A librarian and a teacher of teachers responds to the New York Times’ editorial demand for more carrots (merit pay) and sticks (firings) for teachers in schools with low test scores.
Re “Carrots and Sticks for School Systems” (editorial, Aug. 6):
It is not surprising that many school managers do not distinguish between high- and low-performing teachers. Most schools are still based on an industrial model of moving students through an assembly line of classes and grades to achieve outcomes measured by standardized tests.
Standardized teaching can be done by mediocre teachers using scripted lessons. Excellent teaching requires well-honed judgments about individual students based on observation, information from a robust assessment program, and a great deal of knowledge and informed intuition about young people. These qualities are not encouraged or rewarded by a culture of standardization but rather of professionalism.
Nor will teachers improve using “carrots and sticks.” Excellence does not come from negative reviews, the possibility of promotions or even salary increases based on merit. Excellence is encouraged by the intrinsic rewards teachers seek, which come from a school’s commitment to their continuing development as professionals.
JAMES O. LEE
Devon, Pa., Aug. 6, 2012
The writer is an adjunct instructor at Saint Joseph’s University.
To the Editor:
Your editorial, which calls for punishing and rewarding teachers based on the academic growth of their students, is mired in outdated notions of motivation. As Daniel H. Pink makes clear in “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” 21st-century workers are motivated by three things: autonomy, mastery and purpose. This is especially true for educators.
At my diverse urban public school, my principal rewards good teaching by praising and videotaping the best teachers, setting them up as role models for the rest of the faculty. He chooses these master teachers as members of the leadership team, which advises the principal on both school policy and mission.
Teaching is a collaborative, communal effort. Teachers were file-sharing back when files were housed in metal cabinets.
Punishing and rewarding teachers based on student test scores only incentivizes a drill-and-kill, teach-to-the-test mentality. It puts teachers in a competitive rather than collaborative environment.
Good principals have always been able to get rid of bad teachers. We need to focus on the recent research on motivation and move beyond carrots and paddling.
Austin, Tex., Aug. 6, 2012