Pay Pals

This new performance-pay plan announced today in New York City is a big deal. You can get details here. The initiative itself is noteworthy, especially because it hasn’t been all huggy up there between labor and management. It also shows again (see also her charter school initiative) that UFT head Randi Weingarten will take risks and can lead. Big implications there going forward. And, it again shows that these ideas are taking hold (Idaho also announced a system this week, and as goes Idaho…) and the debate is becoming about how to do this not if. Finally, still a lot of passions now, but when the dust settles, Joel Klein is going to be remembered very well for his time in New York City…that’ll become more clear over time.

Joe Williams is right that the spectacle of workers voting on whether or not they want more pay for doing the same job is a little weird and also illustrative, but a 55 percent threshold is pretty low and the culture in an industry doesn’t change overnight. This is a good plan all things considered.

8 Replies to “Pay Pals”

  1. I labored until last June at one of NYC’s lower scoring elementary schools. I support merit pay for one simple reason: my job was harder than the average teacher’s. My gains were hard-won, and I busted my pick.

    So I love the idea of merit pay. Love it. Did I mention I love merit pay? But when the Gods want to punish us they answer our prayers. Cheating on standardized tests is rampant in the City’s most troubled schools. And test prep as a substitute for education, already out of control, will now have a financial impetus behind it.

    I love merit pay. I earned it, and many of my colleagues deserve it. But unless merit pay is based on a metric that cannot be gamed by those who benefit from it, the potential for it backfiring is considerable.

  2. Agreed with the backfiring, which is why students, teachers, parents, administrators, and community members should work together to decide which teachers deserve bonuses.

    Teachers and students know who good teachers are…we should start listening to them…

  3. Kids tend to know who’s good, if you ask them the right way “Who are the teachers who get you to work hardest, study most, challenge you? Which teachers are easy?”

    Teachers know what kids say about other teachers. Teachers certainly form impressions based on conversations with other teachers. But rarely do teachers actually observe one another, or analyze student achievement data indexed by teacher.

  4. To some extent kids also know what teachers say about other teachers, and what parents say about teachers, so I’m not sure how effective a measure that would be. The response to last spring’s NYC community survey is a testament to that–parents and kids mooned over faculty quality at some of the city’s lowest-performing schools.

    All participants in a school community need a basic grasp of student achievement data analysis for the school to develop a “culture of achievement”–not just teachers.

  5. The Daily News loves this. The NY Post loves this.

    Unfortunately, the likelihood anything they love will be good for teachers (or kids) is very low.

    People without merit, in fact, should not be teaching kids. Until the city addresses this fact (and it’s spent over 30 years assiduously ignoring it) you can expect to see the same cooked books and homemade statistics Mayor Mike has been dishing out for the last few years.

  6. I’m really interested in seeing how this works out. Particularly because it’s no longer a top-down merit system. Keep us posted on what happens when this is implemented, and how it actually works.

  7. A K-5 Perspective:

    Its great that inter-school pay disparity (or should I say, lack of disparity) between more and less demanding schools is getting attention. Has anyone spent tried to solve the intra-school disparity among teachers of different grades? At an elementary school level its common for schools to “hide” their less capable teachers in lower grades, where there are less testing requirements. The inevitable result is kids less and less prepared for 3/4/5 grade. Prior to NCLB I think inferior teachers were more broadly spread out, maybe one in each grade. Now it seems they get shuffled into the lower grades, and you have the problem of 2+ years in a row of bad teaching. As a practical matter most teachers of state-wide testing grades simply work longer hours. Maybe pre-NCLB a 5th and a 1st grade teacher had similar jobs. But with NCLB type accountability and focus on testing means that a teacher who is in a testing grade has a more stressful and demanding job that a K-2 teacher has.

    To some extend tracking individual students will alleviate this problem. E.g. bringing a 4th grader who comes in reading on a 2nd grade level up to a 3.5 grade level should be considered a qualified success, certainly not a failure. As it is bringing a child who does no better (and pehaps worse, scarily enough) that what random chance should be capable of up to a 60% is not deemed a success. From a purely hobbesian perspective, why put any extra effort into a kid you could get to almost-passing, if you still think no one-year effort will get that kid to pass?

    My Solution:
    1. judge teachers by the individual gains of students, i.e. track their year to year growth. The weakest schools suffer from a transitory population, so tracking must be on a state-wide level, not a district level.
    2. An extra $X to teach at an academically struggling school, however defined.
    3. An extra $Y to teach a high pressure testing grade.
    4. Extra $Z to schools that do not get free parent volunteers that do copying, etc. Those teachers need the basic secretarial help to focus on teaching and tailoring their lessons to the individual needs of school.

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