Mackinac Center exploits Michigan Teacher of the Year to push its radical agenda
It should have been a completely positive experience: Late last month, Grosse Pointe North High School science teacher Gary Abud Jr. was named the 2013-14 Michigan Teacher of the Year by the state Department of Education.
Abud, a young teacher with six years in the classroom, is working hard to develop innovative methods of educating his students, incorporating project-based learning, technology and social media into his lesson plans.
At a time when teachers and education support professionals are under constant attack — even being referred to as “hogs” by one top state legislator — Abud’s story provided some positive news about all of the great things happening in schools across Michigan.
Then the far-right Mackinac Center for Public Policy and its extremist allies got involved.
The Mackinac Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Abud’s school district to obtain details of his salary (which is lower than that of some of his colleagues), and then posted it for the world to see — all to make an ill-conceived point about so-called “merit” pay. Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and other powerful right-wing mouthpieces continue to bat the story around, making Abud an unwilling poster child for merit pay.
What they probably didn’t expect is for Abud to fight back.
“They have not been given permission to use my name, photo, story, words, or any ideas,” Abud told Eclectablog.com’s Chris Savage.
Abud said: “I think it’s reprehensible that the StudentsFirst organization is using my name and my picture and promoting their agenda using my name and my story. …They’re trying to portray my position when I represent teachers in a way that makes it seem like I feel that I’m being somehow short-changed in my own field, when I feel like I’ve had nothing but success in my field because of the structures that are in place.”
Unlike StudentsFirst and the Mackinac Center, Abud doesn’t think that paying teachers based solely on their test scores is a fair method of compensation.
“I did not win Michigan Teacher of the Year because my students had the best test scores,” Abud said. “My students performed well on their tests. But they also performed well on assessments in my classroom of what I teach. What I teach is more than just chemistry and physics and science content. It’s practices of being a scientist, it’s engineering practices that they can take on and use elsewhere in their life. It’s thinking skills. It’s communication. It’s collaboration and it’s project-based in a way that mirrors the career world. Those things aren’t assessed on state standardized tests of content areas.”