Archives for category: Merit pay

Celeste Richter, a highly rated Florida teacher, does not want a bonus for a test she took nearly 25 years ago.

The legislature passed a plan to award $10,000 to teachers who had high SAT scores in high school. The bonus is also available to currents teachers who are rated “highly effective” but only if they had high SAT scores. Veteran teachers may not be able to obtain their SAT scores, or learn whether they were in top 20%, as the law requires.

“I refuse,” said Richter, a highly-effective rated AP government teacher at Wesley Chapel High School. “A test I took in 1991 is not valid to say what a quality educator I am.”

“Richter, who’s entering her 19th year of teaching, isn’t looking up her SAT scores, though she recalls doing well. She doesn’t want the state’s award of up to $10,000, though she really could use it.

“As a moral principle, I don’t believe this is an effective way to reward teachers for a good job,” she said, further noting that the final amount will likely be far less than the maximum. “I’m not going to run after crumbs.”

For standing on principle, for courage and candor, Celeste Richter joins the blog’s honor roll.

Many people think the law is a giveaway to Teach for America, who will earn more than 10-year veterans and leave in two or three years. Its author, Erik Fresen, is a member of a family that owns a large charter chain, Academica.

Steve Nelson, head of a progressive private school in Néw York City, writes vividly and cogently about the inevitable failure of so-called reform.

The corporate reforms fail because they are built on extrinsic motivation, that is, a regime of carrots and sticks to drive teachers and students to comply with reformers’ demands.

Extrinsic methods tend to depress motivation. People resent being compelled, and they lose the desire to do what they would have willingly done without the whip hand over them.

Intrinsic motivation, by contrast, brings out the best in people.

Nelson writes:

“Intrinsic motivation is driven by factors that emanate from within: Self-satisfaction, desire for mastery, curiosity, fulfillment, pleasure, self-realization, desire for independence, ethical needs, etc. Intrinsic motivation is a powerful innate characteristic of all humans, across cultures and societies. Anyone with children or working with children observes the natural intrinsic motivation of young children – a nearly insatiable curiosity, drive to explore, and desire for mastery.

“A considerable body of research confirms that intrinsic motivation is more powerful, long lasting and important. But intrinsic motivation steadily declines from 3rd grade until 8th or 9th grade as extrinsic structures dramatically increase. The stakes get higher. Tests increase in frequency and duration. Expectations around college and achievement ratchet up. Grade point averages, honor roles, valedictorians, salutatorians, class ranks, honor societies . . . all of these forms of extrinsic motivation are ubiquitous.”

As Jerome Bruner points out, “learning becomes steadily de-contextualized as children move from grade to grade. As school becomes more controlled, more about instruction than exploration, more about abstraction than experience, children’s natural intrinsic motivation declines. The learning is unrelated to their lives. Why would they care?”

Nelson concludes:

“Students and teachers are being subjected to increasingly punitive extrinsic structures: Scores, grades, evaluations, assessments, punishments, discipline, rigidity, standardization, absence of context, divorced from individual experience.
All the factors that stimulate and perpetuate intrinsic motivation are disappearing.

“To say education reform has it wrong is a monumental understatement. Policy makers and educational reformers seem hell bent on beating students and their teachers until their morale improves.

“That’s just stupid.”

In an article in The Atlantic, Paul Barnwell describes how difficult it was for him when he was a new teacher assigned to a low-performing school.

 

In a span of three minutes, the group in room 204 had morphed from contained to out of control. Two boys were shooting dice in the back of the room, and as I instructed them to put their crumpled dollar bills away, several others took off their shoes and began tossing them around like footballs. Before I could react, one boy broke into my supply closet. He snatched handfuls of No. 2 pencils and highlighters and sprinted out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

 

He was 22 years old, and he was working in one of Kentucky’s most troubled, underperforming, and dysfunctional middle schools. He quit before Christmas. Eventually, he realized that the school needed experienced teachers and stability, but federal policy does not set a priority on either. In fact, NCLB and Race to the Top encourage churn, pretending to “fix” schools by firing principals and teachers and moving in new and often inexperienced teachers.

