Merit based pay for teachers

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by Joseph_Botwinick, Feb 9, 2005.

  1. Joseph_Botwinick

    Joseph_Botwinick
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    On my way home from school today, I heard a radio show discussing the idea of merit pay for teachers. The wheels started turning in my brain, and, being a teacher, I immediately started asking many questions and thinking about many ideas. Here are some that came to mind earlier today, and I was wondering if I could get some responses from the folks here to get some different perspectives:

    • What are the positive elements of Merit Pay?
    • What are some possible negative elements of Merit Pay?
    • Is Merit Pay a “real world” business approach?
    • What are some similarities of public education to corporate businesses that would make this approach work?
    • What are some differences between Public Education and corporate businesses that would make this approach problematic?
    • Are there some approaches that could combine the current seniority approach to teacher salaries with merit pay that would work?
    • What are some different plans for instituting merit pay?
    • Why are teachers and unions opposed to merit pay?
    • Why are parents and community leaders for merit pay?
    • Are test scores a good indicator of effective teachers, or is it just a roll of the dice?
    • Tracking: an honest look at this issue and how it could be used by administrators to keep certain teachers down.
    • A solution: More specific and objective evaluations, annual pre and post-evaluations, test scores, etc… (In other words, merit pay should be based on several factors)
    • Is merit pay a fix all, or is there something systemic to public education that sets it up to fail and then punishes the teachers for its failure: Lack of Discipline, lack of competent and honest leadership, lack of accountability from all fronts (Parental, Administrative, teachers, Students, community, political)?
    • Can you really hold a teacher accountable for the performance of students who for the most part, did not have what it takes before they came to that teacher? Can the same teacher who is effective with one group of students who had good families, good previous teachers, also be not quite so effective with another group of students who had no home training, and poor teachers in the past?

    What say you guys and gals?

    Joseph Botwinick
     
  2. PastorSBC1303

    PastorSBC1303
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    It seems to me to be an issue that sounds good to some people on the surface....however when you dig deeper how does one determine merit? Seems it could lead to a very subjective determination of success or failure for a teacher.
     
  3. Joseph_Botwinick

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    I think the last three bullets probably come the closest to representing my view of things in general. It seems to me that merit pay is not the fix all. I would be willing to bet that the famous school in California that everyone keeps trumpeting as a great success because of merit pay has less to do with merit pay and more to do with the leadership and the way they run their system and how everyone shares accountability. My guess is that the teachers are not punished because of bad leadership decisions. Certainly, I think some form of merit pay could be a positive step. But, by itself, will not bring about the desired change. There must be a systemic change in the way the Public Education system is run from the top down and there should be equal accountability for parents, students, teachers, and administrators. Of course, the hard part is, how do you hold parents accountable for being bad parents? Are politicians really willing to do something like that? Wanna bet? How fast do you think the leave me and my family crowd would yell and scream about big brother before they backed off? Politically speaking, it seems palatable to most politicians to punish the teachers for the poor decisions and leadership of everyone around them sometimes. Granted, there are some really bad teachers out there who should never have even been hired. But, on the other hand, there are many teachers who put their hearts into their work, and feel very demeaned and degraded by society, especially by many Christian groups, who constantly berate their profession. And we wonder why we have such teacher shortages and why so many good teachers either burn out or do something else.

    Joseph Botwinick
     
  4. Mommyperson

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    Merit pay would certainly make those teachers who are intolerant of special needs children stand out.
    I respect the teaching profession,but there are a lot of teachers who could benefit from a few lessons in compassion, patience and acceptance.

    Merit based pay would make teachers look at themselves and how they approach or teach students from ALL learning backgrounds.
    I agree , it has a lot of cons as well as pros
    BUT...

    I've also seen MANY teachers who just don't want to be bothered with a special needs student in their classrooms. Without saying it, it's suggested that they shouldn't have the opportunity to be in a normal classroom setting, it's a waste of time.. even though they may have instructional assistants to help the student.

    Teachers make a decent salary..and they have decent insurance. Why not merit based pay to ensure they are doing the job they get paid for?

    There are A lot of sides to this kind of approach. This is just a small side.

    I hope no offense is taken as none was meant.
     
  5. KeeperOfMyHome

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    Joseph said:
    It's funny that you should mention this. My husband works for the Atlanta Public School system in IT. Over the last few years, more and more management positions are being filled by people from the CORPORATE world. No longer is it favorable to hire those experienced in the ways of education. As you can imagine, many of the changes in the way the system is run have a definite corporate 'flavor'. It's quite interesting indeed.

