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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Can You Please Tell Me Who is in Charge Here????


There has been a lot of discussion in the educational community about creating a merit pay scale directly influenced by the outcomes of performance based standards. Who should be the one to determine how educators would be rated and compensated based on student performance outcomes? Should it be an educational administrator, a teacher, or someone outside the education sector, such as the Commissioner of Education who may come into office with limited public school experience?

Some states have established performance standards for learning that are designed to guide the instructional process.
  1. How do you feel about states having different performance standards when the outcomes can directly influence pay and how much funding a school district receives?
  2. How can federal funding such as "Race to the Top" be fairly distributed among states that have different performance standards?
  3. Why shouldn't all states have the same performance standards for learning?
Why shouldn't this profession be treated like any other job where performance dictates continued employment, promotions, and incremental salary increases? What will happen to those in tenured positions if a merit pay scale is established and supported by the community? If they are grandfathered in, would that be enough to provide sustained motivation to improve the delivery of service to students?

This Blog was created by: Jennifer Fandino and Linda Bowles.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

about merit pay: This is a tough one to comment on because I feel as though I see both sides of the story. For the past two years, I have worked as a special ed teacher's aide in a general ed classroom. I moved with the kids from 3rd grade to 4th grade so I've had the opportunity to see them grow and develop intellectually.
While this group of kids is truly a smart group (all of the teachers who have had them agree) they consistently test poorly and no one knows why. They have tried to rectify this to no avail. Regardless of the number of times some of the kids are pulled out for AIP or the countless class time spent reviewing for the tests, their scores do not improve. It would be unfortunate for the salaries of the teachers to be affected by this when the students' performance in the classroom is very good.

(this article is from a teacher who experienced the same thing :http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/mer/article.aspx?ID=2696 )

HOWEVER-there is something about being tenured that I simply do not like or agree with. Perhaps it's the number of tenured teachers I have encountered who simply "go through the motions". I want to state that by no means am I saying that it is all tenured teachers- but they are out there.

(negative aspects of tenured teachers:
http://www.heartland.org/policybot/results/12437/Teachers_Like_Tenure_But_Admit_Its_Flaws.html

and

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704804204575069502242529826.html)

Monique said...

I´m not quite sure that a merit pay system is the best approach. If performance is based on standardized test scores then, it is unfair. Teachers who work in wealthy neighborhoods often have students with higher standardized test scores than students in lower socioeconomic communities. This is not the teacher´s fault. Only the teachers that work in the wealthy neighborhoods would reap the benefits of the merit pay system.

Monique said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monique said...

A teacher´s performance should be based on how they conduct themselves in the classroom, how they relate to their students, their knowledge of the subject they teach etc..

Joey said...

I don't think there should be nation wide performance standards for learning. Each different state is made up of different population demographics. Some states may have more people who have trouble speaking english while others states obviously have a more rural background where education curriculum could be differently suited. These variables should be taken into account when looking at how states perform. That being said, there should be some core performance standards that all states share to serve as benchmarks to make things more on a level paying ground.
In terms of how differing performance standards affects which states gets the money, I do not really know. It sounds like a fluid process where states must make necessary changes to make their goals come about.

LB said...

In reference to merit pay, I don't believe that one format will work for everyone. It should be designed in a collaborative way that includes a parent component especially in the area of responsibility for student learning. The teacher unions are having a tough time because merit pay is thought of as being inequitable because it is seen as a standard for measuring a teacher's (academic preparation) effectiveness.

If we focus on the academic gains that a student could make rather than levels of achievement that may be unrealistic, a more positive spin could be reflected in merit pay.

Kasandra said...

@Joey-

I agree with you in terms of population breakdown in different states. I'm curious as to what you (or anyone else) thinks the core standards would be.

LB said...

In response to Kasandra: Common core curriculum standards should be specific knowledge and skills that each student is capable of learning. The curriculum should also be clearly defined, understandable, and a daily consistent approach to learning that is evidence -based.

cyndi said...

looking from the outside, I would say merit pay would push teachers to go above and beyond what is expected, to perform above the standard, to develop and grow quicker on a professional level..sad to say but not scared to admit, money has its ways of making changes...if the district or town has the funds to keep up with pay raises...what happens when they don't?..maybe tenured teachers wouldn't fall into patterns and "go through the motions"... or maybe they would because their style of teaching and lesson plans result in positive student performance outcomes already (their teaching them what they need to know to pass their grade level successfully)...maybe they are satisfied with their pay scale at this point in their life so there is no push to re-evaluate their performance in the classroom...

OR stepping into the shoes of a teacher (or in my case picturing what being a teacher would be like)what if you have students who are so far behind in their educational goals for that grade level that you find yourself constantly reviewing and re-teaching what the last teacher didn't. So maybe your performance standards are never met because you aren't able to teach your students their current grade level skills entirely...are you not considered a hard working, going above and beyond professional? and this could be a result of SES or many ESL students, or first time teachers who didn't have proper guidance or poor intervention techniques... whatever or whoever the blame or excuse is on, at the end of the day, it is still reflecting your pay check, the way others may view you and the way you may start to view yourself.

