Archives for category: Merit pay

On December 10, the “Center for Union Facts” published a very expensive full-page ad attacking Randi Weingarten, the AFT, and teachers’ unions, blaming them for the PISA scores.

In this post, Mercedes Schneider explores the “Center for Union Facts.” As she says, don’t believe the name. It is a corporate-funded, rightwing foundation-funded operation whose goal is to destroy unions.

A few days ago, a little-known group called the Center for Union Facts published a full-page ad in the New York Times blaming Randi Weingarten, the AFT, and teachers’ unions en bloc for the mediocre performance of the United States on PISA. The “center” says that the unions oppose merit pay, and that’s why the scores of 15-year-olds are not at the top of the world.

This ad is patently absurd.

Leave aside for the moment the fact that our scores on PISA are not declining; leave aside the fact that scores on international tests do not predict the future of the economy (we were last on the first international test in the mid1960s); leave aside that the AFT did approve some form of merit pay in contracts in Baltimore and New Haven; leave aside the fact that merit pay has been tried again and again for nearly a century and has never made a difference. Albert Shanker once said to a proponent of merit pay: “Let me get this right: Students will work harder if you offer their teachers a bonus? That makes no sense.” Leave aside the voluminous research showing that financial incentives and test-based accountability don’t make a difference, whether the bonuses are offered to students or teachers.

What matters here is that this alleged “center” has no knowledge or expertise about education, and is a “center” of union busting propaganda.

I know this for a fact. Several years ago, as I was transitioning from my role in conservative think tanks to my current role as a critic of high-stakes testing and privatization, I was invited to participate in a conference of the Philanthropy Roundtable at the elegant Rainbow Room high atop Rockefeller Center in New York City. The Philanthropy Roundtable was created by conservative and rightwing foundations as a counter to what they perceived as leftwing bias at the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation (where are they now?)

I was asked to be a judge on a panel to select the best reform idea for the next decade. I was going to be the Simon Cowell, the tough critic who scowled at bad or half-baked proposals. The room was full of foundation leaders–maybe 150 of the big donors.

One of the proposals was offered by Richard Berman of the Center for Union Facts. He said that his exciting new idea was to attack and demonize the teachers’ unions. He showed pictures of the billboards he had erected across major highways in New Jersey, blaming the unions for high costs and bad test scores. Needless to say, he was very proud of the work he had done.

The audience seemed to love his presentation.

When it came my turn to question him, I asked him these questions: can you explain why the states that are unionized have the highest scores on the federal tests? Did you know that New Jersey is one of the nation’s highest performing states? Can you name a high-performing state that is not unionized?

Berman seemed stunned, momentarily speechless. Then he said, “I am not an education researcher. I am in public relations.”

Case closed.

But as you can see, his “big idea” has gotten the funding to go national.

In recent years, the Gates Foundation has funded AstroTurf “teacher-led groups” to advocate for policies that most teachers reject. One of these groups is called Educators for Excellence.

In this post, a guest blogger for EduShyster explains why he refused to join E4E. Among other things, he could not bring himself to sign the pledge:

“which states that they “pledge to support using value-added test-score data in evaluations, higher hurdles to achieving tenure, the elimination of seniority-driven layoffs, school choice, and merit pay.”

The Gates Foundation has shelled out a lot of money to create teacher groups, led by young teachers with limited classroom experience, to push its anti-teacher agenda. A very clever strategy.

EduShyster has a great idea for a splendid holiday meal; she calls it “reform turducken.” What, you may ask, is that?

Here is her definition:

“Oe reformy idea stuffed into another and into another, all clad in an innocuously glistening exterior.”

In this case, the meal starts with the acknowledgement that great teachers matter; that teachers are underpaid; and that great teachers should be paid more.

How to pay great teachers more when the size of the pie is the same?

Ah, here is the secret:

“In fact the hater at the table (OK, it’s me) might point out that the entire thrust of our years-long-reform-a-thon is to figure out how to pay the majority of teachers less so as to free up dough for extra *stuffing*: the ever-expanding schmorgasboard of gizmos, test-preppery and achievement gap closure devices that our students so fiercely and urgently need. And don’t forget the gravy. A reformer can’t live by stuffing alone!”

