Focusing on achievements is worthwhile

I was extremely disappointed by one aspect of the policy set by the Amphi School district for future staff reductions. That is, the lowest priority in selecting people for (reduction in force) notices is given to student achievement because the faculty — and by extension the Superintendent and the School Board — felt that “’student achievement’ for one teacher is not the same as it is for another teacher.”

We have lived in Oro Valley for six years and while our children are well beyond public school age, we have consistently supported funding for the Amphi district. We have voted in favor of every ballot question dealing with school funding, including the sales tax increase, and every year we donate funds for Amphi extracurricular activities through the state income tax credit program.

Nationally, the President and Education Secretary Duncan have made a linkage between teacher evaluations, teacher retention, and student achievement a key tenet of their signature “Race to the Top” program. Many states have followed through as part of the process of applying for these funds. States like Colorado and cities such as Detroit and Washington, D.C., have moved strongly in the same direction, placing considerable weight on student achievement in evaluating and retaining teachers. Even the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have come on board, although not on every occasion and at times despite the opposition of their local members.

Putting student achievement at the bottom of the priority list simply says to me that the Amphi faculty and staff who were surveyed, the district’s top administrators, and the board who unanimously adopted the new policy are simply tone-deaf.  People vote against education funding, at least in part, because they do not believe that the results in terms of student achievement are commensurate with the level of public school spending and school taxes.

No performance measurement system is perfect, but focusing on the results achieved is eminently worthwhile. None of the jurisdictions mentioned earlier evaluate their teachers solely on the basis of student achievement, but it can and should be a very important factor, not last on the priority list in determining who should stay and who should be RIFed.

Robert Harris, Oro Valley

Opposes landfill location

Just how short does Marana Mayor Ed Honea think the public’s memory is? He stated in the Feb. 9, 2011, issue of The Explorer, “Marana sits atop a rising aquifer and must ensure its long-term sustainability for its residents and businesses,” one of the very arguments landfill opponents repeatedly voiced in their 11-month battle to stop the town from putting a landfill on Vice Mayor Kai’s land.

 Please explain, Mayor, how locating a 75-year, 590-plus-acre, 190-foot-high, 70-foot-deep dump directly over the very same aquifer (that’s only 100 feet below the surface) ensures long-term sustainability. Your county neighbors would like to know since you saddled us with the dump, conveniently locating it miles away from Marana residents.

Could it be, Mayor, that you’re the one with a short-term memory problem?

Janice E. Mitich, Tucson

Replace vouchers with tax credits

I agree with Dave Safier — school vouchers are a bad idea. It is the slippery slope leading to government involvement in private education.

The better solution, in Arizona, is to allow corporations to get tax credits for making donations to qualified tuition organizations. This will allow more students to attend the private school of their choice. With a savings of about $2000 per child per year, it would be a relief on the overextended Arizona budget. Plus, it would relieve overcrowding in the government schools.

It’s win-win situation for both Progressives and Conservatives.

Andrew Woodward, Tucson

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