Maine Merit Pay – Augusta debates merit pay for teachers

I’ve had several posts about the merit pay issue here in Maine. I categorized Sen. Bolduc’s efforts to block any form of merit pay as lazy. Lazy because it is a refusal to seek a way to get merit pay to work. Chuck, writer of Tongue in Cheek, had a lengthy discussion on Sen. Bolduc’s bill and merit pay in general. Over there in Augusta the debates have begun.

from Kennebec Journal:

“We want to encourage strong, excellent teachers and we want to reward them when they show strong student achievement,” Sen. Carol Weston, R-Montville, the bill’s sponsor, told the Legislature’s Education Committee during a hearing.

The hearing took place as the U.S. Department of Education prepares to disburse $200 million in federal economic stimulus funds for states and school districts developing new pay models. Two weeks ago, committee members unanimously rejected a ban on merit pay for teachers.

Weston’s proposal doesn’t specifically define performance-based pay models for teachers, but Weston has previously said she opposes tying teacher pay exclusively to student test scores.

The legislation calls on the state Department of Education to review merit pay policies in place throughout the country and to form rules governing those systems.

But it’s too early to do that since so few districts nationally have merit pay systems, said Joseph Stupak, collective bargaining and research director at the Maine Education Association.

“We think it would be premature for the Legislature to adopt any public policy that encourages alternative pay systems,” he said.

Stupak urged legislators to further study merit pay before taking a position.

“There is substantial disagreement as to whether any alternative approach to teachers’ pay represents an improvement … over the traditional education- and experience-based salary system,” Stupak said in his prepared testimony.

The Maine Department of Education did not take a position on Weston’s legislation. The agency opposed the earlier effort to ban merit pay.

I don’t want Bolduc’s bill to pass. Merit pay should come to Maine in some form. I hope that these debates will prompt policy makers to do the legwork to get merit pay right. I fear that they will take the easy road, linking teacher pay directly to student assessments.

What is the solution?

We must change how we assess students. Bridging Differences writer Deborah Meier blogged about how our forms of standardized testing often aren’t measuring what we want them to or think they are. Of course we couldn’t link tests of that nature to teacher pay. We need to move away from this factory lever pulling multiple choice tests. The world does not function that way any longer, why should we continue testing and teaching that way? Problem solving and analytical based tests need to replace the antiquated testing systems.

Basing teacher pay on student performance alone negates the many other tasks teachers perform. What about the teacher who pioneers new technology or teaching methods? Or the teacher who mentors students and colleagues? These and other factors cannot be ignored.

These debates provide Maine with a huge educational opportunity. Anyone who follows education can see the massive restructuring that the educational system needs. One thing cannot solve everything. Merit pay wont either. This is a chance to begin meaningful reform in Maine. I am hopeful that we will continue to step forward rather than back.

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8 Responses

  1. The problem is “how do you measure merit?”

    Graduation rates? That doesn’t seem right because a student has many teachers over their career, their success or failure is not going to be dependent on a single one.

    Standardized test scores? Each group of students has a different dynamic. Unless you teach to the test you will have wildly varying results.

    I think the only fair way to do merit pay would be to have a supervisor of the teachers in question audit the classes randomly throughout the year to evaluate teaching style and methodology. But that would involve, you know, actual work.

  2. The problem is “how do you measure merit?”

    Graduation rates? That doesn’t seem right because a student has many teachers over their career, their success or failure is not going to be dependent on a single one.

    Standardized test scores? Each group of students has a different dynamic. Unless you teach to the test you will have wildly varying results.

    I think the only fair way to do merit pay would be to have a supervisor of the teachers in question audit the classes randomly throughout the year to evaluate teaching style and methodology. But that would involve, you know, actual work.

  3. “the only fair way to do merit pay would be to have a supervisor of the teachers in question audit the classes randomly throughout the year to evaluate teaching style and methodology. But that would involve, you know, actual work.”

    One would hope it would involve work by several different people; it would be too easy for petty political differences or personality conflicts to get in the way if a teacher’s raise, or vice-versa. I see committees, appeals processes, and a host of other expensive, resource-consuming paraphernalia. Remember, there is a union involved…

  4. “the only fair way to do merit pay would be to have a supervisor of the teachers in question audit the classes randomly throughout the year to evaluate teaching style and methodology. But that would involve, you know, actual work.”

    One would hope it would involve work by several different people; it would be too easy for petty political differences or personality conflicts to get in the way if a teacher’s raise, or vice-versa. I see committees, appeals processes, and a host of other expensive, resource-consuming paraphernalia. Remember, there is a union involved…

  5. @anon
    “Standardized test scores? Each group of students has a different dynamic. Unless you teach to the test you will have wildly varying results.”

    I did provide my opinion on standardized tests and how they need to be changed.

    @chuck
    There absolutely would need to be several evaluations and evaluators involved. Personal grudges would show up when compared to other evals.

  6. @anon
    “Standardized test scores? Each group of students has a different dynamic. Unless you teach to the test you will have wildly varying results.”

    I did provide my opinion on standardized tests and how they need to be changed.

    @chuck
    There absolutely would need to be several evaluations and evaluators involved. Personal grudges would show up when compared to other evals.

  7. It may be worth having a look at Debatepedia’s extensive pro/con article on merit pay for teachers. Helps put this article in the context of the larger debate:

    http://wiki.idebate.org/index.php/Debate:_Merit_pay_for_teachers#Con

    http://wiki.idebate.org/index.php/Welcome_to_Debatepedia!

  8. It may be worth having a look at Debatepedia’s extensive pro/con article on merit pay for teachers. Helps put this article in the context of the larger debate:

    http://wiki.idebate.org/index.php/Debate:_Merit_pay_for_teachers#Con

    http://wiki.idebate.org/index.php/Welcome_to_Debatepedia!

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