So, maybe there is a nation or state wide set of standards in place; student's in this grade level should accomplish this set of skills before graduating to the following grade and so forth. It should be the teacher/principal/ and parent's responsibility to make sure these skills are being taught and being learned by their students. If they are noticing a student(s) struggling, it is time for some interventions. If your entire class is struggling, then it is time the teacher (with a team of teachers on that grade level and/or principal)re-evaluate your lesson plans, make changes to your teaching style,get the child study team involved in testing your class and finding their strengths and weaknesses. There are some students who "slip through the cracks" due to over sized classrooms, districts with high populations of special education placement, etc. So maybe how you evaluate a teacher's performance is measuring individual student's performance from beginning of the year to end of the year, to see what has been accomplished, what strengths have been strengthened, what weaknesses have been worked on, what are the overall academic improvements, etc.
Now, what or who determines a teacher performing above and beyond is still the question at play here, I could easily argue that what is described above should already be the expected role of a teacher...resulting in a pay scale that of a "normal" employer, increasing with years and experience, with yearly bonuses for over achieving work.....over achieving work? hmm who would qualify and determine that?

Monique said...

Here is something else to think about....Don´t you think that merit pay would cause teachers to become competitive? Increased competition could cause low teacher morale... Teachers need to work together and collaborate..if they are competing with each other for better pay things may change... What happens when one teacher gets a bigger paycheck than another? The teacher with the smaller paycheck might feel upset or think that they are not a good teacher...

Jennifer said...

Staying up to date is invaluable. Check this out.
Education Reform: Interview with President Obama
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39154226/vp/39378291#39378291

Jennifer said...

As far as core curriculum standards, they should be the same across the country. They are the minimum students should be achieving at each grade level. The curriculum could be tailored to different population demographics by tailoring the lessons to include examples students are most familiar with. All third graders across the country must learn multiplication tables and all high school chemistry students must be familiar with the periodic table. The teacher can choose what they think is the most effective way to present the lesson as long as the students learn the core curriculum standards. How can we be up to par with other nations if our children aren’t even on the same page?
Commenting on merit pay, I have to agree with most of what Cyndi said. I will add that in order for a company based model to be successful change needs to be implemented across the board. That means administrators too, not just teachers. A good superintendent for example can make all the difference in student performance outcomes for a district. If the expectations are high at the top the pressure to excel and exceed expectations will trickle down the ladder to the classroom.
In companies across the country employees have an annual evaluation that determines pay raises, pinpoints improvement areas, and may even lead to someone being asked to succeed elsewhere. While I do not think student performance outcomes would be a good way to determine pay (taking into account students with special needs that may be in a specific teacher’s classroom, etc.) an annual evaluation by the school principal that may influence pay might be something to consider. Who the “good” teachers are and vice versa isn’t exactly a mystery anyhow. Even parents can tell you exactly what teachers they would and would not like their children to have.

cyndi said...

Def good points Jennifer, I agree with you 100%. Core Curriculum are core skills that should be taught and learned by all students, period. The way it gets taught and learned, totally up to the teacher and staff, using examples that are familiar to the student is an excellent idea.
@ Monique, also a good point, the last thing we need is teachers competing against each other, we need to encourage collaborative teaching not veer away from it. Another point that can be argued if merit pay were to be used, is what if the favored teachers are the ones that receive pay increases when it comes to evaluations causing friction in school and favoritism, or if a teacher who is well connected in town starts to receive increases regularly when other teachers deserve it more but have no control over it...

Kasandra said...

@Monique-

I'm not so sure that teachers would become as competitive as they would become envious. As I understand it, they wouldn't really be competing with each other for pay since their pay would be based on their own class. But I could see how they would be envious of a teacher who had a "good class" and that would absolutely bring down morale in the community. Teachers absolutely need to be collaborating and worrying about their paychecks in comparison to others could hamper that.

Joey said...

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2010/09/28/christie-announces-sweeping-n-j-education-reform/

Not sure if anyone saw this article, but it looks like Gov. Christie wants to bring reform to education in NJ by putting more of an emphasis on performance of teachers regarding pay and promotions. Teachers k-5 will have to pass tests in math and reading in order to be able to teach.The article mentions that many teachers and principals make be fired if they are doing a poor job. I'm not a teacher so its easy for me to say this, but I think its a good idea. The bottom of the article says that educational "experts" are in favor. Just thought this was interesting because this blog entry is all about this!

Monique said...

Joey, I have to agree with you..I am not a teacher so it is also easy for me to say this.. I think this is a good idea not only for teachers but for all professions... Teachers need to have excellent knowledge of whatever subjects they teach and they should be up do date with the most current trends in teaching.. Like I said before this goes for any profession. As people, we are life learners and we should constantly expand our minds and learn new things...

Kasandra said...

@Joey and Monique-

It seems as though this topic has been all over the media, from Oprah to The View to GMA. The movie Waiting for Superman seems to have sparked a lot of interest in this topic. I'm really excited to see this movie- for those of you who haven't heard of it, here's the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKTfaro96dg

Toyin said...

