The following facebook conversation took place concerning the following article from The Detroit News. I’m sorry about the awful formatting, but I did what I could:
July 8, 2012 at 12:07 pm
Consider merits of merit pay
Imagine yourself a freshly minted teacher, eager to launch into a career of changing the world — one child at a time. But after a year or two in the classroom and long hours and weekends spent grading papers and preparing lessons, the job begins to lose some of its charm. Regardless of how hard you work compared with your peers, your paycheck only reflects your length of service at the school and not how well your students perform.
That’s not much of an incentive structure. Yet that’s how most teachers’ salaries are set in Michigan and around the country. Traditionally, teachers are monetarily rewarded based on their years in the profession and the degrees they attain — and not much else. It’s likely a contributing factor to why half of all new teachers quit within five years.
Slowly, this antiquated system is starting to change. Teachers deserve to be treated as professionals. Thanks to significant education reforms in the Michigan Legislature, how teachers fare in the classroom must now be linked to much more detailed evaluations. Under the revised law, 50 percent of evaluations will be linked to student performance by 2015 — a connection that surprisingly didn’t exist before in most districts. And evaluations will play a larger role in determining whether a teacher earns tenure and who gets laid off.
Merit pay should be part of this equation, too. Some districts are embracing pay based on performance, with teachers unions supporting the change. It could become a trend, says Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Two districts, in Blissfield and St. Clair, recently announced new contracts that include merit pay — not just bonuses. “This is historic,” Van Beek says, considering 85 percent of districts in the U.S. follow uniform salary schedules.
National education advocacy groups like StudentsFirst also support performance pay. Andy Solon, Michigan director for the organization, suggests an effective evaluation system should be linked to compensation. He says it makes sense to pay teachers based on their performance.
Gov. Rick Snyder has also advocated for recognizing and rewarding the best teachers. In his speech on education last year, he said “performance in the classroom should supersede pure longevity.” He also recommended creating a master teacher position, to allow the most effective teachers to mentor others — with the benefit of a higher salary. Simply attaining a master’s degree and staying on the job shouldn’t automatically translate into more pay.
The 2009 “Widget Effect” study by The New Teacher Project, which surveyed 15,000 teachers and 1,300 administrators in four states, found less than 1 percent of teachers had unsatisfactory ratings. This indicates that excellence isn’t identified and encouraged, and struggling teachers are falling through the cracks. Fifty-nine percent of teachers said their districts weren’t doing enough to compensate and promote great teachers.
Dedicated teachers should find merit pay rewarding. Teachers who fear such a system may be happier in another job.
Ingrid Jacques is a Detroit News editorial writer.
TROY Do you honestly believe this garbage? So when that outstanding educator, again reaches the top of the pay scale and a budget deficit rears it ugly head, who are they going to balance that budget on? You guessed it, that outstanding educator. Another attack on the working class, it’s just packaged a little different.
ANGIE Well said Rich!
JODEE And remember…..the teachers themselves overwhelmingly voted FOR this…..teamwork and confidence. As a school board member, I’m very proud of these dedicated educators.
SCOTT I’m ok with that largely because I don’t teach for raises. I try to get better every year because that’s what a professional does. I want to be evaluated and given tips on how I can improve. It will make be better at what I do and will provide students with a teacher who demonstrates the true meaning of “lifelong learner.” Best case scenario for teachers would be competing districts bidding on their services. That would also be like the “real world.” I’m impressed that my alma mater is on the cutting edge.
TROY So a younger teacher is willing to cut the throat of a teacher with more seniority. For a merit raise? I love this….maybe that younger teacher should consider, the battles that were fought in the past to afford them what they have today. When the School Board and the administration fail to balance the budget, should it be automatic that they resign
RICH So, someone who is 30, who is flat out more talented than someone who is 50, should not be rewarded for it? The good news is that Blissfield teachers don’t appear to be intimidated by performance-based pay since they overwhelmingly voted FOR it. Since both sides were able to negotiate and get it done I also have to believe that Blissfield voters will be pretty pleased as well.
TROY I agree with you Rich, they should both be rewarded for doing a good job. Collective Bargaining takes care of that. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t they agree to try the merit system on a trail basis ?
