Merit Pay Is Here To Stay

Merit pay for teachers is not going away, not anytime soon at least. It may be a fad that will disappear in a few years. We may continue to debate how to implement it or if we should even try for some time.

Most of us can agree that the current mode of pay, tenure/time based, is not the most effective way of paying our teachers. Generation Xers and Generation Ys (Millennials) are less likely to stay in one place or at one company. Serving a lifetime at one place of employment is no longer a goal like it was for previous generations. Living in the same town, state, or region isn’t a given for Gens X and Y. Tenure based pay makes little sense for the upcoming generations. As a Time article states, we’re getting off the ladder.

The discussion of new pay systems for teachers must continue. It is essential we work toward a more efficient system.

As of right now, the best (read only) system proposed has been merit or performance based. This is a subject I’ve taken to heart. Merit pay has been written and discussed here, here, here, here, and here.

The Washington Post and School of Blog have provided us with two more examples of merit pay systems.

Jay Mathews from WaPo critiques Michelle Rhee’s *a cacophany of boos and hisses rises from the crowd* merit pay plans. Mathews and I agree that current hiring and compensation practices are a mess in DC and many other districts nationwide. It keeps talented people from sticking around or joining the teaching force in the first place. Merit pay discussions bring these issues into the light. Rhee’s solution, however, is vague, possibly intentionally so, and flawed.

from Washington Post:

Rhee has proposed paying teachers as much as $135,000 a year based on achievement gains, classroom practices, meeting school goals and choosing high-needs students, as long as they are willing to forgo tenure protection. The chancellor is part of a national movement, backed by some leading policy experts, to create for teachers the same kind of merit pay enjoyed by football players, stock analysts and shoe salesmen.

Now let’s pick this apart. Achievement gains means what? Could it be progress in test scores? High test scores? Graduation rates? Vague measurements such as these are pervasive in Rhee’s plan, as mentioned earlier. Really we need a mix of all things I mentioned, shifting focus where applicable. A high performing school would be expected to maintain that performance etc. Of course, as I mentioned in earlier posts, our methods of measuring student performance are severely flawed. Unless Rhee’s plan includes changes to the standardized testing system I expect a her policies to be a huge failure. More of a bad thing will not suddenly make it good.

Gaging pay on classroom practices and school goals are again far too vague for me. It sounds logical at first glance. We need to give teachers flexibility to teach however is best for them. Grading them on what classroom innovations they use, unless Rhee is more specific I’m guess she is going there, is completely off the rails. As long as students are succeeding, who cares how the teachers do it. This standard will be different for every teacher, so again as long as they are succeeding there is no reason to judge pay in that respect.

Briefly on school goals, there is a danger to set the bar low. We’ve seen this happen with NCLB. We’d need well trained principals to assess these goals and classroom practices. It seems like a lot of work to find out if a teacher’s students are learning.

Then there is the cost. The idea of a $100,000 plus a year teacher. As long as schools still run on tax dollars I don’t see that big a pay rate feasible. Something else would have to be cut. Sports, music, other teachers perhaps. I wouldn’t mind cutting the fat and more efficient spending in schools. In fact it should be a priority. None the less I don’t see many states being to afford such increases.

Mathews points to charter schools as an example of merit pay done right.

from Washington Post:

Charter schools — and some regular public schools with special arrangements — often do better by placing decisions on salary and other matters in the hands of carefully selected and trained principals who know what great teachers do because that was what they once were. They judge teacher talent on classroom technique as well as test scores. They help teachers who are struggling. They praise those who are improving. They reward staffers in ways that make sense for each individual. Paying big bonuses to stars based on a formula decided by a district committee means fewer thoughtful conversations about students and more bitter gossip about adults.

Of course, this approach requires great care in selecting and training the school leader, but what’s wrong with that? The superintendent also must be ready to relieve principals whose schools do not raise achievement. Results will be measured, of course, at least in part by test scores. There is no escape from that. But it will be an assessment of gains, or lack of them, by every child in the school, not just those taught by one teacher in one classroom.

