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« Madison Storm February 17, 2008. Blogging Unless the Power Goes | Main | Obama Reflects My Core Values...and My Generation - As I See It »

February 18, 2008

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Momannonymous

Isn't the real reason for merit pay to dissolve unions? It always sounds too good to be true-reward the worthy and get rid of the dead wood by paying them less. Or is it: get rid of people you don't like by giving them bad reveiws whether or not they deserve them then pay them less. Reward your friends and those who follow orders well (suck up) by paying them more. Who gets the merit pay is generally up to one person.

xjm

I'd agree that extra pay isn't magically going to make teachers (or anyone) do a better job; that comes from the person and the work environment. However, pay does act as a sort of selector--if a motivated, talented individual can get better pay in a different job, there's a good chance that person will leave for that new job. Thus, the whole notion of merit pay is a bit of a reactionary response: let's keep the best teachers by keeping their wages competitive.

Of course, the tactic will fail in the long term to improve the quality of education. Paying one teacher more might help a school keep that teacher, but one teacher alone is a small element in a child's total education. As you point out, improving a child's whole education is going to require improving teacher performance and morale across the board--which will be achieved by (among other things) making teacher wages competitive across the board.

Anonymous

I know young teachers and they are good, they are talented and they are smart, but most of all they like to see the students succeed. The only incentive they need is parents and the Superintendants to recognize them for the good job they're doing. That is lacking in some schools.

They do know other people with good educations that make more money then they do and that is frustrating for them. The politics also get to them at times when people that don't know what they're talking about are running teachers down. I think good superintendants at schools with parental involvment are key to holding on to good teachers. But money talks and if an offer came at the right time for more money, they probably would consider it.

Momannonymous

The best way to reward teachers is to let them vote on a union contract, negotiated in good faith. To do that we need to get rid of the QEO and change school financing in Wisconsin. Merit pay is divisive. Teamwork, community support etc. is great but it isn't a decent wage for hard job.

3rd way

Meritocracy is working beautifully in every aspect of our economy to deliver the best product at the best price. I refuse to believe that it can't work to improve the most important service our government provides. Most aspects of our society and the global economy function as a meritocracy. If we refuse to make our education system meritocratic we are doing ourselves a disservice.

Good teachers are underpaid, poor teachers are grossly overpaid. I understand the argument for improving the teachers payscale across the board, put where is the cut off point? What should a starting teachers salary be? How much should a teacher with a masters degree and 20 yrs experience make? When you take into account the required work hours, time off, benefits and retirements package a teachers compensation is very competitive with what is available in the private sector. When you take their job security into account is is even more competitive.

If merit pay is off the table I would argue a better approach than universally raising salaries is to make a teachers job less stressful and easier. Maintain current compensation levels, but give each teacher a full time aide.

localteacher

I'm a local teacher and what motivates me is not how much money I earn, but the feeling I get when my students succeed. To think that teachers will leave their profession just because they get a better offer at the right time is naive. Even so, it is extremely frustrating to hear people talk about my salary/benefits as being competitive with the private sector. Compared to what job?

I am against merit pay because deciding which teachers are good or bad is far from objective. Do you use standardized test scores or some other artificial measuring stick? Do you use potentially biased evaluations or just base it on anecdotal evidence from students? "I know it when I see it" just doesn't work.

In the end, as long as school funding is tied to property taxes, discussions about increasing teacher salaries will be like pulling impacted wisdom teeth. I just wish people who think teachers are overpaid and underworked could spend a week doing my job.

If you want to make all teachers more effective, lower class sizes. The fewer students I have, the more time I can spend working with them individually. Unfortunately, people aren't willing to spend the money to make our educational system better.

buckyblue

Thanks localteacher, a local teacher here myself. I would like to add a couple of things. One, the role that administrators play in teacher performance. Generally because they have many, many other things they have to contend with, there is virtually no over sight on what is being taught nor how it is taught. Poor teachers can continue with impunity never being confronted with their poor practices. Two, the sidebar of the article compares the US to other countries and find, surprise, that other countries spend a lot more time and money preparing educators. Teacher preparation is woefully poor. I think this accounts for a large number of young teachers leaving the profession. Those that are naturally good at it will stick it out because they are getting some rewards, but many are fighting for their lives in the classroom every day. I'm sure after a few years with no support and little improvement, they just say 'screw it' who needs this, and leave.

Julie

I also am a teacher, and couldn't disagree with you more. While it's true that few teachers are motivated by money (you'd have to be pretty stupid to get into teaching for the money), don't you think there is an element of fairness that needs to be considered? Is it fair that I, a "top performer" in my school who works her butt off should make the same as the teacher across the hall who hasn't tried anything new in his classroom in five years? I am constantly "going the extra mile" for my students, and it shows in their performance, so why shouldn't I be paid more than a teacher who doesn't put in half the effort?

Maybe it is a generational thing -- I am in my 20s, and I would bet the veteran teachers in their 40s and 50s are not as receptive to the idea of merit pay.

Anyways, I think the point of the article was that, it's hard to argue with the idea of merit pay, but the devil is in the details -- how do you measure performance fairly, how do you make sure it's not just based on favoritism, etc. And that I would agree with -- obviously I wouldn't want to be paid under a system where whoever is the biggest buddy of the the Principal gets paid the most. But, the Denver system, from what I know of it, seems pretty fair, so I think it is possible to design something that works.

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