Ants At The Picnic?

I keep hearing how everyone is down with performance-pay or whatever you want to call it and there is no friction there, but it just doesn’t seem like that’s the case…

Here’s a proposed bill in Maine:

“A salary of a teacher may not be based upon the measurable performance or productivity of the teacher or a student of the teacher.”

Gosh, why would anyone be reticent about investing a lot of public money in a system like that?   Now I don’t know anyone who thinks a teacher’s entire salary should be based on outcomes, but some how about some component?  A little?  A tiny bit? None?  Seriously?

PS – Is it me or are there a lot more bills like this popping up all over the place?  It’s almost like it’s an organized effort or something…nah…couldn’t be…

Update:  Via an earlier post, apparently warmed by a recent link, a Title I teacher weighs-in:

I am a teacher in a Title I school, and I am all for merit pay for individuals. I work hard because that is what I was hired to do, and because I operate under the belief that the work I am doing is very important. I am not worried about my student’s test scores, because when one teaches in a well-planned, reflective, and intentional way, with a consistent and robust program, the test scores take care of themselves. I am weary of watching some colleagues who work less than I do (and have students with overall lower scores), make more money than I do…

13 Replies to “Ants At The Picnic?”

  1. This reminds me of George Parker’s comment about Michelle Rhee’s new merit pay plan:

    “I couldn’t buy into a system that based teachers’ pay solely on performance.”

  2. Here’s the rest of that teacher’s quote:

    “Teaching is hard work – no question about that – and it seems that it is human nature to do less so that, dollar for dollar, it feels like your salary actually matches the time you put in. I think that is what is behind a lot of teachers doing less than what the job truly requires. It cannot be done in the 7.5 hours per day we are paid to do it.”

    Seems that Eduwonk selected the portion of the comment that supported his argument and left out the part that alludes to the complexity of teachers’ work and the subsequent complexity of teachers’ pay. Shady…

  3. To the title I teacher, you are getting pain, what do you think a salary is, as for the teachers you perceive who are working less then you but are getting more pay, teachers who have put their time in deserve more pay. If you keep doing your best and continue to feel good about the way you are teaching and the students are learning then you should not want merit pay. We did not go into teaching for the money.

  4. To the title one teacher I meant to say paid. Sorry for the error.

    I believe that as teachers we are not paid as professionals but we decided to go into teaching for other reasons. There are states that pay their teachers very well and of course we should do the work we are hired to do no matter what we are paid. If we want more then we should become something else.

  5. You write:

    “a PROPOSED bill in Maine:

    “A salary of a teacher may not be BASED upon the measurable performance …” Emphasis mine.

    Then you respond with a rhetorical excess that is not helpful

    Isn’t the legislative process supposed to help us sort out the words?

    A system that is DRIVEN by a data, as opposed to data-informed, would be the death of the values of public education that I revere. I want my union to negotiate language where data supplements or complements. But I want my union to fight to the end against the worst case scenerios.

    I see your frustration. We have $5 billion to drive reforms and in the short run it will be one man, Arne Duncan, who makes the call. But if people like DFER or the ED Trust (and sometimes it sounds like you believe the same) got the power they seek, it would be a pyrrhic victory. We still have Courts in this country. Over-reach and you guys will be longing for the good ol days when you just had the unions to deal with. Try to move ahead with the value added models of today in the confident way that some of you want, and you’ll be spending more money on legal cases than education. And the chances are, you’ll get clobbered in Court.

  6. I’m that teacher from the Title I school that posted before (I am a veteran elementary classroom teacher and a math coach), and I really have 3 questions that I wish we could talk about:

    1. Must teaching be a sacrifice?

    2. Can teaching be elevated to a level of prestige?

    3. Why is merit pay for teachers threatening?

    Big questions, I know. Let’s listen to each other.

  7. Kitty,

    1. What do you mean? Pay? Apparently so.

    2. Apparently not.

    3. Because my class might be filled with kids who won’t make enough progress, and your class will, through no fault, or effort, of our own.

    Got it?

  8. Kitty: As a former teacher, my argument against merit pay is that it is very difficult to invent a system that appropriately measures the “merit” of individual teachers. Student test scores are an iffy measuring tool for a number of reasons. As “tft” mentioned, students are often not assigned randomly: Some teachers teach more “difficult” students than others.

    Many other variables also vary from teacher to teacher (and from year to year). For instance, when I was a teacher, at one school I taught the same class 5 periods a day. At another school, I taught three different subjects each day. Not surprisingly, I believe I had better lesson plans for the first school, when I had only one lesson to prepare each day (vs when I had three).

    From what I’ve read, studies have shown no strong correlation between an individual teacher’s students’ test scores from year to year. That is, Teacher A could see 10% improvement in scores in 2006-2007 but a 20% increase in scores in 2007-2008 and only a 5% increase in scores in 2008-2009.

    For all these reasons, and others, I believe it is difficult to effectively implement an objective and reasonable merit pay system.

  9. Teacher Kelly agrees with Attorney DC, there are many factors that can affect a student during testing. One year I had two students who were so sick they threw up in the garbage can during the FCAT test. Now should I be penalized by not getting merit pay due to the illness and thus bad test scores from those two students? What if you have a class of ELL students as I have had and the test is written in English and they barely make accomodations for those students should I then be penalized once again? Merit pay is another idea such as NCLB which just causes teachers more stress.

  10. Warren Buffett’s advice applies to merit pay for teachers: “Beware of geeks baring statistical formulas.” Attorney DC barely scratches the surface. The formulas are akin to the “financial derivatives” that led to the financial meltdown. The arcane statistical manipulation of standardized tests–which are themselves insensitive only to socioeconomic status differences–simply doesn’t reward teacher “merit.” There is methodology for reasonably going about the task, but it requires a good deal more than “value added models” that are not “Change we can believe in.”

  11. I too work at a Title I school and I do not believe in Merit pay. Our school is 87% Hispanic and 88% Free and Reduced Lunch. We still meet our state and district needs every year but just not as high as other schools in our county. I agree that just because students preform well on a test doesn’t mean the teacher deserves more money. I think much more than just scores should be addressed. Our students and teachers work harder than any school I’ve ever been in. Every year we get awards for making AYP and showing gains…its just that our school isn’t the highest. The fact that we can even preform on average with the rest of our county amazes most people. We are teaching impoverished students, students where English is their second language, and students where every odd imaginable is agains them. If they want to base merit pay on that…I’m all for it but to base it strictly on test scores and test performance is just not right.

  12. What if teachers evaluated themselves against a rubric? A self-evaluation? Not test scores.

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