How can anyone disagree with better trained principals? What team can succeed consistently with a poor coach, especially when facing tough challenges? Some principals are of course just too busy to really perform the tasks they should, leading their staff. Fielding calls from parents and discipline can take up a lot of time. Do government schools need a PR person? Probably. Many private schools have someone to fill that need, giving principals more time to observe and coach.

I would like to see this formula charters use for “big bonuses to stars.” Also remember, as Mathews does not, all charters are not created equal.

Julie at School of Blog comments of a merit pay system she thinks works.

from School of Blog:

we’ve found a way to do merit pay that sort of fits with our mission. Only 10% of the pay increase is tied to test scores, and that applies to all teachers, not to any teacher in particular – so it gives us an incentive to work together. The rest is tied to projects that teachers come up with at the beginning of the year.

For example, as a social studies teacher my project might be to design and run a class that utilizes oral history. I write up the proposal. If I’m successful in my stated goals, I get the extra pay bump. Q-Comp even provides some funds for materials for my project (such as tape recorders, etc.).

Teachers at our school who experienced Q-Comp in traditional districts and hated it are excited about doing it this way. It’s cooperative rather than competitive. I’ll keep you posted on whether we get the funding.

This Minnesota merit pay is a step in the right direction. I’d much rather see teachers cooperating toward bonuses rather than competing with each other. Still there is danger of a slacker ridding on the coattails of others. I’d like to know how they combat that. On the flip side of that, it does mitigate some of the disruption factor I mentioned in an earlier post. Now that disruption effect in one class will be spread around the school when combined with all classes.

I like that teachers get funding for classroom projects. Still, setting your own goals is troubling. How keeps an eye on how tough or easy the goals are to reach?

I still think it is not comprehensive enough. Maybe other measures are included, but not mentioned. Do colleagues evaluate each other? Students their teachers? Parents their teachers? Those methods are all valuable in improving schools and should be taken into account.

Keep that debate going people! Thoughts?

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Class Disruption – One bad apple can spoil the bunch

I read this post by Clay Burell at Change.org this last night. After reading the post I decided to let my thoughts marinate for a while. Clay wrote on a study showing how detrimental a single disruptive student can hold back a whole class.

from Change.org:

Obviously, if Teacher A has one or more disruptive students in a class, and Teacher B doesn’t, this study suggests that the effects of the disruptors in Teacher A’s class will degrade their grades come test time – and lead to Teacher A being labeled a “bad teacher.” Teacher B, meanwhile, by the luck of the draw, will suffer no such handicapping come test time.

I wrote recently about the French film, The Class, which follows a class containing a disruptive student for months, and then shows the same class after that student had been expelled. The night and day difference in time-on-task and learning atmosphere is enough to make any democrat uncomfortable: we believe in equal education for all, yet a single troubled troublemaker can create unequal learning opportunities for his or her classmates, while the neighboring classrooms have no such handicap.

I had such a situation last year. A couple of students who, when they chose to come to class, sometimes came on time, sometimes with their course materials and homework, sometimes not. I finally decided to bar them from the class and send them to the principal’s office for the duration, until they decided they could get their act together. I’m not saying it’s the perfect solution, but it at least let me and the rest of the class learn in peace.

Wow! That was my first thought that night. This study totally turns a lot of what I believe on education reform on its ear. Those who read my blog know that I favor clear expectations and goals for teachers and students, accountability for those goals, and flexibility on how we get there. Literally one bad (maybe disruptive is a better word) apple CAN spoil the bunch.

If we base teacher, school, and district assessments on student testing (or grades) alone one disruptive student can skew scores dramatically. This “domino effect” as Ed Week put it can drop a whole classroom’s scores, sending out a damaging ripple. That ripple can hit everything from a teacher’s pay and or retention to a district’s funding or a school’s chances of being open.

