I apologize for having been away for a while, spring semester is pretty busy for me and I tend to bogged down doing my actual job. It’s a bummer I know, but such is life.
Anyway, the Rageometer was pegged this morning and I have to get this off my chest before I start ranting in front of students which, while entertaining for me, is apparently frightening to them. I was greeted this morning by a request from the Department of Public Idiocy (DPI) to complete a survey about education. Normally I’m smart enough to ignore such requests, but it is early in the morning and my brain hadn’t really started yet.
The survey was a multiple choice affair ( of course!) that attempted to discover if teachers would be more likely to keep teaching if they could qualify for a 10-20% increase in salary if they met the merit pay requirements. The survey then went on to suggest that qualifying for such pay would require excellent reviews by Fearless Leaders, students, and parents and excellent student test scores.
I am actually one of the few teachers in the universe who’s in favor of merit pay… in theory. In practice, I have quite a problem with it. The problems that I have with merit pay are many and unfortunately for DPI, they have decided to make all of them central to their idea.
(BTW: My computer decided to reboot itself right in the middle of that last sentence so that it could install yet another of the never-ending windows updates… THIS IS WHY PEOPLE BY APPLE PRODUCTS, MICROSOFT!)
Here are my problems with the merit pay plan as it is being considered:
1. Fearless Leaders – Only 2 of my 4 current Fearless Leaders have any actual teaching experience. It is possible that they are skilled enough in the art and science of education to recognize good teaching when they see it, but sadly, we will not be able to choose which Fearless Leaders review our work and our resulting scores therefore are highly suspect.
2. Student Test Scores – As I have mentioned previously, about the only thing that statewide tests have thus far demonstrated is how good students are at taking tests. What, if anything, this has to do with education is still very much in debate. Further, as teachers are not making widgets, it is entirely possible to have a great teacher and students who still fail to perform on tests. Or, and this possibility truly gives people the horrors, it is possible that the aforementioned teacher could care less about their student’s ability to guess answers correctly and not even bother teaching the test.
3. Student and Parent Feedback – Are you really suggesting that people who can’t recognize that it isn’t the teacher’s fault that their student sneaks Grandma’s drugs into school should in any way be allowed to evaluate teacher performance? After all, these people failed to clear the already low bar of public education themselves, so why exactly would we care what they think?!
4. DPI – The people who would determine the goals of this merit pay have a long and proud tradition of moving the goal posts on student test scores, teacher pay scales, benefits, budgets, and teacher bonuses. Is there really anyone out there so gullible as to believe that they won’t continuously change the merit pay requirements to avoid paying the extra money to too many teachers? And where would that leave us should we suddenly have that money subtracted from our budgets?
The best part about all of this of course is that it is entirely beside the point. The questions that need to be answered with regard to public education have almost nothing to do with any of this. If you need more teachers (or need teachers to keep teaching instead of taking higher paying jobs at McDonald’s), then raise their pay. I’ll talk about what questions we SHOULD be asking regarding education in another post.