    I think schools are more and more being run as businesses, unfortunately. Even though we homeschool, I see a lot of the way things are done through my husband's job.

    Julia
     
  6. donnA

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    There are a lot of teachers teaching who should not be, many actually hate kids, and some have no idea what they are teaching.
     
  7. ktn4eg

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    With no intention of hijacking this topic, here's a thought:

    Why not have merit pay for preachers as well?

    Aren't the same arguments for merit pay for teachers that have been posted thus far just as applicable to preachers (esp. pastors)?

    Selah.
     
  8. Brownov

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    I agree with your points, Joseph, and I think that the teacher's unions would fight tooth and nail to keep merit based pay out of the public school system.

    Currently, the unions have a strangle hold on the schools, but merit based pay would severely limit their power, since each teacher would have to meet some objective standards.

    That is not to say that merit pay doesn't have some weaknesses, which I believe you have mentioned.

    I really think that the best solution may be a form of school choice, either using vouchers or tax credits to allow the ideals of consumerism and capitalism to govern which schools get the most students, and in turn the most money. Then parents can decide which teachers they approve of and which they don't.

    If you give the schools some competition, they will have to perform as well or better than those schools around them.
     
  9. ktn4eg

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    Friend Brownov:

    Good to hear from you! Have you recovered from the snow yet?

    PM me when you get a chance.

    --From a former FBC member & one-time resident of 18964
     
  10. Karen

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    I couldn't let this go by since I have spent the last two weeks subbing in several Special Education classrooms. (As well as many other times.) Today I had three special needs aides under my supervision.

    Most of the teachers I have met are quite different than your experiences. There is an incredibly wide variety of needs and challenges that special education addresses.
    Some of the time I was working with kids one-on-one in phonics or math. They brought work from their regular classrooms with which they need extra help.
    Some kids DON'T belong in a regular classroom, even with an aide. They are simply too disruptive. And it is arguable that it accomplishes little for them. One child today had to have 1-2 aides constantly just to keep him from running up and down the hall, escaping every time the door opens, and biting others. He bit me yesterday.

    We did our best to provide him with a compassionate, calm, structured learning environment. But judging our success for merit pay would be completely subjective. And his parents would not be good judges. They do not admit, at least to the teachers, the full nature of his challenges.
    It is a common theme for parents to be upset because their child with challenges has to work
    harder at school than he or she does at home. So the very things that can make a teacher truly effective and positive in the child's life can make him disliked in the eyes of the parents.

    Karen
     
  11. Ps104_33

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    I remember going to an open house with my second oldest when he was in 7th grade ia a public school. I traveled from class to class with him just as he would on a normal school day and met all of his teacher and they presented to the parents (all three of us, sadly,) their lesson plan. It was not hard to tell which of his teachers put their heart and soul into their students and which ones were apathetic. So there are teachers who are better than others and truly care about their pupils and some who are just collecting a paycheck. A very big one these days.
    BUT! the parents play a much bigger role in the education of their child. I would be willing to bet that Joseph can tell which of the kids in his class have the backing of their parents and which ones dont. The teacher can only do so much with a child if he has parents that dont care.
     
  12. Joseph_Botwinick

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    If I may, I would like to focus the direction of this discussion a bit more. What does everyone specifically think about this point that I made above:

    Please note that:

    1. I am a teacher in a public school.
    2. I readily acknowledge there are bad teachers who have no business being around kids.
    3. I also understand the problems of homelife and how that hampers the efforts of educators.
    4. I also see the potential benefits of merit based pay, but also see some downfalls and think that if we don't think this through, we could end up with a mess worse than what we have now.

    With all that in mind, I think the "devil's in the details" as the old saying goes. I think I could support merit pay, but only if it were a small part of a bigger reform of the public education system as a whole. I don't think merit pay in and of itself is the answer to all our problems and I would also suggest that the reform needs to start at the top and then work its way down.

    What are your thoughts?

    Joseph Botwinick
     
  13. Mommyperson

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    There are circumstances that must be considered when holding a teacher accountable for the student's inability to make the grade.
    Testing, classroom participation, mental, medical, or physical problems as well as the student's home life are areas that affect the ability to teach effectively.

    If the teacher is held accountable for a students choice to disrupt the class instead of participate and learn then the parent must also be held accountable.
    If the student is willing and is hindered in some way, extra help must be provided and the parents must be notified that there is a problem.

    Not waiting until the child fails to make the grade before saying or doing something.


