Performance Pay…The New Vouchers!

Sure seems like in the ’08 presidential campaign “performance pay” is becoming the new “school vouchers.” Used to be that vouchers were the big issue that pundits would use to size up Democratic candidates on education and benchmark their reform creds. Didn’t make a lot of sense but it was the way it worked. Now, in several debates the questions have been about performance-based pay for teachers and aside from the No Child Left Behind rhetoric it’s the most discussed education issue in the race.

Too bad, because like school choice, regardless of where one comes down on it, performance-based pay is just one piece of the school improvement puzzle.

14 Replies to “Performance Pay…The New Vouchers!”

  1. Well said, Andrew. It’s unfortunate that our nation’s leaders are so short-sighted – and I’m left wondering why?

    Do you think it’s because they’re just not well-informed or do they choose to hopefully solve these huge problems with a one-size-fits-all band-aid?

  2. Darren–

    Must one choose? It’s clearly both.

    Actually, it’s probably neither. They are well informed about which buzzwords the think tanks are pushing and they don’t want to solve any problems–they want to get elected.

    Cynical, I know, but do *any* candidates on either side have *any* record of ever before doing anything to improve education?

    If ‘performance pay’ is the new vouchers, it’s because even people who like their local schools can probably identify one or two (or more) teachers whom they’d like to see fired–performance pay sounds like a way you could drive them out of the profession (or at least exact a little revenge).

  3. Not only is performance pay only one piece of the puzzle, but there are right and wrong ways to implement performance pay plans. Unfortunately, far too many politicians at all levels simply want to use some form of value-added measures based on standardized assessments as the entire performance pay plan. Even if basing such performance pay decisions on one measure was advisable (which it is not), far too many assessments were not designed in such a way that value-added measures are accurate. As often is the case, I think the political rhetoric will make performance pay plans seem like a simple silver bullet and when it turns out that they are not, performance pay will be another quickly abandoned fad that “didn’t” work.

  4. It’s interesting that for unions like mine, “performance pay” is a good thing, while “merit pay” is a downright abomination. Perhaps I, as a lowly school teacher, am simply incapable of making such fine distinctions.

    But the politicians are sharp indeed, quickly embracing the politically correct term. In fact, I’d have sworn Hillary Clinton’s statement, had I not seen her make it, came straight from the mouth of UFT President Randi Weingarten.

  5. NYC, the Eduwonk wrote

    I’m completely confused about the merit pay/performance-pay differentiations that are a hot issue in teachers’ union circles. Here AFTie One-L* pushes back on Tapped’s Dana Goldstein writing that, “[The AFT] objected to the federal mandate that student test scores must be used to determine whether teachers get the incentive” in the Miller-McKeon No Child Left Behind draft proposal. But in New York City test scores are part of the bonus plan that was just put in place, the rewards can go to the whole school or just some teachers depending on what they decide at the school. Yet that’s not merit pay, says UFT Pres Randi Weingarten: “Unlike merit-pay plans that provide financial incentives to individual educators, the schoolwide bonus plan will reward the entire staff of any participating school that shows a significant gain in academic achievement.” I’d love for someone to sort this all out.

  6. I read that, and I’m afraid I can’t sort it out. My prescription for good schools is simpler:

    1. Good teachers
    2. Reasonable class sizes
    3. decent facilities

    and they go in that order. It works well in the nearby suburb where I live. Personally, I think those without merit should not be teaching children at all.

  7. My question is this: how is “performance” to be judged? If by test scores, then do teachers of English Language Learners, socio-economically disadvantaged students, students who need Special Education, behaviorally challenging students or students living through a crisis such as divorce or death of a family member get differential points? I am not looking for a hand-out or making excuses, but wondering just whose performance the politicians plan to pay for?

  8. Amy-

    Proposed performance pay plans aren’t based on raw test scores. “Value-added” measures (the progress made/points gained) make sure that groups like those you mentioned are not put at a disadvantage just because their raw scores are lower.

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