to public buildings."

• "They are FOR PROFIT and should pay rent"

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Should the state give charter schools the same per-pupil funding public schools receive?

• "They are educating the same Texan that would otherwise be going to a public school. That child's education is just as important."

• "Pursuing innovative methods of educating Texas children while alleviating the burden on outdated school systems is something worth funding. If the experiment doesn't live up to the promise, then cut the funding."

• "Part of their appeal is that they can do the same job for less money. So, let them. If the reformers are right, they can produce better results at less cost. Put up or shut up."

• "Their premise is that they can do a better job outside of regulations. Fewer regulations mean fewer costs incurred to meet the regulations."

• "The better question is why shouldn't public charter schools receive the same per-pupil funding as public schools receive."

• "As a matter of fact the already do. Like traditional schools, they are funded on average daily attendance. Unlike traditional schools, they do not have to have an election to receive enrichment funds. They are automatically entitled to enrichment based on the statewide average. Theoretically, a charter school can be located in a district where it receives more funding than public schools if the statewide enrichment rate exceeds the home district rate."

• "Yes, parents shouldn't have to accept lower funds for their student because they make a choice, provided by the state, that is a better educational option for students."

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Should students be allowed to choose — based on availability — which public schools they want to attend?

• "Absolutely"

• "How about actually fixing the schools so that there isn't such a huge difference among the schools within a school district? Let's solve the problem so down the road the only real choices will be about magnet programs-- music, sports, etc."

• "Forcing kids to stay in failing schools solely because of the economics of where their family lives is a disservice to working families. Families deserve as many options as possible when it comes to something that is taxpayer supported and will significantly impact that student's future."

• "Competition makes everything better."

• "Nice emphasis on large school districts with this question. I'm sure the kids in small town rural Texas would like to choose to attend "better" suburban schools."

• "Yes. Time to inject some free market capitalism into the system. Let the schools compete."

• "I am reluctant to end the tradition of neighborhood public schools."

• "Rich people have a choice -- where to move for a good school district, or whether to put their kids into private schools. Why shouldn't less affluent have a choice as well?"

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Jenny Aghamalian, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, Jay Arnold, Louis Bacarisse, Charles Bailey, Walt Baum, Eric Bearse, Dave Beckwith, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Chris Britton, David Cabrales, Lydia Camarillo, Thure Cannon, Snapper Carr, Janis Carter, William Chapman, Elna Christopher, Kevin Cooper, Beth Cubriel, Randy Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, Denise Davis, Hector De Leon, Eva De Luna-Castro, June Deadrick, Nora Del Bosque, Holly DeShields, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Jeff Eller, Jack Erskine, Jon Fisher, Neftali Garcia, Norman Garza, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Stephanie Gibson, Eric Glenn, Kinnan Golemon, Jim Grace, John Greytok, Clint Hackney, Anthony Haley, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, John Heasley, Ken Hodges, Steve Holzheauser, Billy Howe, Laura Huffman, Deborah Ingersoll, Richie Jackson, Cal Jillson, Bill Jones, Mark Jones, Robert Jones, Lisa Kaufman, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Ramey Ko, Sandy Kress, Dale Laine, Nick Lampson, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Luke Marchant, Kathy Miller, Steve Minick, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Steve Murdock, Nelson Nease, Keats Norfleet, Pat Nugent, Todd Olsen, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Jerod Patterson, Jerry Philips, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Richard Pineda, Allen Place, Royce Poinsett, Kraege Polan, Gary Polland, Jay Propes, David Reynolds, Carl Richie, Grant Ruckel, Jason Sabo, Andy Sansom, Jim Sartwelle, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Ben Sebree, Bradford Shields, Christopher Shields, Nancy Sims, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Larry Soward, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Jason Stanford, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Sherry Sylvester, Gerard Torres, Trey Trainor, Vicki Truitt, Ken Whalen, David White, Christopher Williston, Seth Winick, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

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