Merit pay is the idea that never works and never dies. It has been tried in the schools for nearly a century and has never made a difference, other than to demoralize teachers and destroy collaboration.
This reader uses an analogy to show why merit pay always fails:
Can you imagine offering a surgeon a bonus if he does his absolute best on your surgery?
How about offering your airline pilot a bonus for landing safely?
Here is the absurd consequence of the terrible ideas that have dominated education policy in the US. for the past 20 or so years.
The governor and legislators in Michigan have stripped more than a billion dollars from the public schools even as they better test scores. Now, as they plan to cut public school budgets even more, they want to tie teachers’ salaries to test scores.
The fact that test-based incentive have failed and failed and failed does not have any bearing on the state’s policymakers. No doubt they can claim they are marching in step with Arne Duncan, who believes that test scores must be a significant part of teacher evaluation.
The formula of slash and burn is not good for children, not good for schools, and not good for the quality of education. The tests will rule every decision. I wonder how many of the legislators could pass the tests that will determine the reputations and lives of teachers.
The Chalkface blog says that we have had a steady diet of “miracles” for at least the past dozen years, starting with the “Texas miracle.”
He calls this Voodoo Education Reform.
I tend to see the ideas of the past dozen years as Zombie Education Reform.
I use the term to refer to policies that have no evidence to support them, that fail and fail again and again, but that are imposed repeatedly by powerful people, despite their failure.
Merit pay is a Zombie Reform.
Evaluating teachers by student test scores is a Zombie Reform.
Privatizing public education for fun and profit is a Zombie Reform.
Hiring inexperienced and uncertified teachers for the children with the greatest needs is a Zombie Reform.
Closing public schools and calling it “reform” is a Zombie Reform.
Putting a single letter grade on a complex institution like a school is a Zombie Reform.
Giving academic tests to pre-school children is a Zombie Reform.
We live in an age where zombies run our nation’s education policy.
I read this article “by Bill Gates” with a growing sense of incredulity.
I kept hearing echoes of many things I and others have written since Gates decided to make teacher evaluation the biggest crisis in American education. In 2008, he dropped the small schools movement and determined that teachers are our biggest problem. If we had a better way to evaluate them, schools could fire the bad ones and have only good ones.
No one did more to push the idea that teachers should be judged by the test scores of their students. No one had more influence on Race to the Top.
Now he says that test scores are not the only way to identify great teachers. They might not even be the best way.
Now he is worried that there is a growing backlash against standardized testing and he says he gets it.
He even concedes that tying pay to test scores is offensive.
Let us take him at his word. Let us take yes for an answer.
Please, Fairtest, invite him to speak at your next event.
Now if the day comes that he admits that the search for the right metric to measure teacher quality was a waste of time; and if the day comes that he realizes that many great teachers work selflessly in schools with low test scores; if he can begin to focus on the conditions that affect both teaching and learning rather than the fruitless search for the perfect evaluation system; when that day comes, we will all celebrate the painful metamorphosis of Bill Gates.
I received this email from a high school teacher in Memphis. Please read it and understand that we must organize against the destruction of public education in America. This, plus the court approval of vouchers in Indiana yesterday sends an ominous message: the radical reactionaries are determined to destroy public education. We must fight back. We must awaken parents and civic leaders.
This comes from Memphis:
“Public education in Memphis/Shelby County is on the verge of collapse.
“Gates gave $90 million to Memphis City Schools, and now he’s calling the shots: increased class sizes, no extra pay for advanced degrees, merit pay based on test scores, etc.
“The initial budget for the first year of operation for the merged district is already $145 million in the red.
“Yet last night the school board voted to continue paying $350,000 a month to a four-person team from Parthenon, a consulting group, to develop a merit pay system to stick it to teachers.
“That’s $87,500 per month per Parthenon team member. In a year, each team member will gross $1,050,000 for Parthenon. $4.2 million altogether. (Meanwhile, they’re looking to cut teacher pay and health and retirement benefits.)
“The best part: No one on the Parthenon “education” team is a classroom educator. They’re all business strategists, investors, lawyers, and—surprise, surprise—former members of the Gates Foundation. http://www.parthenon.com/Industries/Education
“Help expose these corporate reformer frauds!”
The Chicago Tribune says that the public is ready for “reform.”
What they mean by reform is that it is time to blame teachers if kids don’t learn, and punish the teachers, like, fire them.
What they mean by reform is that the editorial board wants the public schools to be put into private hands.
