Archives for category: Merit pay

Lamar Alexander and Roy Blunt are senior Republican Senators who chair important committees. In this article, they propose a “shark tank” competition for government agencies, believing that the funding and the competition will ramp up the number of tests produced. They admit that the federal government has failed to supply the numbers of reliable tests needed by the American public to feel safe and ready to resume work.

Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is chairman of the Senate’s health appropriations subcommittee.

As I read the article, I couldn’t help but think that the premise of the article is silly. The scientists at NIH and other federal agencies need more funding but they don’t need a “shark tank” to spur them on. The scientists know the gravity of the situation. They are doing the best they can with the resources they have. If they need more resources for staff and equipment, they should get it without the phony spur of a “race.”

They should be encouraged to collaborate, not to compete. Science works best when scientists share what they know worth their peers.

Alexander and Blunt rely on the same thinking that leads to “merit pay,” which has always failed. That thinking presumes that most professionals are slackers and won’t do their best without incentives. It was wrong for teachers and it’s wrong now for scientists.

Give them the resources needed to do their job and let them do it without hokey tricks or “shark tank” competition. They want to develop better tests; they want to find a cure. They don’t need a prize to motivate them.

The Florida Education Association rejected Governor Ron DeSantis’ bonus plan. Bonus plans have a long history of failure.

 

Nov. 14, 2019                                        CONTACT: Joni Branch, (850) 201-3223 or (850) 544-7055

FEA reacts to DeSantis bonus plan announcement

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Education Association (FEA) was disappointed to learn Thursday that what Gov. Ron DeSantis envisions as a way to properly compensate experienced teachers is another bonus plan.

“Teachers and all school employees should be paid fair, competitive salaries,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. “Our educators do not want another bonus scheme, especially not one built on the back of a flawed school grading system. Bonuses don’t help you qualify for a mortgage; they can’t be counted on from year to year. We know that all too well here in Florida, where adjusting the current bonus plan is almost an annual event.”

The bonus plan announced Thursday and DeSantis’ minimum teacher salary proposal provide no benefit to many of the school employees who provide essential services to students. Despite the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission’s call for more support in addressing mental health needs in our schools, the plans do not appear to account for guidance counselors, school psychologists, social workers and other mental health professionals. The plans as outlined also leave out thousands of other employees, including pre-K teachers, librarians, nurses, teacher’s aides, bus drivers, custodians, office personnel and food-service staff.

But the basic fact on bonuses is that they do not work. Merit pay and bonus structures for instructional personnel have been tried again and again both in this country and this state, for decades, without proven success. Florida has tried six bonus programs in the past 13 years. Meanwhile, we face a severe teacher shortage along with shortages of other school employees. Why do we continue to throw money at a failed concept? State dollars would be better spent on an effective strategy for recruiting and retaining educators — overall salary increases.

To overcome years of disinvestment in our public schools, the Florida Education Association is calling for a Decade of Progress, starting with a down-payment of $2.4 billion for public education in the next state budget. Florida currently ranks 43th nationally in funding for public education.

###

The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 145,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.

 

FEA | 213 S. Adams St. Tallahassee, FL 32301 | 850.201.2800 | Fax 850.222.1840
Send an email to unsubscribe@floridaea.org to opt-out from receiving future messages. Only the individual sender is responsible for the content of the message, and the message does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Education Association or its affiliates. This e-mail, including attachments, may contain information that is confidential, and is only intended for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed.

 

Jersey Jazzman continues to write about the ignominious failure of the highly hyped merit pay fairy in Newark. He takes this development as a sign that all other districts should pay attention. In this post, he writes about those who were bewitched by the promise of merit pay:

http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2019/08/clapping-harder-for-merit-pay-fairy.html

One of those who went gaga for merit pay was Kate Walsh of the reformy National Council for Teacher Quality. She said that the now-dead Newark Plan was “a model to which other districts should aspire.”

Jersey Jazzman says haha. Sure.


Merit pay…was little more than a broken promise to the teachers of Newark right from the start. A survey of Newark teachers in the first year found a large majority did not see the compensation system as “reasonable, fair, and appropriate.” (p. 24) It’s not a surprise, therefore, that this past month both the teachers union in Newark, the NTU, and the district’s administration decided that the program was not worth continuing.