 

How can struggling schools attract experienced teachers? Combat pay has repeatedly failed; so has merit pay. The practice of tying teachers’ compensation to test scores will only make matters worse by incentivizing teachers to avoid the toughest schools.

 

He concludes:

 

I asked several of my public-school teaching colleagues from around the country—from New Hampshire to Washington—what it would take for them to voluntarily switch to the neediest schools in their regions. Julie Hiltz, an educator in Hillsborough County, Florida, with nearly 13 years of teaching experience, told me that the following would need to be in place: The ability to make local decisions, professional development designed and led in-house, more time for collaboration, and smaller class sizes, among other factors. Unfortunately, current guidelines for struggling schools under No Child Left Behind often disenfranchise administrators and staff.

 

Lauren Christensen, a social-studies teacher in the Waltham, Massachusetts, with six years of experience, currently works in a low-poverty school. I asked her if she’d voluntarily transfer to a high-poverty school in her area. “Maybe, she said, “but I would need to know that the whole school would be supported with a long-term commitment [from decision-makers]. I think the pressure of standard assessments and the stress put on educators to turn ‘failing’ schools around immediately might be too much to overcome.”

 

When I think back to my first year, I’m no longer bitter. I’m now completing my 11th year as a teacher; I mentor new educators and advocate for better support and working conditions. But unless those resources are in place, I wouldn’t voluntarily work in another struggling school.

 

 

Vincent Marsala, a National Board Certified Teacher in Ohio, explains what our politicians don’t understand: merit pay and stack ranking don’t work. They don’t work in business and they don’t work in schools.

 

He writes:

 

 

First, teachers will be forced to compete against each other based on student test scores. Eventually, teachers may resent having a special needs/low performing child in class because a student’s inability to do well on tests will reflect poorly on a teacher. Adding the idea of merit pay based on test scores/evaluations, and teachers may resent these students even more. Next, when teachers work together, kids win, but teachers, just like the workers at Microsoft, are human, too. Teachers competing for the highest test score and biggest bonus will in-fight, not collaborate, and instead of freely sharing ideas, teachers, will hide them from each other and ultimately students.

 

All of these misguided reforms are now hurting students and things will soon get worse. Students are about to be tested more than ever, just so we can get the data needed to stack rank teachers and schools. PARCC’s newly released testing guidance to schools calls for 9¾ hours testing time for third grade, 10 hours for grades 4-5 , 10¾ hours for grades 6-8 and 11 to 11¼ hours for grades 9-12. Of course, this testing schedule does not even account for teacher created tests.

 

Dealing with this obvious over-testing has brought on a nonsensical answer from Ohio State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Richard A. Ross. In order to reduce testing time, schools may do something that his own department does not recommend. His solution is shared attribution for teachers of art, music, foreign languages and some years of science and social studies. In simple terms, up to 50 percent of these teachers’ ratings, plus pay and hiring and firing decisions may be based on student tests in other subject areas, on students these teachers may have never even seen. Meanwhile, some of these subjects may no longer be taught by certified teachers if the Ohio State Board of Education has its way. The Board wants to eliminate the 5 of 8 rule that demands that school districts hire five full-time teachers in eight areas, including music, art, physical education, library science, nursing and social work, for every 1,000 students. With the dysfunction occurring at the state level because of these types of misguided reforms, is it any wonder why young people are bailing on the profession? According to the U.S. Department of Education’s estimates, teacher-preparation programs enrollments have shrunk by about 10 percent from 2004 to 2012, with California losing approximately 22,000 teacher-prep enrollments, or 53 percent, between 2008-09 and 2012-13.

 

Teaching is not a simple task that can be easily assessed. While on paper, stack ranking and merit pay sound fine and easy to devise, it will be a debacle. American schools are not in crisis, and collaborating, student-focused teachers are already working hard and producing great results for children every day.