Mathematica Policy Research released a study that proves that experience matters.

Some readers thought the study was about merit pay, but it was not. Merit pay has never worked.

Merit pay studies usually compare one group of teachers matched to a similar group. One group is offered a bonus if they can raise test scores, the other is not. The bonus is supposed to incentivize the teachers to push their students to achieve higher test scores.

But that is not what happened in this study.

In this study, the the bonus was awarded for transferring to the low-performing school for two years, not for getting higher test scores.

What the study demonstrates is that if you offer a bonus of $20,000, you might attract the top talent in the district to teach in low-performing schools, and these older, experienced teachers will get better results than regular teachers, many of whom are brand new to teaching.

In her story about the study,  Dana Goldstein noted:

It’s also worth pointing out that these transfer teachers were far from the Teach for America archetype of a young, transient Ivy League grad. Their average age was 42, and they had an average of 12 years of experience in the classroom. They were also more likely than control group teachers to be African-American, to be homeowners, and to hold a master’s degree. In short, they were stable adults with deep ties to the cities in which they worked.

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, one of the nation’s leading scholars of value-added measurement, points out the dissimilarity of the experimental group and the control group:

The high value-added teachers who were selected to participate in this study, and transfer into high-needs schools to teach for two years, were disproportionately National Board Certified Teachers and teachers with more years of teaching experience. The finding that these teachers, selected only because they were high value-added teachers was confounded by the very fact that they were compared to “similar” teachers in the high-needs schools, many of whom were not certified as exemplary teachers and many of whom (20%) were new teachers…as in, entirely new to the teaching profession! While the high value-added teachers who choose to teach in higher needs schools for two years (with $20,000 bonuses to boot) were likely wonderful teachers in their own rights, the same study results would have likely been achieved by simply choosing teachers with more than X years of experience or choosing teachers whose supervisors selected them as “the best.” Hence, this study was not about using “value-added” as the arbiter of all that is good and objective in measuring teacher effects, it was about selecting teachers who were distinctly different than the teachers to whom they were compared and attributing the predictable results back to the “value-added” selections that were made.

What the study really shows is the foolishness of the many states that are changing salary scales to discourage experienced teachers, removing stipends for masters degrees, and making other policies that discourage the very teachers that this study salutes. States like Tennessee and North Carolina, among others, are enacting laws to discourage or push out the very teachers that are considered “the best” in this study.

As Amrein-Beardsley observes:

Related, many of the politicians and policymakers who are advancing national and state value-added initiatives and policies forward are continuously using sets of false assumptions about teacher experience, teacher credentials, and how/why these things do not matter to advance their agendas forward. Rather, in this study, it seems that teacher experience and credentials mattered the most. Results from this study, hence, contradict initiatives, for example, to get rid of salary schedules that rely on years of experience and credentials, as value-added scores, as evidenced in this study, do seem to capture these other variables (i.e., experience and credentials) as well.

The takeaway? Blogger Steve Strieker of Wisconsin put it this way in an email to me:

Experience, education, age, and teacher willingness to participate seemed to matter in this case. The program also seems to have eyes on the eight ball.  Teacher accountability and stack-ranking evaluation systems are not part of the program. Unlike other merit pay studies, this was a low-stakes study. Testing scores were not connected to the bonus payout. Teachers chosen were paid the bonus for their service regardless of student performance.

If we want to see improvement and results, we should have policies and extra pay to recruit top teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools, and we should place high value on experience and education.

As it happened, Michelle Rhee and I nearly crossed paths in
Philadelphia. This
article describes our contrasting visions
for the public
schools of Philadelphia. She spoke on September 16, in a panel that
included George Parker, the former head of the Washington Teachers
Union, who now works for Rhee, and Steve Perry, ex-CNN commentator.

