Falling iSTARS

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This afternoon the senate killed the teacher merit pay plan, iSTARS, on a 16-19 vote. At Eye on Boise, Betsy Russell explains why Senator Tom Gannon, who had cast the deciding vote in favor of bringing the bill out of the Senate Education Committee,voted against it today.

When SB 1436, the “iSTARS Lite” teacher pay legislation cleared the Senate Education Committee earlier this week, Sen. Tom Gannon, R-Buhl, cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of it. Gannon said then that the bill had been changed to address some of his earlier criticisms, and that Gov. Butch Otter’s decision to endorse the bill shortly before the committee vote helped sway him. Today, however, Gannon voted against the bill in the full Senate, where it failed, 16-19.

“I wanted it to go to the floor. I thought the issue was definitely worthy of a full Senate debate,” Gannon explained afterward. In the end, Gannon said, “I never had enough confidence that the ISAT was an appropriate measure.” The bill based teacher merit bonuses on student scores on the ISAT test, which critics said during the Senate debate is a test that measures basics and lower-level thinking skills. Gannon said the ISAT is one measure, but others also should be taken into account before tying the measures to teacher pay.

Gannon’s concern about the ISAT is right. The legislature ought to follow his logic and realize that the ISAT is not a valid or reliable measure for any of the various purposes for which it is currently being used. In fact, there is no single measure that is appropriate for high stakes decisions.

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