I have written on many occasions that merit pay is an idea that never works and never dies. It has been tried for over a century, and failed again and again. Yet it comes back. I didn’t realize it, but merit pay is a zombie idea.
There are many more zombie ideas, like the well-known adage that “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”
Today, the federal government mandates zombie policies in No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. These programs might be called High Zombie. They rank and rate children, teachers, and schools. They fire people and cause their schools to close. They do not improve education. They suck the life out of it. Maybe they are Vampire policies. Flip a coin.
Arthur Camins, who has written brilliantly on the failure of current policies, here offers his list of zombie ideas in education.
“Zombies appear to be popular today. Paul Krugman talked about Marco Rubio’s zombie economics in today’s NY Times. Among the zombie education ideas (ideas that were dead or should have been) that keep coming back to life) are:
• People are motivated to do their best by rewards, threats and punishments.
• You can fatten the pig by weighing it. Frequent measurement will improve educational outcomes.
• When students aren’t performing well on current (low) standards, setting higher standards will cause improvement.
• People who are poor have lower levels of educational attainment and get lower paying jobs. Therefore, if they all have higher levels of educational attainment they will all get higher paying jobs and won’t be poor.
• People who are successful should be given more autonomy. People who are not as successful need rules and regulations (except charter schools that should have autonomy whether or not they perform well).
• Market place competition always improves quality.
• If one school even in unique controlled circumstances can “beat the odds,” so can all schools at scale.”
Please feel free to add your own zombie ideas.