Aside from it’s association with testing, how do we solve this issue so that the kids who want to learn can? Some schools have become almost afraid to discipline children. Of course there is some well placed fear behind this. The real threat of being gunned down or knifed still exists in some schools. Let’s continue with the assumption that this threat as been dealt with and the school is already safe in that respect.

What lasting consequences are there of disciplinary actions? Is detention really punishment? Having had a few in my school career I would say no. You do you homework, read a book, brood quietly for an hour or so. Then you go home. Big deal. And anything save a Saturday detention or a suspension did not follow you along.

To begin, we must be clear with students what behavior is expected and what will not be tollerated. The punishments for inappropirate behavoir must be clear as well. Exceptions should not be made and the same punishments should follow the crime each time disruption occurs.

Punishments must carry weight. I’m going months back to a subject I advocated for a solution, civics education. Community service should be a primary way to pay for disruption. That could be within the community at large, or the community of the school. This would serve a few purposes.

– Working in a community builds a sense of community. You are less likely to be disrespectful to your community when you have worked to keep it up.

– Others will see that you have broken the rules. Peer judgement is a huge factor to school age children. Few children will want their peers to see them being punished.

– You will get the community kept up. The improvements disciplined children are doing will help keep schools clean etc and encourage things to be kept up.

Is this a blanket solution? A magic discipline potion? No, I would never argue that about any reform. It is however a necessary step in the right direction.

The Failure of Buffet Reform

Some in the reform crowd are so eager to “race to the top” they seem like they aren’t taking a few seconds to plan their route. They just spout words like accountability, choice, and charters without any pause for the best way to implement those principals. Then there are those who tout one reform as some sort of cure-all. These reformers have tunnel vision. They miss the interconnected nature of school reform. Both of these attitudes are dangerous.

This is buffet reform. Buffet reformers mix and match foods, pile their plates high, maybe get dessert first. The buffet is not about quality or satisfaction, it’s about how much you can stuff. The result is usually the same; you wind up overstuffed and unsatisfied. You may stumble upon an exemplary meal, say at the Plaza or Harraseeket Inn on mother’s day, but for the most part it’s not a great experience.

True reform works more like a great tasting menu. Everything is planned with a purpose. All of the ingredients cooked to be so much more than the sum of their parts. Each dish complementing the last. Education reform functions best when implemented in that fashion.

Take the example of school choice. Many see school choice/ competition as a positive force. Those with the wealth to do so have been able to choose private school for their children. Since we have become a physically mobile society, those with money have been able to choose their children’s school by where they live. Making school choice available to all students levels the playing field. But just advocating choice alone does not foster meaningful competition or provide the greatest benefits to schools, parents, and students.

How is a parent to know what a certain school offers to their children? There is no simple way for a parent to examine a school. A system should first be in place that collects school information and it should include more than just student test scores. Parents should be allowed to view school safety records, graduation rates, college attendance rates, extracurricular programs, arts programs, ap courses offered, and other relevant data. Districts should be able to provide families with this information in a simple format. This data should make it easy to compare schools and locate certain strengths parents and students desire.

Although test scores are only one part of the information provided to parents, they are an important one. Choice forces districts to set clear goals which necessitate better, more efficient testing. Reforms to what we test and how we test, moving toward leaner problem solving and analytical testing, need to be coupled with school choice. So we are moved toward greater accountability for students and teachers.

Greater flexibility also comes along with this. Flexibility and accountability go hand in hand. If you have one without the other you might as well have neither. So with accountability teachers can be given a wide birth as to how they instruct in the classroom. As long as the students are learning who cares if a teacher can convey their knowledge best by hanging upside down from the ceiling. And of course with schools accountable districts and schools can have greater flexibility as to who they hire for teaching and administrative jobs. A certain amount of decentralization can be encouraged.

