Monday, July 07, 2008

Teacher pay set by the results

By Liz Bowie Sun reporter
July 6, 2008

From rural Washington County to suburban Prince George's County, school systems around the state are beginning to wade into a promising but controversial topic in education: pay for performance.

School officials are starting to offer teachers and principals extra pay or bonuses when they take on challenging assignments or raise test scores.

So a Prince George's County teacher could earn a bonus of up to $10,000 a year, and a Baltimore principal might someday get an extra 10 percent for exemplary work.

The move toward pay for performance, driven by increasing pressure for schools to improve student achievement as well as by shortages of teachers, comes despite the influence of Maryland's powerful teachers union.

Read more HERE


Anonymous said...

I have two comments:

1) The "Maryland Teacher's Union" is not a "union" nor is it powerful. Due to Maryland law our state's teachers are members of various local "associations" which have collective bargaining agreements with local Boards of Education. Aside from negotiating the contracts the state laws make these organizations weak and impotent with virtually no recourse to protect teachers from abusive or incompetent administrators. It is a ridiculous system where untrustworthy administrators use tactics of threats and intimidation to attempt to stomp on the rights of the teachers. If in fact Maryland really wanted to improve education it would give more power to the people in the classrooms who have the most direct impact on the students in a school setting. Instead, teachers spend their days completing mindless tasks dreamed up by school level administrators whose sole purpose is to advance up the ladder of the antiquated and embarrassing "good ole boy" network that still pervades our county

2) The problem with the pay for performance scheme is that too many factors are out of the control of the teacher. If all students could be counted on to come in at the same level with the same support at home and the same level of parent involvement this might be a rational idea. However, students come to the class room from a wide array of home situations and without quality parenting going on in the home, little the teacher does will matter. The basis for such pay for performance schemes is usually tests scores, which are generated (usually) by for-profit companies who create cottage industries around the tests and various test prep materials. Many times the data gained from such tests are misused to create inaccurate conclusions by individuals who often do not have training in interpreting such statistics. Finally, in many subject areas, teachers are NEVER evaluated by individuals with any knowledge or experience of the subject they teach, but are instead evaluated by building level administrators who often have little experience of their own in the classroom. The teaching of children is a far more complicated task than most lay-people recognize and no single form of assessment or evaluation can accurately judge the capabilities of any teacher.

Anonymous said...

I think there's something to be said for compensating teachers for performance.

The question then becomes what is merit? Test scores alone do not sufficiently identify teachers as effective or ineffective.

A system would need to be created that would take a number of factors into account, not just one such as test scores.

Anonymous said...

How do the art, Spanish, Latin, typing oops, keyboarding, music, and gym teachers qualify for merit pay if it is based on test scores? Some of these teachers are fantastic and some are downright dumber than dirt, apathetic with a capital A, and clutter the payroll. Multiple tools are needed if we value all teachers.

As for worrying about the lower performing kids holding back a teacher's merit pay, do one of those statistical scatter plot things for each of the teacher's students in each core academic area. For example, several kids enter 4th grade having scored in the 25th percentile for math in third grade. At the end of the 4th grade year, what percentage of those kids are still at the 25th percentile, (the teacher taught them a year's worth of stuff, she gets her step increase)what percentage have improved (the kids have learned more than a year's worth of stuff in just one school year - merit pay candidate) and what percentage are now below the 25th percentile (remediate the teacher, look for extenuating circumstances, hold the pay raise, and if the trend continues, let the ax fall). If 10 kids entered at 25 percentile for math, there would probably be some kids in each category (gained,stagnant, declined)at the end of the year. That's why you need to look at scatter plot's percentages and trends for all of the academic areas. It's accountability in black and white which is probably a little too much for our politicians and the teacher's association to embrace.

Anonymous said...

Baloney! Here we go again, blame the parents because Johnny can't read.

I couldn't agree more with Anonymous' first comment. WELL PUT! But when he/she said, "However, students come to the class room from a wide array of home situations and without quality parenting going on in the home, little the teacher does will matter," I had to respond.

The reverse is also true; without quality teachers, administrators, and curricula, the little today's parents are allowed to do will matter.