 

 

Here is a curious turn of events. Just as the federal government is forcing schools across the nation to evaluate and rank teachers using dubious metrics, corporations are beginning to back away from simplistic performance measures. The change reflects the philosophy of business guru W. Edwards Deming, who staunchly opposed merit pay and rankings, on grounds that they demoralized employees and made for a less efficient workplace.

This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The Trouble With Grading Employees

Performance ratings such as ‘meets expectations’ sap workers’ morale,
but firms aren’t sure they can do without them

Can a year’s worth of work be boiled down to a stock phrase like
“meets expectations”?

As companies reinvent management by slashing layers of hierarchy or
freeing workers to set their own schedules, performance ratings—which
grade workers on a 1-5 scale or with labels like “on
target”—stubbornly hang on. Companies like Gap Inc.,Adobe Systems
Inc.and Microsoft Corp. abolished such ratings after leaders decided
they deterred collaboration and stoked staffers’ anxieties. Yet other
companies are having a harder time letting go.

Intel Corp. has long rated and ranked its approximately 105,000
workers on a four-level scale, from “outstanding” to “improvement
required.” Devra Johnson, a human-resources director at the chip
maker, observed that ratings tended to deflate morale in a good chunk
of the 70% of the company’s workforce that receives a “successful”
rating each year—the second-lowest label.

“We’d call them the walking wounded,” she said.

Human-resources managers conducted an experiment to test a new way of
managing performance, allowing 1,700 workers in the HR department to
go unrated, although not without feedback, for about two years,
according to Ms. Johnson.

Managers found they could still differentiate performance and
distribute compensation. However, when Ms. Johnson’s team presented
its findings, company executives weren’t ready to give the labels up,
concerned that forgoing ratings would suck healthy tension out of the
workplace, she said. So the HR department started rating the employees
in the experiment again….

Marc Farrugia, the vice president for human resources at Sun
Communities Inc., is going through the “exhausting” process of
revamping performance management at the owner and operator of
manufactured housing communities. He’s concerned about the accuracy of
the company’s current approach to ratings; some managers just dole out
higher scores in order to maximize bonuses for employees they’re
scared might leave; others give everyone average ratings because it is
easy. Workers complain the ratings aren’t fair and don’t paint a true
picture of their annual performance.

“I’m being more and more convinced that ratings are doing more harm
than good,” Mr. Farrugia said….

Some executives worry that figuring performance measures, such as the
time it takes for restaurant workers to take an order, into reviews
might lack context.

“I have a real love-hate relationship with data,” said Kevin Reddy,the
CEO of fast-casual restaurant chain Noodles & Co. “You can get a false
sense of security if you zero in too closely on a rating system.”

The company moved away from numeric ratings about seven years ago but
still places workers into broad categories like “meets expectations.”
Mr. Reddy said he and his leadership team continue to question whether
they’re doing feedback right and motivating employees.

Jean Martin, a director at research and advisory firm Corporate
Executive Board who works with companies on performance management
systems, said executives are “giving the numbers too much power” by
endlessly debating their worth. An analysis of 30,000 employees by her
organization shows ratings don’t have a direct impact on performance,
she said.

Others say they have evidence showing that workers contribute less
after receiving a poor rating. David Rock, the director of the
NeuroLeadership Institute, a research firm that applies neuroscience
to the workplace, said ratings conjure a “threat response” in workers,
or “a sensation of danger,” especially if they don’t get the number
they expect. And the hangover from a bad rating can last for months,
Dr. Rock said….

Companies that have gotten rid of ratings say their employees feel
better about their jobs, and actually listen to managers’ feedback
instead of obsessing over a number. John Ritchie, a Microsoft
human-resources executive who goes by “J,” said the technology
company’s practice of rating and ranking employees discouraged
risk-taking and collaboration; since discontinuing the practice in
late 2013, teamwork is up, he said.

The internal change mirrors the shift CEO Satya Nadella is working to
effect externally, charming and collaborating with startups and
venture-capital firms so that Microsoft doesn’t get left behind in the
increasingly heterogeneous world of technology.