You can see how the business of meaningful reform quickly becomes interdependent, or perhaps I just confused the Hell out of you. Flexibility and accountability are always at the heart of every reform. Without flexibility choice cannot be meaningful. There will be no more choices then there are now. Great innovation will not be allowed to develop. Without accountability nothing is in place to ensure a certain standard to what our children our learning. Parents will have no way to make a proper decision in choosing a school without data to back it up. Accountability provides that data.

Of course I have simplified, for sake of this conversation on choice, what flexibility and accountability can do for education. The topic has been explore on numerous websites and books. Most people who disagree with particular reforms have not seen a comprehensive well thought out plan. All they have been given are buffet reforms. Which is why they continue to leave the table unfulfilled.

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.

Texas Grading Policy Epic Fail – Minimum grades for failing students

“Everything is bigger in Texas” is how that oft used saying goes. When it comes to education policy in Texas the saying still applies. The state’s newest exercise in grading can be nothing but a massive failure.

Many Texas school districts have imposed minimum grades teachers can give to students. A score of 50 or 60 has been set in some districts, with a few raising the bottom to 70! When I went to school a 70 would have been a C-/D+ depending on the teacher. A student could theoretically not turn in an assignment or completely bomb a test and still receive an average score.

from Web Watch

Republican Senator Jane Nelson, a former teacher who introduced the bill, said the practice of putting a minimum on student grades encourages students to “game” the system.

“Kids are smart and can figure it out,” she said. “A student in one of these districts with a minimum grade of 70 can sit in class and say, ‘I don’t have to do any homework, I don’t have to answer any questions on tests, and they still have to give me a 70 no matter what.”

Let’s teach our children how to cheat the system. That’s a noble aim to teaching. Districts employing these policies cite dropout rates and providing a “safety net” as reasons for the minimum grading policy.

from Dallas News

“There are students who make mistakes and wind up with poor grades in one grading period during the semester,” said Leslie James, assistant superintendent for policy and planning in the Fort Worth school district. “If they are not allowed to turn it around, it can become hopeless for the student. They need an opportunity to bounce back.”

James’ comment shows the lack of faith in teachers. Now while I have been an advocate in greater accountability of both teachers and students, this sort of micromanaging hurts classroom efforts. James is telling teachers, “I don’t believe you will give students adequate opportunity to make up work they’ve missed. You wont give them help to boost their poor grades either. You also don’t know how to grade students. Let us tell you how to do your job.” A teacher is in the classroom with these students. Few teachers want to fail anyone. Their job is to produce success in their students. So when they do we must recognize there is reason behind that.

This whole notion of a safety net disturbs me to no end. In “A for Effort. F in life.” I wrote about the dangers of protecting children from failure in school. Instilling children with a sense of entitlement to rewards without the work sets children up for massive failure in life. I haven’t change my mind. There is no safety net in life. An employer is not going to keep an employee who constantly performs below expectations but believes they are doing just fine. How can this person be expected to improve?

We are preparing kids for the outside world. The rewards from quality work can be great and ultimately more satisfying than just doing the bare minimum (or less than that in Texas’ case). The consequences of failure in the real world can be a cardboard box with the safety net of a soup kitchen.

More Merit Pay Madness- Sunday Editorial on Editorials

This Sunday Chuck McKay, a Newport, Maine high school teacher launched a brutal attack on merit pay for teachers and teacher accountability. Boy, there is so much to cover. Chuck really missed just about every mark in his assault. Let’s begin at the end. McKay warns us that, “when President Obama announces his support for “merit pay” for teachers, before you stand up and cheer, make sure you know exactly what “merit” really is.” Chuck, before you stand up and jeer merit pay take your own advice. Let me give you a little helping hand.

Later in his article Chuck admonishes those who believe teacher accountability an integral pillar of education reform. He then goes on to preach class size as a magic bean that will solve all our problems

from Bangor Daily News

You could fill an Olympic swimming pool with all the studies that prove lower class sizes result in higher student achievement. You would think that would translate to lots of new job openings for teachers.