But some reformy folks believe in merit pay the same way some children believe in fairies: they don’t want to acknowledge the evidence that shows, even in the most generous reading, that the benefits of merit pay are very small and likely are not indicative of true increases in student learning. Like Peter Pan, these true believers hope against hope that fairies can be brought back to life simply by clapping harder….

In the first year of the contract, Newark had about 3,200 teachers. How many qualified for the highest bonus, $12,500? Only eleven. Is Walsh really trying to make the case this small disbursal made a significant difference in teacher quality in Newark?

Jersey Jazzman has posted an obituary for the Merit Pay Fairy. He says it died in Newark, when teachers negotiated a new contract, deep-sixing a Merit Payplan that they endorsed in 2012.

JJ demonstrates with facts and evidence that merit pay failed.

He begins:

The Merit Pay Fairy lives in the dreams of right-wing think tanks and labor economists, who are absolutely convinced that our current teacher pay system — based on seniority and educational attainment — is keeping teachers from achieving their fullest potential. It matters little that even the most generous readings of the research find practically small effects* of switching to pay-for-performance systems, or that merit pay in other professions is quite rare (especially when it is based on the performance of others; teacher merit pay is, in many contexts, based on student, and not teacher, performance).

Merit pay advocates also rarely acknowledge that adult developmental theory suggests that rewards later in life, such as higher pay, fulfill a need for older workers, or that messing with pay distributions has the potential to screw up the pool of potential teacher candidates, or that shifting pay from the bottom of the teacher “quality” distribution to the top — and, really, that’s what merit pay does — still leaves policymakers with the problem of deciding which students get which teachers.

Issues like these, however, are at the core of any merit pay policy. Sure, pay-for-performance sounds great; it comports nicely with key concepts in economic theory. But when it comes time to implement it in an actual, real-world situation, you’ve got to confront a whole host of realities that theory doesn’t address.

Of course, it failed! As I explained in my 2010 book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, merit pay has been tried again and again for almost a century, and it has always failed.

I would like to believe that it has died, that—as Dorothy said about the Wicked Witch, it is “really, truly dead”—but I have my doubts.

Every time it has failed, someone rediscovers it and thinks that this time it will work, unlike every other time.

I remember AFT President Albert Shanker saying at a meeting in the early 1990s that merit pay was ridiculous. The way he put it was, “Let me get this straight: if you offer to pay teachers more, students will work harder? That makes no sense.”

When then Governor Christie and then Mayor Cory Booker persuaded billionaire Mark Zuckerberg to give $100 million to impose corporate reform on Newark, performance pay for teachers was the heart of their plan. Pay the “best” teachers for getting high scores, eliminate “bad” teachers, and Newark schools would be transformed.

In a major blow to the corporate reform movement, the latest teacher contract in Newark just eliminated performance pay.

It didn’t work in Newark, and it hasn’t worked anywhere else. It is a zombie idea. Teachers aren’t holding back, waiting for a bonus to goad them on. They are doing the best they know how. With help and support, they can improve, but not because of rewards and threats.

Merit pay was the heart of a ‘revolutionary’ teachers contract in Newark. Now the Cory Booker-era policy is disappearing.

In 2012, Newark teachers agreed to a controversial new contract that linked their pay to student achievement — a stark departure from the way most teachers across the country are paid.

The idea was to reward teachers for excellent performance, rather than how many years they spent in the district or degrees they attained. Under the new contract, teachers could earn bonuses and raises only if they received satisfactory or better ratings, and advanced degrees would no longer elevate teachers to a higher pay scale.

The changes were considered a major victory for the so-called “education reform” movement, which sought to inject corporate-style accountability and compensation practices into public education. And they were championed by an unlikely trio: New Jersey’s Republican governor, the Democratic-aligned leader of the nation’s second-largest teachers union, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who had allocated half of his $100 million gift to Newark’s schools to fund a new teachers contract.

“In my heart, this is what I was hoping for: that Newark would lead a transformational change in education in America,” then-Gov. Chris Christie said in Nov. 2012 after the contract was ratified.

Seven years later, those changes have been erased.

Last week, negotiators for the Newark Teachers Union and the district struck a deal for a new contract that scraps the bonuses for top-rated teachers, allows low-rated teachers to earn raises, and gives teachers with advanced degrees more pay. It also eliminates other provisions of the 2012 contract, which were continued in a follow-up agreement in 2017, including longer hours for low-performing schools.

“All vestiges of corporate reform have been removed,” declared a union document describing the deal.