“We needed to change and everybody knew it,” Mr. Ritchie said of the
new performance management system.

The Gap’s new approach dumps ratings in favor of monthly coaching
sessions and frequent employee-manager conversations. But HR
executives had to convince leaders that the move wasn’t
“sacrilegious,” according to Eric Severson, the company’s co-head of
human resources.

Holly Bonds, a 17-year veteran of the company, said it was strange at
first; she was used to scanning her review for her rating and bonus
number. She now talks more frequently with her manager, so she has a
better idea of where she stands, a process that she’s found less
stressful than worrying about her rating.

“I haven’t missed it,” she said.

Write to Rachel Feintzeig at rachel.feintzeig@wsj.com

Mercedes Schneider continúes her close reading of the Senate reauthorization bill, crafted by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Patti Murray. This is part three. The others are linked inside her post.

 

You will find this an interesting post. You will see that the bill penalizes states that cut their education budget by more than 10%; that it allows but doesn’t mandate merit pay; that it includes a big loophole for Teach for America; and much more.

 

Mercedes is going through this bill line-by-line. Members of Congress would learn much by reading her reports.

Jersey Jazzman calls out journalist Jon Chait for being against political correctness except when it serves his purpose.

It seems Chait was deeply offended when I said that former CNN anchor Campbell Brown is no educational expert. Her campaign to eliminate teacher tenure won’t improve education, I dared to say. We might, as a test case, compare the academic performance of states that have tenure with states that don’t, but that involves a rudimentary knowledge of actual research.

It is highly offensive to those bashing teachers to suggest that their campaign to remove teacher tenure and to provide merit pay has no evidence behind it and is illogical. They don’t like it when you point out that VAM sounds good but doesn’t work. If they read the statement of the American Statistical Association, they would be informed, but that requires research, or if you open the link, reading.

Remember the post called “Two Bonuses”? It actually described three bonuses: one went to Mercedes Schneider, who received a bonus of $427.76 after she was rated a “highly effective teacher”; she gave her bonus away to a friend raising an autistic child. The second bonus went to a charter school teacher who raised scores by 88%; her bonus was $43,000! The third bonus went to a kindergarten teacher at the same charter school who had raised scores even more, but her bonus was $4,086 because her class’s scores did not “count” toward state ratings. The kindergarten scores went  up by 165%! The teacher was Ashleigh Pelafigue.

 

Of course, the bonus plan is completely unsustainable because it is funded by a one-time federal grant of $2.3 million that went to a charter chain called New Beginnings with four schools.

 

I learned from a comment left on the post that Ashleigh Pelafigue, who had the highest gains in the school (not sure how kindergarten children were tested!), was fired. She now teaches in a public school.

 

And then Ashleigh herself wrote a comment on the blog:

 

I AM the (former) kindergarten teacher referenced in this story and the above comment about me is true [that she was fired]. As far as teacher to pupil ratios, never did I have a class of less than 25 students. I also had no aide or interventionist to pull my students. My students were not serviced for special needs nor were they appropriately designated for ESL. Despite countless hours of hard work, hours upon hours of self-directed professional development, and even continuing my own education to ensure I was providing the most up-to-date instructional strategies, it is true, I was fired without just cause, with no warning, and given only hours to clean out my classroom. My email was wiped out within three hours of receiving my termination letter and I was denied the bonus that I had earned because I was not returning to the school. I was not actively looking for a new job; completely blindsided does not even accurately express my shock. As the above comment states I did in fact find employment in a new parish, only three days after being terminated. I applied, was interviewed and hired in a matter of 24 hours. My resume and data speaks for itself.I have never been happier. Although the situation I was dealt was wrong and disgraceful to the New Beginnings Charter School Network, it was the best thing they ever did for me. An adequate bonus would have been nice, a word of thanks or gratitude would have been appreciated, but letting me go opened my eyes. I would have faithfully gone down with a sinking ship. Instead, I am flourishing and becoming even better in a supportive, appreciative and engaging environment that is well on its way to becoming an A school and leading the way to our parish’s continued success.