Taxpayers seem more concerned about getting more for less, research be damned. So, school boards won’t cough up the coin to hire more personnel; communities would rather maintain status quo and keep taxpayers docile.

Ok, there are studies that suggest class sizes under 20 in the early grades help set a good foundation. A small class does not a good teacher make. A poor teacher is a poor teacher for 1 child to 100. Same goes for a quality teacher. You can’t deny that Chuck.

Chuck claims it is impossible to measure the quality of a teacher. He dismisses merit pay as “goofy” because the lack of a ruler for teacher quality. Or perhaps because he cannot see past what he has been ingrained to believe about merit pay.

Some reformers recognized that student assessments must be part, but not the only piece, to teacher accountability. Chuck assumes that we would only base teacher accountability on student scores, which must be inherently evil.

from Bangor Daily News

How do you quantify the value of a teacher? Test scores? Please. For starters, it is unfair to students to assault them with another battery of tests, this time directly affecting the livelihood of their teacher.

Yes Chuck, part of the value of a teacher is what a child has learned in their class. That is never detached from the profession. That is the main reason for teachers, to teach. One of the ways to measure that is by test scores. Chuck falsely assumes that this will require more exams. That is an unfair scare tactic. Why must we have more tests? Why can’t we use the ones we have. The MEA testing system has been in place here in Maine for some time. I will it say again, as I’ve said before, standardized tests aren’t perfect. We need to reform them away from a multiple-choice format. Tests should be problem solving and analysis based, considering grade level of course. Why Chuck doesn’t consider that possibility I can’t say.

Chuck’s next argument against merit pay based on student assessments? His students are out to get him!

from Bangor Daily News

As a student, I wouldn’t want the pressure of knowing my performance has a direct impact on my teacher’s ability to support a family. As a teacher, I wouldn’t want students who didn’t like me deliberately tanking the test.

As a teacher, or a person in general, you know some people like you and some don’t. Some people are malicious enough to manifest their dislike in unsavory ways. Yes some students may deliberately do poorly on the test, but I find it hard to believe that would be an issue. Students should have a stake in doing well just as much as teachers should. How we could set that I’m not sure of at this time, but their test scores would most likely follow them through school and beyond. Also, what about a teacher who grades a student more harshly just because they don’t like them? That happens too. Not often, but it does. That doesn’t mean we close down the school does it? If you follow Chuck’s logic it does.

In one last jab against testing, Chuck tries this salvo.

from Bangor Daily News

Most importantly, testing as the penultimate measure of an educator’s worth ignores an obvious but overlooked truth: The most important thing you learn in school is not the content of any particular discipline. The most important thing you learn is how to learn. Try measuring that on a test.

Instilling a life-long love of learning in a child is an important endeavor. So is teaching children how to find the answers on their own. If a teacher is consistently failing to impart the basics on their students so that they can continue on their own how can that be called a success in any stretch of the word?

Chuck continues by suggesting that principal evaluations of teachers wont accurately measure quality.

from Bangor Daily News

Most teachers I know in various school districts are observed in class once or twice a year, at most, by their administration. On those occasions, a teacher can usually prepare his or her best lesson, not necessarily the one that best represents his or her typical job performance.

Principals probably have other methods of knowing which teachers are good and which are bad. But then, your next principal won’t necessarily agree with the current one.

You would need to come up with some legendary, magical teacher evaluation system in order to transcend good-ole-boy politics and inconsistent pedagogical philosophies in schools where the principal’s office has a revolving door.

Again Chuck believes that we can only use one form of measurement at a time. Combining many forms of accountability provides checks and balances, negating some of the flaws of each alone. Chuck is right on one thing. We need more principal and administrative visits. Make them surprise visits as well.