 

Clifford Wallace and Leigh Wallace, a father-daughter team of professional educators, lambaste state officials for their relentless attacks on the state’s public school teachers. 

They begin:

Leadership matters. It has the potential to influence student outcomes. Clearly, there is a lack of leadership in Frankfort. Kentucky State Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis is taking pages from the flawed and unsuccessful playbooks of his neoliberal, pro-privatization counterparts in Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin. From no longer requiring master’s degrees for teachers to maintain certification to promoting privatized for profit “charter schools” as the panacea to save the “failing public schools” – our “commissioner” is helping dismantle our public schools – and the teaching profession – in Kentucky.

Lewis continues to disparage professionally prepared – and experienced – educators through diminishing the significance of the complex work they do on a daily basis, insulting their commitment and expertise, threatening their pensions, and cutting programs and budgets. Recently, in addition to painting a negative narrative around our public schools and the professionals that work in them, he proposed a “pay for performance” incentive for Kentucky Public School teachers as a means to motivate them to “work harder” and ensure every student has access to a “quality public school.” While this may sound promising on the surface – especially if you have not read the numerous studies conducted by scholars on this practice over the past 30+ years – it is a failed solution.

Lewis’s proposal for merit pay or performance bonuses is absurd. It has been tried repeatedly and failed everywhere. It was tried in Nashville, with a bonus of $15,000 for middle school math teachers who raised test scores. It failed. It has been tried again and again over the past 100 years and has NEVER worked.
Lewis is no “Reformer.” He is being paid to demoralize professional educators and find excuses to privatize public schools. This is not “leadership.” This is Disruption.
The teachers and students of Kentucky deserve better leaders who are dedicated to improving conditionsof teaching and learning.

 

The Florida Legislature is getting set to modify its “best and brightest” teacher bonus, which gave incentives to students who had high SAT/ACT scores in high school. Almost every teacher in the state gets some bonus, which is not pensionable. Average teacher pay in Florida is among the lowest in the nation, ranked 42nd. 

 

Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel wrote:

 

More than 11,200 Florida teachers will earn bonuses of $7,200 each in the next month through the controversial “best and brightest” program state leaders now want to revamp, state figures show.

The 11,286 teachers earned “highly effective” ratings at their public schools — and had ACT or SAT scores in the top 20 percent when they applied to college — making them eligible for the highest awards in Florida’s Best and Brightest Teacher and Principal Scholarship program.

Nearly 81,000 other teachers are to get bonuses of $1,200 for their “highly effective” evaluations, and another 67,600 deemed “effective” are to get about $700, officials said. About 670 new teachers with the high ACT or SAT scores will get bonuses of $6,000, according to the tally released by the Florida Department of Education.

Combined, more than 171,000 teachers — or about 91 percent of Florida’s classroom instructors — will get at least one of the bonuses. And 557 principals will get bonuses worth $4,000 or $5,000, with those working at a high-poverty school earning more. The state will spend more than $233 million on the payouts.

The bonuses are to be paid by April 1, though the exact pay dates will vary by school district.

The Orange County school district had the most top-award winners in the state — 1,241 — as it did last year.

The release of information on bonus winners comes as lawmakers look to redo the program, which many have criticized for tying awards not only to classroom success but also to old college admissions exam scores.

The Florida Senate’s education committee on Wednesday approved a multi-pronged bill (SB 7070) that would do away with the test-score requirement and create a revised program that would aim to recruit teachers in high-demand subjects, retain good teachers and reward top classroom performers. Gov. Ron DeSantis has urged lawmakers to delete the test score requirement, which he said “didn’t make sense.”

But many teachers want the state to instead earmark more money for public education so teachers can get pay raises, not one-year bonuses.

“Tell the Senate Ed Committee to fund salaries not bonuses,” read a tweet posted Tuesday by the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union. It called the bill a proposal that “introduces yet another bonus scheme instead of investing in educators & neighborhood public schools.”

 

Betsy DeVos touts Florida as a national model even though it spends less per pupil than most states and pays its teachers less. It has vouchers! It has charters! It violates its own state constitution!

From a reader:

We could use some help. Make a call. I Cannot stress enough how parents and teachers need to call and protest these bills. Please make a call today:

Please feel free to share this. 

On Wednesday, 3/6/19, at 10:30 AM, the Senate Education Committee will be hearing SB 7070.

This is a train bill, meaning it covers multiple education topics in one bill. Several of the components are very bad. Tell the Senator that you oppose train bills.