Governor Tom Corbett cut $1 billion from the schools in 2011, while cutting corporate taxes. He later added back a small part of the cut, but he left many districts in terrible fiscal trouble.

Philadelphia public schools have a deficit of $300 million, and
thousands of staff have been laid off, including teachers, guidance
counselors, social workers, librarians, and many others. Bear in mind that the Philadelphia public schools have been under state control for more than a decade. During that time, Superintendent Paul Vallas launched the nation’s most sweeping privatization experiment, which failed, according to independent evaluations.

According to this article (and in an op-ed published in the Philadelphia
Inquirer), Rhee saw the fiscal crisis as an opportunity to
introduce performance pay. How that would close the budget deficit
was unclear.

In my presentation at the Philadelphia Free Library, I read the language of the state
constitution, which unequivocally assigns responsibility to the
state of Pennsylvania to support a thorough and efficient education
for every child. That is not the case today. Governor Tom Corbett
expects the state-controlled School Reform Commission to squeeze
savings out of the teachers’ contracts, cutting salaries, benefits,
and laying off more teachers. That is not the way to go.

Someday the children of Philadelphia will be the voters of Pennsylvania or
some other state. They must be educated to choose their leaders
wisely. Someday these children may sit on a jury where YOU will be
judged. Just hope that they have the wisdom, knowledge, and
compassion to judge you fairly. My view: The children of
Philadelphia are as worthy of a good education as the children in
the nearby suburbs. They need small classes, experienced teachers,
arts programs, well-maintained facilities, guidance counselors,
libraries staffed by librarians, up-to-date technology. They need
what the parents in the suburbans want for their children. And they
deserve nothing less.

Yesterday I mistakenly reported that the US Department of Education had closed down the “What Works Clearinghouse,” which reviews research and reports on the results. I corrected my error as soon as I learned about it. In fact, it was a different website that was closed down, the “Doing What Works” site, where educators might find practical advice.

The What Works Clearinghouse is still open, and that is a very good thing, because it just released three reviews of New York City’s “merit pay” plan. All three agreed that it failed. It failed to improve student achievement. It failed to increase teacher retention.

This latest evidence of the failure of paying teachers to raise test scores continues an unbroken stream of failures that have been documented for nearly 100 years.

Will the U.S. Department of Education immediately suspend the Teacher Incentive Fund? Will it use those hundreds of millions for a “Reducing Class Size in High Needs Fund.” Will Michelle Rhee stop saying that the way to save deficit-ridden districts like Philadelphia is to offer performance pay?

Let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best.

Paul Thomas here describes how Mick Zais, state superintendent of South Carolina, misleads the public about the condition of education in his state, about how schools succeed, and what is needed to help them improve.

Having found a high-poverty district that has higher-than-expected test scores, Zais uses this district to push the corporate reform agenda: Success is all about merit pay and “no excuses.”

A great teacher can supply 18 months of “knowledge” in only one academic year, as measured by standardized tests, which we know are great ways to assess “knowledge.”

This is the usual reformy nonsense, which has never stood up to scrutiny.

Paul Thomas taught high school for 18 years in South Carolina and is now preparing teachers at Furman University in South Carolina.

He is an amazingly prolific scholar, and his deep experience informs his scholarship.

 

I recently received an email from a parent in North Carolina who told me that the legislators there want to adopt merit pay for teachers. They are very impressed with the Chetty-Rockoff-Friedman study that claimed that a great teacher could have lifelong effects on students, like raising their lifetime earnings by about $500 a year. And they are impressed by the Roland Fryer study claiming that teachers get higher test scores from their students if the technique called “loss aversion” is applied to them.

For starters, the Chetty-Rockoff-Friedman study was not a study of merit pay. It was an analysis of school records from the 1990s in a big city where there was no merit pay. The best conclusion one can draw is that some teachers are more effective than others, but there is no clear indication in their work about how to identify them or whether you can get more of them by offering bonuses.

The Fryer study is, in my view, ethically problematic. Fryer, be it noted, is an economist who is obsessed with using money as a lever to change behavior. A few years ago, he created a plan to pay students if they got higher grades or test scores, but concluded that it didn’t work.