As teachers are accountable (partly) for student performance, a principal should be accountable for their staff. Principals should be subject to merit pay as well. This would provide principals with greater incentives to find teachers in need of assistance and reward those with better performance.

Last Chuck says that we are not able to factor in many intangibles when figuring merit pay.

from Bangor Daily News

What is the price of finding the book that turns a kid on to reading? What does it cost to prevent or break up a fight at school? What would you pay to have a teacher discipline a bully instead of looking the other way? How much is it worth to have someone notice changes in a child’s behavior and intervene, thus preventing a suicide or a drug addiction? Or implement a new teaching technology, even if it means more headaches, because it might empower kids? What tax increase would you tolerate to have a gifted child find her passion?

Ah but we can factor in those things. With the combination of peer review, student review, and principal review all of these things will factor into pay. It may seem callous to attach a monetary value to things like providing extra help to a student or taking initiative to introduce new methods, but we should. To pay someone who puts in the hard work the same as a teacher who just floats by is completely unfair. Those who go the extra mile should be rewarded. When we ignore those factors we are effectively saying, “Thanks for the extra work, but we aren’t going out of our way to recognize your excellence.” How much of that can one person take before they stop trying? We have got to break this culture that ignores achievement and rewards complacency.

Chuck assumes, like so many, if we can’t have a perfect assessment system we should have none at all. It’s just not fair! Well Chuck, it’s not fair to let things continue the way they are. I would much rather we get things in place to start progressing toward a better system then continue on the same path. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but Chuck seems to provide none. If you read this Chuck, I was a little harsh, but you got me fired up. Also, I’d like to see your solutions Chuck. Readers, yours too.

More Merit Pay Madness- Sunday Editorial on Editorials

This Sunday Chuck McKay, a Newport, Maine high school teacher launched a brutal attack on merit pay for teachers and teacher accountability. Boy, there is so much to cover. Chuck really missed just about every mark in his assault. Let’s begin at the end. McKay warns us that, “when President Obama announces his support for “merit pay” for teachers, before you stand up and cheer, make sure you know exactly what “merit” really is.” Chuck, before you stand up and jeer merit pay take your own advice. Let me give you a little helping hand.

Later in his article Chuck admonishes those who believe teacher accountability an integral pillar of education reform. He then goes on to preach class size as a magic bean that will solve all our problems

from Bangor Daily News

You could fill an Olympic swimming pool with all the studies that prove lower class sizes result in higher student achievement. You would think that would translate to lots of new job openings for teachers.

Taxpayers seem more concerned about getting more for less, research be damned. So, school boards won’t cough up the coin to hire more personnel; communities would rather maintain status quo and keep taxpayers docile.

Ok, there are studies that suggest class sizes under 20 in the early grades help set a good foundation. A small class does not a good teacher make. A poor teacher is a poor teacher for 1 child to 100. Same goes for a quality teacher. You can’t deny that Chuck.

Chuck claims it is impossible to measure the quality of a teacher. He dismisses merit pay as “goofy” because the lack of a ruler for teacher quality. Or perhaps because he cannot see past what he has been ingrained to believe about merit pay.

Some reformers recognized that student assessments must be part, but not the only piece, to teacher accountability. Chuck assumes that we would only base teacher accountability on student scores, which must be inherently evil.

from Bangor Daily News

How do you quantify the value of a teacher? Test scores? Please. For starters, it is unfair to students to assault them with another battery of tests, this time directly affecting the livelihood of their teacher.

Yes Chuck, part of the value of a teacher is what a child has learned in their class. That is never detached from the profession. That is the main reason for teachers, to teach. One of the ways to measure that is by test scores. Chuck falsely assumes that this will require more exams. That is an unfair scare tactic. Why must we have more tests? Why can’t we use the ones we have. The MEA testing system has been in place here in Maine for some time. I will it say again, as I’ve said before, standardized tests aren’t perfect. We need to reform them away from a multiple-choice format. Tests should be problem solving and analysis based, considering grade level of course. Why Chuck doesn’t consider that possibility I can’t say.