They are positive about merit pay even though it has never succeeded anywhere, including Chicago. The Chicago merit pay plan was funded with $27 million from the US Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund. The evaluation was funded by the Joyce Foundation, which also sponsored the Chicago Tribune’s public opinion poll.
After five years, this is what the evaluators of the Chicago merit pay plan concluded: “The final impact report found that the program did not raise student math or reading scores, but it increased teacher retention in some schools.”
The Joyce Foundation knew this. So did the Chicago Tribune. Why didn’t they so?
The public wants lots of things that have failed again and again.
Shouldn’t the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune tell the public the truth?
State commissioner of Education John White has outdone himself this time.
He puts forward one goofy plan after another, like sending children to schools that teach creationism and calling it “reform.”
But now he has an even nuttier idea: He wants to tie the funding for the state’s gifted high school students to their test scores. Really. No kidding.
It’s merit pay for kids.
What’s next: Tying funding for poor kids to their “performance?” Cutting their funding if they don’t get high enough test scores?
Currently the state has 10,000 students in gifted programs in high schools.
Under the present formula, they get 1.6 times the allotment as is available for those in general education.
The gifted students would take a cut to 1.3 times the regular students unless they hit the following goals:
Under the BESE-approved MFP plan students would qualify for the aid if:
“Eighth-graders score excellent on their Algebra I end of course test.
Ninth-graders score excellent on their geometry end-of-course test or 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement test, which can be used to qualify for college credit.
10th-graders score 3 or higher on an AP exam.
11th-graders score 3 or higher on an AP exam or 4 or higher on an International Bachelorette course, or IB.”
The savings would be small, but the message to students is that John White will cut their funding if they don’t get the scores he wants.
A few more big ideas like this and John White will turn Louisiana into an international laughing stock.
Unless he has already reached that goal.
North Carolina is one of the red states with a super-majority of Republicans in control of he legislature.
So Republicans can do anything they want, as they control state government.
The editorial today in the Raleigh News Observer defends teachers. The editorialist sharply rebukes Phil Berger’s punitive, mean-spirited education “reforms.” That’s welcome news.
The editorialist points out that the predictable consequence of letter grades will be to stigmatize schools, not improve them.
What’s more, he defends teachers. Picking on teachers is a favorite ploy of the state’s politicians. Given that North Carolina is a right to work state and teacher pay is nearly the worst in the nation, this ploy looks like bullying.
Bullying is bad when kids do it in school, why is it okay for the president pro tem of the state senate to bully teachers? Phil Berger seems to think that the schools will improve if teachers have no right to due process, if they can be fired for any reason at all. He confuses tenure for university professors (which is close to an ironclad guarantee of lifetime job protection) with due process rights for teachers, which guarantees nothing more than the right to a hearing before they can fire you.
Berger wants to eliminate due process. He wants teachers to be fired if their students get low test scores. Teachers of kids with disabilities and teachers of English language learners will be axed. Students can withhold effort and fire their teachers. Does Berger have a plan to recruit teachers to work in a state where teachers are public enemy #1?
Teachers at a charter school in Louisiana received eye-popping bonuses.
One got a bonus of $43,000–more than 75% of her annual salary–for raising test scores by 88% in one year.
Five teachers shared bonuses of $167,000,
The money comes from a federal grant.
One teacher saw a gain of nearly 200%, but she teaches kindergarten, so she received only $4,086.
The school got a grade of D from the state. Last year, it was D-.
The scores, the grades, the gains, the bonuses. Are the children better educated? Who knows?
In other districts, gains of this size usually are grounds for an investigation. But this is Louisiana, so forget about it.
No more career teachers in North Carolina. That’s the goal of legislation introduced by Phil Berger, the President Pro Tem of the State Senate in North Carolina.
The experienced, high-performing teachers would get a four-year contract.
Others would get shorter contracts.
No tenure for any teachers.
Lots of performance pay built in.
Bonuses would be tied to new teacher evaluation programs now under development.
Apparently, Senator Berger has no idea that merit pay has never worked anywhere.
Nor does he know that there is no successful teacher evaluation program anywhere, despite the hundreds of millions expended on creating one.
His goal seems to be to make North Carolina teachers teach to the test at every possible moment of the school day.
North Carolina was once a progressive state.
Teacher salaries in North Carolina now rank 46th in the nation.
School spending has fallen to 48th.
This is sad. Sad for the children. Sad for the teachers.