1. Establishes a new voucher program “Family Empowerment Scholarship”, which will provide low income children with vouchers to private, mostly religious, schools. The funding will come directly from the FEFP (Florida Education Finance Program), meaning your property taxes will pay for much of it. Please tell the senators that you are opposed to paying property taxes for vouchers to religious schools with no academic accountability.

2. Also funded in the FEFP are a series of teacher/principal bonuses. Our teachers need RAISES not bonuses. Bonuses can not be used to secure a mortgage. In the midst of a critical teacher shortage our teachers need increased salaries.

Please let these senators know you oppose SB7070 because of the above. Also, let them know that you believe PUBLIC SCHOOLS are an essential part of our community and they deserve our full support.

Senate Ed Committee
Senator Diaz 850-487-5036
Senator Baxley 850-487-5012
Senator Perry 850-487-5008
Senator Simmons 850-487-5009
Senator Stargel 850-487-5022
Senator Montford 850-487-5003
Senator Berman 850-487-5031
Senator Cruz 850-487-5018

 

One of the reasons for the Denver teachers’ strike is opposition to ProComp, the city’s merit pay plan.

i researched merit pay for teachers, stretching back to the 1920s. It always failed.

But it never dies. A zombie idea.

Andrea Gabor explains here why Merit Pay and bonuses fail in both business and education. 

She begins:

“Fourteen years ago, Denver public schools embarked on what was hailed as “the most ambitious teacher compensation plan ever attempted.” It was thoughtfully planned, following a years-long pilot program. It won approval from teachers, businesses, local philanthropies and voters.

“Yet, somewhat prophetically, a 2005 study of the pilot program on which the Denver incentive-compensation model was based declared that it “demonstrates why, even with thoughtful pilot leadership and broad support, a strict pay for performance system — where performance is defined as student achievement — is an inappropriate model for education.””

Jeannie Kaplan served two term on the elected Denver school board. I asked her to explain the issues behind the strike.

 

https://kaplanforkids.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/pcops-pensions-and-picketlines/

 

She writes:

 

PCOPS, PENSIONS, and PICKETLINES

Posted on by Jeannie Kaplan

 

On April 24, 2008 the Denver Public Schools agreed to borrow $750 million dollars from some of America’s top financial institutions for its outstanding pension debt. As I write this blog this morning February 12, 2019 Denver’s teachers have entered the second day of their first strike in 25 years. The amount of money being contested is somewhere less than one-half of one percent of the overall DPS budget.  0.04%.  Less than $10 million out of $1.4 billion.  The following tells some of the complicated story that connects these two events.

The $750 million taxpayer debt was divided this way: $300 million was to pay back already existing pension debt, $400 million was to fully fund the DPS retirement fund.  The remaining $50 million went to legal and financial fees. By the time this transaction was “fixed out” in 2013 a veritable Who’s Who in the Wall Street world was involved:  RBC Capital Markets, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citibank, Wells, Fargo, Bank of America. Part of the incentive to borrow this money was so DPS’ stand alone retirement fund could join the statewide retirement fund (Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association or PERA for short) which would in turn allow for more employee mobility into and out of DPS and would reduce DPS’ annual retirement contributions which would in turn provide more money for classrooms.  Because of previous financial miscalculations DPS was paying more per pupil for its retirement fund than any other school district in the state. Had this deal not been executed, the dollars paid to banks and lawyers could have been put directly into the DPS retirement fund itself. The DPS Superintendent at the time:  Michael Bennet. The Chief Operating Officer: Tom Boasberg.

Bennet and Boasberg came from the business world and were heralded as financial wizards. (They were boyhood friends growing up in Washington, D.C. together). Bennet had worked for billionaire Phil Anschutz and had already demonstrated a skepticism toward public pensions.  Boasberg arrived at DPS from Level 3 Communications, “an American multinational telecommunications and Internet service provider” where he was a mergers and acquisition guy.  Long story short they, along with bankers and lawyers concocted this very complicated and risky transaction using taxpayer money.  They were convinced that despite what was happening in the financial world at the time, DPS was going to save millions of dollars in pension costs.

