Is this about curriculum or is this about teacher pay? The question continues to draw debate In Jefferson County and across Colorado as the Jeffco School Board approved an amended proposal for a curriculum review committee that will review the new AP US History.
At the October 2nd school board meeting, battle lines were drawn during public comment time when students opined that ordinary citizens lacked the qualifications to sit on a review committee if they weren’t educators or historians.
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In an extraordinary and organized display of opposition, students maintained that they received no outside assistance or encouragement from teachers or the union. However, the JCEA (Jefferson County Education Association), led a rally prior to the board meeting, giving students a platform to speak on the back of a truck bed rigged with a microphone and speakers. Large bags of popcorn donated by a nearby movie theater awaited the crowd after their rally march. Protesters brought lawn chairs to listen to the meeting in progress.
Inside the board meeting, students kept their comments focused on the AP History proposal. A few adult commenters—presumably teachers— spoke in opposition to the recently approved teacher merit pay package.
According to a press release by Jeffco Public Schools, a teacher compensation package based on merit pay was approved that gave top earning teachers a base salary of over $80,000. The package also raised the base pay for starting teachers from $33,000 to $38,000.
The press release stated that during the 2013-2014 school year, 89 teachers out of more than 5000 teachers in the Jeffco public school system had a partially effective or ineffective evaluation rating. Based on these numbers, 98% of teachers would receive raises under the new merit pay package.
With merit pay, teacher raises are linked to evaluations—which is mandated by the legislation known as Senate Bill 10-191. This legislation requires 50% of teacher evaluations be linked to test scores. The 2014-2015 school year is considered a “hold harmless” year for Colorado teachers in which the state legislation will not be enforced.
The New York Times reported a plummet in test scores for last school year across New York state with only 31 percent of students passing the reading and math Common Core exams.This is a concern for teachers who anticipate test scores to fall with the implementation of the Common Core aligned PARCC exams. Merit pay raises would be in jeopardy should Colorado follow the trend of lower test scores seen in New York state once SB 10-191 goes into full force.
Meanwhile, as the war over AP History rages on, both sides accuse each other of censorship. Students protest out of the belief that conservatives want to remove anything negative about American History from the new AP curriculum. Citizens in support of the curriculum review committee stress the new AP History de-emphasizes or removes important facets of American History such as the founding fathers, the Gettysburgh address, and the work of Dr. Martin Luther King.
And David Coleman—the man widely recognized as the chief architect behind the Common Core State Standards—sits as head of the College Board in charge of creating the new framework, with few students questioning Coleman’s role and agenda in the new AP US History.