Friday, September 19, 2008
A colleague I teach college with told me he had a job, for a brief time, teaching Russian immigrants how to speak English. This was back in the eighties, I believe. The program was somehow funded by taxpayers, and he worked there just a few months.
He found his students did not take the work very seriously at all. This happens from time to time, and he found it frustrating that he was unable to persuade them otherwise. His biggest frustration, though, came during his first test. His students got up and began looking at each other's papers. They offered one another suggestions on how they could improve their answers.
My friend was shocked. "You can't do this," he said, but they ignored him. When he protested more strongly, a woman said, "What you gonna do to me, teacher? I lived through Stalin."
My friend was speechless. He asked what teachers did in their country when they acted like this.
"Nothing," they assured him. "If we get high scores, teachers get paid more."
A great system isn't it? Is it any wonder that principals, who receive significant merit pay, urge us to pass everyone no matter what?
Isn't this an inevitable consequence of a merit pay system?