Remember back to 2008. And remember we are talking about public, not private, money.  In February the auction rate securities froze.  In March Bear Stearns went under.  There were many indicators that something big could be going on in the world financial markets.  Nevertheless, in April the DPS board was encouraged to proceed with the high risk transaction which relied on the weekly LIBOR rate (it is the primary benchmark, along with the Euribor, for short-term interest rates around the world. Libor rates are calculated for five currencies and seven borrowing periods ranging from overnight to one year and are published each business day by Thomson Reuters.), swaps, (A swap is a derivative in which two counterparties exchange cash flows of one party’s financial instrument for those of the other party’s financial instrument. The benefits in question depend on the type of financial instruments involved.), bonds that were auctioned weekly.  And here is the headline from that deal.  In 10 years that $750 million loan has ballooned into twice as much debt  ($1.8 BILLION) and only for the past two years has the district begun paying any principal.  And simultaneously,  Bennet and Boasberg were able to convince the Colorado legislature that DPS should get the equivalent of “pre-payment” credit to deduct the PCOPs fees and interest from what would have been their normal pension contributions.  Because of these actions DPS employees have witnessed their pension fund drop about 20% from fully funded (100%) on January 1, 2010 to a little under 80% funded in June 30, 2018. But as Bennet and Boasberg would say as this defunding is occurring, “we are making our legal contributions, ” to which one must add, “Legal, but is it ethical?”

This story has become very relevant today because after 15 months of negotiations the district and the teachers have been unable to reach an agreement. Denver’s teachers have gone on strike over a compensation system called ProComp (Professional Compensation).  And the ProComp fight comes back to the pension.

In 2005 Denver voters approved a $25 million tax  (adjusted for inflation) for teacher pay-for-performance incentives.  A few thousand dollars was awarded for teachers who worked in hard to serve schools and taught hard to teach subjects.  The awarded dollars ($500-$2500) was intended to permanently raise base salaries.  It was reliable raise and it was PENSIONABLE.

In 2008 – hum, is this a coincidence? – the ProComp “bonus” went from a completely base building system to a yearly one-time bonus system.  And to further complicate matters, new bonus criteria (based primarily on high-stakes testing) have since been added. The result has been teachers cannot tell how much they will be making from year to year.  Some have said they can’t even tell how much they will make from paycheck to paycheck. Oh, and of course, these bonuses do not contribute to a teacher’s PENSIONABLE income resulting in…less retirement money  for retiring teachers, and simultaneously smaller demands on a dwindling pension fund.

While all this business bonus mess has been imposed in Denver, surrounding school districts have far surpassed Denver’s base pay scale, resulting in very high teacher turnover for DPS and a dwindling number of long serving professionals. Teachers are retiring earlier, teachers are leaving the district, and sadly teachers are leaving the profession. And because Denver is the quintessential reform district, DPS has been very welcoming to the reform idea of hiring short term, unlicensed educators with non-traditional training.  Think six week training programs.  The result of all this brilliance: fewer long serving employees resulting in less demand on a pension fund.  So the conflation of financial wizardry and education reform has hit Denver: businessmen Bennet and Boasberg take over the finances of a public school district, concoct a complicated and risky scenario during an unstable financial time, get the legislature to allow the defunding of the pension, implement a bonus based pay system to replace base-building, and voila – a strike by Denver’s teachers for a fair, reliable, sustainable pay system.

One more important headline. ProComp bonuses for teachers range from $500-$3000 per category per year. Last month a list of administrative bonuses without a rubric as to how the money has been awarded became available:  the current COO (Boasberg’s first job in DPS) received a $34,000 (!) bonus on top of his $198,000 salary, an “IMO executive principal” got $36,900 on top of his/her $130,000.  An IMO executive principal is the newest layer of reform administration.  He/she oversees a network of innovation schools (non union schools overseen by the district) and makes two to three times as much as a DPS teacher.  There are approximately 10 such positions with each person gathering around $20,000 in bonuses. These bonuses are not part of the ProComp agreement but rather come out of the DPS general fund.  Just imagine.  You could save almost half of the 8 million dollars they two sides are bickering over if you just eliminated these positions and the bonuses.

We must never end any story about Denver Public Schools without a reference to educational outcomes, for isn’t the first priority of a public education system educating its students? After 15 years of education reform brought by Michael Bennet and Tom Boasberg, 42% of Denver’s students are proficient in English Language Arts and 32% proficient in math.  Bennet and Boasberg  financial actions have also contributed to the doubling of the pension debt, and their policies have resulted in the first teacher strike in 25 years in Denver.  Quite a legacy left by the boys from D.C.