If the system didn't promote fantastic, experienced teachers into their padded ivory tower on Radio Station Road every year or experiment with so many convoluted and expensive reading and math programs every time the wind changes direction, perhaps Johnny could read and compute. There might even be money left over to reward his great teachers.

How do you explain the hoards of underperforming kids that come from homes with "quality parenting"? What percentage of those children are being taught by teachers with 2 or fewer years of experience? How many of those students are taught by highly qualified yet incompetent or burned out veteran teachers? If Johnny has a learning disability, to what extent is his IEP REALLY being implemented in the classroom? What percent of his sped teacher's time is spent on administrative paperwork and how much is spent actually teaching Johnny? How often do administrators engage in dancing the lemons about the county?

Don't get me wrong, CCPS has many FANTASTIC teachers, but it also has more than its fair share of issues it refuses to address, preferring instead to play the ever popular parent blame game.

The convoluted reading and math programs CCPS finances do nothing but support cottage industries that produce poor products. Then they pay through the nose when the publisher peddles his expensive curriculum add-ons as a cure all. Our teachers and volunteers spend hundreds of unpaid hours creating supplemental materials for the "new and improved" product. A year or two later, CCPS starts fresh and finances a new vendor's seaside mortgage. The only success is in the bottom line figure of vendors' and publishers'financal reports.

It is amazing our ancestors were able to teach their children to read without a teaching degree, 4 inch thick curriculum guides, fancy posters, or a digital classroom as they traversed the mountains, rivers and praires, fighting off Indians and coyotes, cooking over a fire, burying the dead and giving birth in a snow covered wagon along the way. Could the prarie child's success be a shard of proof that reading and math can be taught efficiently and effectively to homeless kids from unemployed families or kids without indoor plumbing, heating, and electric? Granted prarie kids weren't crack babies, but they did have their challenges. Problem is efficient and effective teaching methods equate to decreased profit margins for today's publishers and unemployment for reading specialists and cottage industry leeches.

Is there some reason publishers don't incorporate some of those previously successful instructional methods? Heavens no! It would put them out of business. Mothers used a Bible [gasp!] and perhaps a primer. (Not necessarily advocating Bibles; just a good book.) Government wasn't involved in education and teacher unions didn't exist, but by golly,the young ones learned to read, add, subract, multiply and divide. Amazing!

Erode parental rights while throwing bureaucracies and unions into the mix and it's no wonder students can't recite the alphabet by the end of state-mandated all day kindergarten. With all the bells and whistles, research, social programs and advanced degrees at our fingertips today our kids should be reading at a college level by second grade! So why aren't they? It's not because of the lack of merit pay. It's because our school executives dance lemons and become giddy as they throw MY tax money in the direction of shoddy teaching products and the supplements when the initial product fails. Not to mention technology that is outdated before the bill is paid.

Some may say the prarie times are outdated. Fast forward to present day. There have been many "experiments" in cities across this country where tough administrators and fine teachers have turned entire schools and communities around. Fathers were nonexistent and many mothers were junkies, 100% poverty level enrollment, and fierce community resistance. But these educators turned the schools around. And, they did it with far fewer dollars than what CCPS throws down its black hole on a regular basis.

Problem is you have to have both, committed teachers AND adminsitrators, and that isn't going to happen in this county any time soon. Your tax stewards prefer to throw fists full of money at the problem and then cry poor mouth to the commissioners and the local Rag.

Take our new digital classrooms. More than half of my kid's teachers don't know how (or don't bother) to answer e-mail. Now they will be teaching in a digital classroom? Ha ha! The money that is being laid out for that unnecessary endeavor could have given our best and brightest teachers a well-deserved merit bonus.

How does a "professional" storing her personal risque pictures on a CCPS laptop help her kids learn? Technology, like all materials of instruction, is just a tool and CCPS is buying fancy $200 hammers by the truckload to screw nails, finish concrete and wire electrical outlets. Hence, lack of funding for merit pay or the ability of the "carpenter" (teacher) to have a decent shot at earning merit pay.

Merit pay will never happen in CC until meritorious instruction is embraced by meritorious administrators who embrace real accountability and adequate and appropriate supervision from the top down. In other words, someone needs to knock over King Midas and his good old boys'apple carts of gold.