 

 

Mercedes Schneider was rated a “highly effective” teacher. She received a bonus of $427. 76. She gave it to a friend who is raising an autistic child.

A fourth-grade teacher at Pierre Capdeau Charter School in Louisiana got a bonus of $43,000 for raising her students’ test scores by 88%. The bonus is about 75% of her annual salary. A kindergarten teacher got even larger gains but her bonus was only $4,086 because the kindergarten scores don’t count for the state rankings.

The school is rated a D by the state. Last year it was graded D-.

Peter Greene, in his incisive and typically humorous style, explains here why performance incentives don’t work in the public sector.

 

He offers as one example the case of fire fighters. Imagine if they were paid based on how many fires they extinguished, and how much money was saved as a result of their doing so.

 

We have always paid public servants a flat fee, untethered to any sort of “performance measures.” That’s because we want public service to be completely disconnected from any private interests. (And if you just thought, “Damn, this is a long post,” you can get the basic point here and decide if you want to travel down the whole web of alleys with me.)

Fighting Fire with Money

Imagine if, for instance, we paid fire fighters on sliding scale, based on how many of which type fires they put out at a certain speed. This would be disastrous for many reasons.

 

Fire fighters would refuse to work in cities where there were few fires to fight, because they couldn’t make a living. In cities where there were commonly multiple fires, fire fighters would look at each fire call through a lens of “What’s in it for me?”

 

For instance, in a system where fire fighters were paid based on the value of the flame-besieged property, fire fighters might view some small building fires as Not Worth the Trouble. Why bother traveling to the other side of the tracks? It’s only a hundred-dollar blaze, anyway. Let’s wait till something breaks out up in the million-dollar neighborhood.

 

In the worst-case scenario, one of our fire fighters depending on performance-based pay to feed his family may be tempted to grab some matches and go fire up some business.

 

He writes, later in the post:

 

It makes business-oriented reformy types crazy that the way I do my job doesn’t make any difference to my pay. I understand the terror for them there, but that Not Making A Difference is actually the point of how we pay public servants.

It doesn’t matter it’s a big fire or a small fire, a rich person’s house or a poor person’s house– the fire department still does their job. It doesn’t matter whether I have a classroom full of bright students or slow students, rich students or poor students, ambitious students or lazy students– I will still show up and do my job the best I know how. I should never, ever, ever have to look at a class roster or a set of test results or a practice quiz and think, “Dammit, these kids are going to keep me from making my house payment next month.”

 

Why I Won’t Suck

 

Reformsters are sure that human beings must be motivated by threats and rewards, and that the lack of threats and rewards means that I can too easily choose to do a crappy job, because it won’t make any difference. They are wrong. Here’s why.

 

1) I knew the gig when I started. I knew I would not get rich, not be powerful, not have a chance to rise to some position of prominence. There was no reason to enter teaching in the first except a desire to do right by the students.

 

2) Teaching is too hard to do half-assed. Do a consistently lousy job, and the students will eat you alive and dragging yourself out of bed every day will be too damn much. There isn’t enough money to keep people flailing badly in a classroom for a lifetime. Just ask all the TFA dropouts who said, “Damn! This is hella hard!” and left the classroom.
And Most Importantly

 

Threats and rewards do not make people better public servants (nor have I ever seen a lick of research that suggests otherwise, but feel free to review this oft-linked video re: motivation). Threats and rewards interfere with people’s ability to get their job done. Threats and rewards motivate people to game the system.

 

And any time you have a complex system being measured with simple instruments, you have a system that is ripe for gaming. In fact, if your measures are bad enough (looking at you, high stakes tests and VAM), your system can only be successfully operated by gaming it.

 

Greene explains his case so clearly that even a child can understand why performance pay creates perverse incentives. (As Krazy TA, a regular reader is sure to say, quoting Groucho Marx, “please send for a child.”)

 

 

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