Fryer is at Harvard, where his work is subsidized by the Broad Foundation.

The “loss aversion” theory goes like this: Instead of paying teachers a bonus if their students get higher scores (which has consistently failed for nearly a century), offer them a bonus upfront, then take it away if the scores don’t go up. The theory is that the teachers won’t want to lose the money they were already paid.

Bruce Baker was less than impressed with this study. See here and here.

Suppose we took loss aversion seriously?

What if we said to teachers, raise test scores or we cut off a finger. Every year the scores don’t go up, we cut off another finger.

That would surely produce test score gains.

What if we said to economists, make accurate predictions about the economy or we confiscate your computer.

What if we said to lawyers, if you lose any cases, we take away your license.

You can see the possibilities.

We might get test scores gains by threatening to take away something that mattered, but wouldn’t that make teaching less attractive as a profession or even a job?

Supporters of public education in North Carolina are reeling as a result of the sustained assault by the Legislature in this session, but in comes a Gates-funded project to claim that defeats are actually victories and to lobby for merit pay.

The CAN idea is supported by hedge fund managers and Gates to promote charter schools, evaluating teachers by test scores, awarding higher pay to those whose students get higher test scores (merit pay).

CAN is closely aligned with the ALEC-style effort to privatize public education and to dismantle the profession of teaching.

Below is their triumphant letter, saluting the “victories” in the recent legislative session, where public schools and teachers were pummeled by extremist elements who control the Legislature.

Important to bear in mind that over the past century, merit pay has been tried again and again and again. It has never worked.

In recent years, it failed to produce results in New York City. It failed in Chicago. It failed in Nashville, where the bonus offered for higher scores was $15,000.

The Raj Chetty study cited below had nothing to do with merit pay. It established only that some teachers are able to produce higher test scores than others, and that students with higher test scores have slightly higher lifetime earnings. But there was no merit pay involved.

Here is what CAN said on its arrival in North Carolina, where the very future of public education hangs in the balance and where the Legislature is busily eradicating the profession of teaching and funding Teach for America while defunding the North Carolina Teaching Fellows:

 

A great teacher for every student.

That was our vision when CarolinaCAN launched its “Year of the Teacher” campaign—an effort to elevate the teaching profession through research-backed policy recommendations and, in turn, help our state recruit and keep great teachers. Because we know that’s the most important factor in schools to helping our students succeed—and it’s what all kids deserve.

At the heart of our campaign were three goals:

  • Giving teachers regular, meaningful evaluations that recognize excellence and provide them the feedback they need to improve their practice
  • Freeing districts from outdated salary schedules so they can invest meaningful financial awards in excellent teachers and other staffing priorities
  • Reforming “tenure” laws to award contracts based on excellence
How did we do? The short answer is that CarolinaCAN went three-for-three in our first legislative session: a proud feat for which we thank you—our partners and fellow advocates—and the lawmakers who supported much-needed reforms for the Tar Heel State.

To learn more about our policy wins, I encourage you to visit our website and read our blog series about North Carolina’s 2013 budget.

As always, the long answer is more complicated. These laws create a foundation of sound policy to build on—but we must build on them, to make them meaningful to teachers and enable local leaders to recognize excellence. As these and other policies from the 2013 budget go into effect in our schools, we need to make sure they’re carried out with integrity, in a way that’s best for kids.

Because right now, the landscape of North Carolina public schools remains dire. See for yourself by reading our inaugural State of North Carolina Public Education report.

Our work has just begun. Our dedication to North Carolina’s kids—and to great teachers—runs deep. And we’re busy planning already for the next legislative session, when CarolinaCAN will continue to champion smart solutions to tough problems.

I hope I can count on you to join us.

Sincerely,

 

Julie Kowal
Executive Director
CarolinaCAN
 
 
 

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct08/vol66/num02/When-Merit-Pay-Is-Worth-Pursuing.aspx

 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/07/23/does-teacher-merit-pay-work-a-new-study-says-yes/
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