I am enjoying all the different debates going on in media regarding education. We hold our accountants, cleaning people, contractors, and other service providers more accountable than we do our educators. I think a lot of people in education are too complacent and perhaps need to be reevaluated

Failing schools ignited the debate about merit pay. However, in order for a school to be successful, I feel everyone has to have an interest in that school and the success of the students without their own political agenda. I think oftentimes, people choose politics over effective policies and this plays too much of a role in school success (the commissioner of education is an example of this). How could someone with such little experience have an informed opinion on education.

With the inequalities that still exist in our education system, it will be hard to effectively tackle the issues we are faced with and determine which factors or which constituents should determine how educators are compensated. While I don't have many answers, I do feel what we've been doing is not working and our whole system needs a massive overhaul.

Jennifer said...

Along the lines of "Waiting for Superman" if you want to get upset about the political corruption in the New Jersey education system check out www.thecartelmovie.com. If you can make to a screening it is definitely worth your time. I was able to attend last year and the film maker stayed and had a discussion after the screening. This little New Jersey film seems to be gaining national recognition.

In reference to merit pay and favoritism: Everyone needs to “earn” their pay, this includes educators. I’m not really sure what testing teachers in math and reading is going to achieve or how it is relevant to their teaching habits since teacher have at least a BA and many an MA. I go back to the annual evaluation idea that works well in corporate America. The favoritism argument is not very strong because the evaluations create a written record of employee progress that supervisors have to answer to. Evaluations are reviewed with the employees and can certainly be disputed if discrepancies are noted.

Looks like the whole country is getting a massive overhaul when it comes to education whether they like it or not. Obama stated in his interview on Monday that “they” are looking into offering tenured teachers the opportunity for additional training and if after that they don’t perform they are out. (Take a look at previously posted video.) Wishful thinking, good luck with the unions!

Julian said...

With the topic of merit pay, I really do not think that the merit pay system should be the best approach. If a teacher has a class of students who do not really care about their performance or a classroom filled with non-English speaking students then the teacher will suffer the consequences. It shouldn't be left to the performance of the students to determine a teacher's pay. Teachers' pay should be based on their own performance. Honestly, I believe that teachers won't benefit from the merit pay system. If this is grandfathered in, I think this will decrease motivation to imnprove success of the students even if you are tenured or not.

Joey said...

@Jennifer

There's gotta be the possibilities that some teachers don't know how to do basic math skills. Maybe?

Quick question, how do school psychologists get paid? Is there a tenure type system that protects school psychologists?

lisa said...

While I understand the premise beyond merit base pay which is holding teachers accountable. There are factors or outliers that can affect students performance besides the teaching style. Things like lack of books, outdated material, student's level of ability.
From personal experience attending urban schools we had some great teachers who never got to shine because they spent so much time teaching remedial material to half the class. In this case 6 students who understand can not carry the scores of the other 20 people in class. I feel education is on the right in making sure teachers are producing productive students however for their pay to be based on performance is not right

Monique said...

joey-yesterday I spoke about this with the psychologist I am shadowing.. She is going to be tenured next year. In fact, only tenured employees are allowed to have interns in the district I am in...I am curious about another thing???what determines the starting salary of psychologist?the district?degree?experience?location?what is the average starting salary?

Kyra said...

I think it's necessary for different school districts to have different standards of performance - some schools simply don't have access to the same resources that others do. The difficulty arises when it comes time to decide what standards are appropriate where. What is the most ethical way to do this?

Monique - I was wondering about the average starting salary too. Have you found anything else out?

Kevin said...

My opinion on merit pay is that sure it works for salesmen and other businesses because if the person trying to make more money fails so what they did not sell a few extra units. in Education this simply does not work because if the professional fails here it does matter and it affects students lives. second it is sad but true that we will begin seeing some professionals who avoid working the hard cases because they know the probability of their success on them is lower and will affect their numbers.

Nicole said...

@ Joey
I agree with your comment that there should not/cannot be a nationwide standard for merit pay amongst teachers. There are way too many factors to take into consideration. Also, how would this work with special education teachers? Oftentimes, these teachers have to CREATE portfolios on students and send in fake proficiency test results to the state because there are some students who are in "third grade" but cannot differentiate a pencil from an apple, let alone figure out a word problem. This is not at all the teacher's fault, it is simply the state of certain children who unfortunately are not able to go further (i.e. children low on the autism spectrum).

Monique said...

nicole-I see where you are coming from there are so many things that are out of the teacher´s hands...it is really unfortunate bc poor performance is oftentimes blamed on the teacher... At my practicum site this week I went to a special education class and the teacher could control the 6 kids in her class...no one would listen or do the work.. She said that the parent´s of these students do not give them their medication bc they do not believe in it..that is not the teaher´s fault

lisa said...

@ joey, monique, and kyra

Salary is determined by the districts pay scale. For example the school district I'm in for practicum, pay scale stops at masters level. So if school psychologist in the district has a PHD or PSYD they would not be compensated for it. I think the national average is 60,000.00

Jennifer said...

Agree with Lisa. Salary for a school psychologist is based on the district. Another thing to think about are tenure and health benefits. Some districts give all their employees the same benefits as their teachers. (A great plus when search for a district to work in!)