    Karen,
    I also have seen disruptive children with quite severe learning disabilities placed in a regular classroom. We remove the student, to benefit the whole class instead of cater to the one who is focused on disruption. They do the work in a quiet room. Sometimes it's WHERE they are that helps them to learn.

    If you have a learning problem and you couldn't TELL anyone what the problem is or don't understand it yourself and you need help, outbursts would be a good way to speak loudly.

    Sometimes you have to think outside the box and be creative when it comes to teaching the learning disabled. I'm not saying you lack this ability, but conventional learning methods aren't the norm with special needs children.

    But within a normal setting, yes, the teacher should be held accountable and do all as well as provide extra help that is available to help the student be successful.
     
  14. KeeperOfMyHome

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    Well, Joseph, I would have to question whether teachers have this luxury to spend necessary time with each student who requires more of her time. So much time and effort is spent today on preparing kids for so many different tests during the school year that I don't think teachers have the time to put into helping the needier kids.

    However, I think all teachers should be held accountable to some degree, just as with any job. To what extent is the question because there are so many outside factors with each kid and each new class. A teacher may have a wonderful class one year, and a not-so-good the next. Some years she just has to work harder, but I dare say she/he is compensated for those harder years, eh?

    Julia
     
  15. gopchad

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    I am not a practicing teacher, but I have a teaching degree and (expired) teaching license in the great stae of West Virginia. My wife is a Jr. High Science teacher in the public school system. Having said that, here's a thought. How about holding parents responsible. Too many kids on SSI and not trying because if they do, mommy and daddy lose the welfare check. How about basing the welfare checks on the students merit. If Johnny flunks out, you lose your monthly check from the government. If Johnny refuses to try then he loses the privilege of a public education. The day that education became a right and not a privilege was a bad day in this country. No student has the right to go in and hijack a classroom with unruly behavior day in and day out. The teachers hands are tied because the studen has an IEP that states he has "Special Needs". The only special treatment some of these brats need is a fist to the mouth... in Christian charity of course. [​IMG]

    There is blame enough to go all around, but too much is given to the teachers who, as a group, are doing a fantastic job.

    Chad
     
  16. KeeperOfMyHome

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    I'm just astounded. I guess I'm naive about these things. How does this work?

    Julia
     
  17. gopchad

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    I am not sure of all the details, but basically a psychologist can identify your child as having special needs, that is usually of the "mentally impaired" variety. Here are the requirements from the ssa.gov website:

    WHAT DOES “DISABLED” MEAN FOR A CHILD?

    These definitons are broad and open-ended. The system rewards laziness, because the parents won't get a job because they'll lose benefits. They can easily make upwards of $20,000.00 a year in totla awards from the government from SSI, food stamps, medicaid, disability. These folks are not dumb, and have the system figured out. One student who my wife taught had an environmental specialist appointed by the state to help her with her "tactile dysfunction". THe child would not wear undergarments to school or shoes because of this, and there was nothing the school could do. She was given a special laptop to take notes because her pencil rubbed her the wrong way... all at your and my taxpayer dollars. Needless to say I am not a big fun of the system, and think that privitization and vouchers is the only cure for the education system.

    Chad
     
  18. Mommyperson

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    Tutoring either in or outside of school is an avenue seldom utilized.

    SSI is paid out to those who do have a disability. A Social Security payment for which we all pay for. Those who are deemed disabled receive it. WELFARE is a separate, but can easily confuse those who aren't familiar with the differences.
    Food stamps is welfare. ADC (Aid for Dependant Children) is welfare not SSI.
    My husband was receiving SSI. He was not on welfare as he had a series of strokes that affected his ability to work.
    Medicare is not welfare, medicaid is.

    Each state's guidelines are different, but it's clear that SSI is NOT welfare.
    You pay into it, you get it in the case of illness or disease that keeps you from holding a job.

    I know that I didn't fully understand the differences between the two until we began to receive it.
     
  19. gopchad

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    Sorry, but I disagree. Social Security is a welfare program in and of itself. While SSI may not be welfare in the strictest since, and there may be some legitimate people getting it, since it is income based the majority of the folks getting it are receiving other forms of welfare. Trust me, I know of what I speak. There are people making a living and never leaving their house to do a days work all across this country. There are people who get their kids declaired mentally impaired to get a check. This would fall under the scope of SSI. Call it what you want, but SS is welfare.
     
  20. StraightAndNarrow

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    It's a safety net. There are people who pay in very little and collect benefits. I don't know what percentage this is of the total. Then, there are people like me who have paid SS taxes for over 32 years. I can assure you it's not a welfare program for me. I deserve to get what I'll get when I retire.
     

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