Chuck’s next argument against merit pay based on student assessments? His students are out to get him!

from Bangor Daily News

As a student, I wouldn’t want the pressure of knowing my performance has a direct impact on my teacher’s ability to support a family. As a teacher, I wouldn’t want students who didn’t like me deliberately tanking the test.

As a teacher, or a person in general, you know some people like you and some don’t. Some people are malicious enough to manifest their dislike in unsavory ways. Yes some students may deliberately do poorly on the test, but I find it hard to believe that would be an issue. Students should have a stake in doing well just as much as teachers should. How we could set that I’m not sure of at this time, but their test scores would most likely follow them through school and beyond. Also, what about a teacher who grades a student more harshly just because they don’t like them? That happens too. Not often, but it does. That doesn’t mean we close down the school does it? If you follow Chuck’s logic it does.

In one last jab against testing, Chuck tries this salvo.

from Bangor Daily News

Most importantly, testing as the penultimate measure of an educator’s worth ignores an obvious but overlooked truth: The most important thing you learn in school is not the content of any particular discipline. The most important thing you learn is how to learn. Try measuring that on a test.

Instilling a life-long love of learning in a child is an important endeavor. So is teaching children how to find the answers on their own. If a teacher is consistently failing to impart the basics on their students so that they can continue on their own how can that be called a success in any stretch of the word?

Chuck continues by suggesting that principal evaluations of teachers wont accurately measure quality.

from Bangor Daily News

Most teachers I know in various school districts are observed in class once or twice a year, at most, by their administration. On those occasions, a teacher can usually prepare his or her best lesson, not necessarily the one that best represents his or her typical job performance.

Principals probably have other methods of knowing which teachers are good and which are bad. But then, your next principal won’t necessarily agree with the current one.

You would need to come up with some legendary, magical teacher evaluation system in order to transcend good-ole-boy politics and inconsistent pedagogical philosophies in schools where the principal’s office has a revolving door.

Again Chuck believes that we can only use one form of measurement at a time. Combining many forms of accountability provides checks and balances, negating some of the flaws of each alone. Chuck is right on one thing. We need more principal and administrative visits. Make them surprise visits as well.

As teachers are accountable (partly) for student performance, a principal should be accountable for their staff. Principals should be subject to merit pay as well. This would provide principals with greater incentives to find teachers in need of assistance and reward those with better performance.

Last Chuck says that we are not able to factor in many intangibles when figuring merit pay.

from Bangor Daily News

What is the price of finding the book that turns a kid on to reading? What does it cost to prevent or break up a fight at school? What would you pay to have a teacher discipline a bully instead of looking the other way? How much is it worth to have someone notice changes in a child’s behavior and intervene, thus preventing a suicide or a drug addiction? Or implement a new teaching technology, even if it means more headaches, because it might empower kids? What tax increase would you tolerate to have a gifted child find her passion?

Ah but we can factor in those things. With the combination of peer review, student review, and principal review all of these things will factor into pay. It may seem callous to attach a monetary value to things like providing extra help to a student or taking initiative to introduce new methods, but we should. To pay someone who puts in the hard work the same as a teacher who just floats by is completely unfair. Those who go the extra mile should be rewarded. When we ignore those factors we are effectively saying, “Thanks for the extra work, but we aren’t going out of our way to recognize your excellence.” How much of that can one person take before they stop trying? We have got to break this culture that ignores achievement and rewards complacency.

Chuck assumes, like so many, if we can’t have a perfect assessment system we should have none at all. It’s just not fair! Well Chuck, it’s not fair to let things continue the way they are. I would much rather we get things in place to start progressing toward a better system then continue on the same path. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but Chuck seems to provide none. If you read this Chuck, I was a little harsh, but you got me fired up. Also, I’d like to see your solutions Chuck. Readers, yours too.