RICH The difference is that I said one of the two is “flat out more talented than the other”. One outperforms the other. That person (in my opinion) should receive additional compensation (regardless of how old they are) for out performing his/her peers. The current system does not reward based on performance. It’s all scale-based and your compensation is based on your education, years of service, without any motivation or reward for being one of the best. Performance-based pay (like the majority of us have) changes that, and students will get even more highly motivated teachers who are compensated for the great job they do. It’s a win/win for students and the top educators in our school systems
TRACY There are huge problems with this, friends. First of all, the state wants us to measure/prove student growth, but they have no idea what tool to use for that – they’ve left it all up to individual districts to figure it out…and there is way too much room for “cheating” and padding scores. Second, the state is mandating all districts use merit-base pay within the next couple of years, but again they have no set formula for us to use – each district can make its own rubric. I’ve seen some of our neighboring districts’ merit-base pay formulas; there are categories such as “schmoozing” in which teachers can earn points/pay. I can also earn more points/pay if I attend sporting events, and if I don’t take any sick days (that I’ve rightfully earned). Really? So, attending a couple of football games at the school where I teach will make me a better 4th-grade classroom teacher? We have our own lives, and we already give so much to our schools. I’m in my classroom at 6:30 every morning. Some days I put in 12 hours at the school…and I ALWAYS bring work home with me. We get no points for that – it’s our job. We spend thousands of dollars on other people’s children. We get no points for that – and it’s not that we want a pat on the back for doing what good teachers do…we just don’t want the rug pulled out from under us every time the school needs to cut their budget. So much of this new evaluation/pay system is subjective. A principal spends about one hour in a teacher’s classroom, and then decides where he/she should fall on the scale. If a 20-year veteran is at the top of his/her game, and at the top of his/her pay scale, a principal with a personal vendetta or with the need to cut costs, could so easily take everything away from that teacher through this new evaluation system
TRACY None of you are in the schools… School Board members are made up primarily of business people who treat our schools like businesses. We are not here to make money…we are here to help build character, bandage wounds of all kinds, and help our future leaders to succeed. I agree that competition can be good, but the competition that our new laws are encouraging is damaging. Paranoia is rampant, and throwing co-workers under the bus has become commonplace. Everyone is worried about data and looking over their shoulders…what about the kids? It’s out of hand.
TRACY Scott – you must be fortunate enough to work in a school where politics and favoritism do not play a part…or, you are in the coveted “inner circle” where these issues do not touch you. So many of us challenge ourselves (and our students) everyday, school year after school year – that’s what we should do and what we should be “rewarded” for. Do not reward the 23-year-old (childless and often spouse-less) newbie for attending all the sporting events she can and, in the end, pay her more than me because I was busy attending my OWN children’s functions. Reward me for what I do in the classroom. And what about the 50-year-old teacher that is still AMAZING in the classroom, but has already paid 20 years worth of dues attending students’ sporting events, concerts, and fundraisers, PTO activities, and after-school programs all out of a sense of duty and commitment… She is now at the top of her pay scale, getting the job done effectively in the classroom, but not able to re-commit to these types of activities at this stage… Get rid of her? Payroll would love that! If you don’t hear ramblings in your hallways about these “threats,” then you’re either losing your hearing or you work in a Utopia
SCOTT Oh, I hear the paranoia in the halls…it is no utopia…and I am in the minority, I am sure. I just come from a different place, I think. I worked in a tough job that paid very little for the first 14 years of my adulthood, and I was grateful for that job. So I don’t have this sense of entitlement that I see in many of my colleagues.I look around at the other parents in our district who work for the auto industry or the real estate profession. They are either getting laid off or let go or taking wage cuts or paying more for insurance and I wonder…why do we think we should be immune to this? If my boss (which is both the state and the district) tells me to do something better, then I’m going to do it better. I may disagree with it, but until I am the one signing the checks, I will do what they say to the best of my ability. I am blue collar through and through, and my folks worked with the mindset that when a company (school) is kind enough to take a chance on you and hire you, put food on your table, and take care of your family’s financial needs (and even some of its wants), then it is your duty to do whatever it is they ask of you to the best of your ability, and do it with a smile. If at some point you can’t smile anymore, you need to move on to something else…If you do these things with integrity and the right heart, then you will always have work. I am owed nothing. I need to earn everything…and so if I have to go to games (company functions), then that’s what I’ll do. If I have to make sure my students perform at a certain level, by God I’m going to figure out how I can do that. I have faith that if I do my utmost, I’ll be rewarded for it in one way or another…and if I’m not, then I have a choice to make…just like any other profession in the world. But that’s just me speaking for me. The other voices are speaking a foreign language to me, so I think I’ll always be on the outside…but I’ll be happy
TRACY I love what I do, Scott…but I feel like I have to “toot my own horn” in order to get paid now – doesn’t that go against your grain? None of us ever got into this profession for the money. I agree – when the day comes that you can’t smile about your job anymore, it’s time to move on. My kids make me smile everyday, and I return the favor…but I won’t get merit pay for smiles. I won’t get merit pay for giving kids lunch money or snacks when they have none, or for giving students hand-me-down clothes when they need them, or for cleaning and bandaging wounds that should’ve been tended to at home, or for giving up countless lunch breaks and planning periods to catch kids up or simply let them vent about personal issues… I could go on, but I’m sure you know what I mean. There was a young teacher in our building this year that carried a notepad around with her and recorded every time she complimented a co-worker. Does it really mean anything if you’re doing it for points? Do we have to pimp ourselves out like this? Embarrassing.
SCOTT So what it really comes down to is that you work in a jank district if that’s what they see as valuable…and I’m sorry for that. But my commentary has run its course. I understand your points, but I choose to disagree on the larger issue of teacher evals and merit pay…and I still love you and respect you. It is clear you love what you do.