Monday, January 08, 2018

Hey Gang, Let's Make Teachers Work for Sub-minimum Wage Plus Tips!

Chalkbeat, originator of teaching competitions it fancies reminiscent of Top Chef, lover of and advocate for all things reformy,  zeroes in on merit pay. Naturally, despite abundant failure, they find something good about it.

This is because there's some new government study favoring merit pay. Why? Because they say it raises test scores, which is of course the only factor worth considering in education.

It's not hard to find reason to question merit pay. For one thing, it's not remotely anything new. Diane Ravitch writes that it's been tried since the 1920s and has never worked. Nonetheless, the Trumpies, an entire stable of geniuses, declare that merit pay works better than class size reduction. Why get more attention for the students when you can give a few extra bucks to very few extra teachers and pretend you've done something?

Here's Diane:

The most rigorous trial of merit pay was conducted recently in Nashville by the National Center on Performance Incentives. It offered an extraordinary bonus of $15,000 to teachers if they could get higher scores from their students. Over a three-year period, there was no difference between the scores obtained by the treatment group or the control group. The bonus didn’t matter.

Roland Fryer of Harvard University just released his study of New York City’s much-touted school-wide merit-pay program. Fryer says it made no difference in terms of student outcomes and actually depressed performance in some schools and for some groups of students.

But hey, if numerous decades of studies don't produce the desired results, why not just keep repeating them until you find one that does? While I don't trust the Trumpies at all, Obama's education policy was almost as terrible, and of course there's a good chance this study was initiated while he was President. Sadly, I wouldn't trust any study sponsored by his people either.

Merit pay assumes that some teachers have merit while others don't. I'd argue that any teacher without merit ought not to be teaching. But if you want to prove merit pay works, you find a way to prove it. Test scores generally show little more than zip code. It's not generally a great challenge to get kids from, say, Roslyn NY, to pass more tests.

I wonder whether I've just been holding back all these years. Maybe if I could make an extra thousand bucks a year I'd be able to give this teaching stuff 100%. Maybe it would take 5,000. Maybe ten. Who knows what the magical number is that would make me do my job instead of phoning it in? I mean, we don't have merit pay, so that's what I must be doing.

There is an overabundance of dunces who wish to control education. Sometimes they're just stupid, but usually they also have a lot of money. The money thing leads them to think they must know everything and are therefore instant and final authorities. Oprah didn't feature Bill Gates just for his good looks.

In our school, as in all city schools, we have to figure out exactly which form of junk science is used to rate teachers. We choose, whenever possible, to have teachers rated by department or school wide measures. That's because we don't want kids coming to teachers for tutoring and being turned away. I mean, if I'm the sort of person who actually cares about ratings or merit pay, why the hell would I want to help one of your students? Why should I bother helping your kid when it would raise your rating, or your salary? I'm in this for me, so go screw yourself. That's the Merit Pay Way.

We kind of think, our administration and our chapter, that it's our job to help children. We kind of think that's why we wake up in the morning and do this job. Now I like money, and I wouldn't be surprised if our administrators like it too. I mean, they get paid more than us, but that's fine with me. I'd rather make less and keep the job I have. Nonetheless, we agree absolutely that it's an idiotic idea to put teachers in open competition with one another over test scores.

Of course, we haven't got the red hotline phone to Bill Gates, like Arne Duncan probably did.

Now even if money really is the root of all evil, I can always use a little more of it. I just got a new dog, and he has vet bills. He can chew through bones pretty quickly. Poopie bags don't grow on trees. In fact, I don't happen to live in a tree, and the choice not to has often proven costly. So yes, I would like more money. If I go to one of those 300-member committee thingies and Mulgrew asks me, "Would you like more money?" I'll say, "Yes I would, thank you very much."

But I'm a teacher. Like all teachers, I need a salary. If I wanted to work for tips, I'd be a waiter. And make no mistake, that's precisely the sort of job merit pay advocates would like ours to become.
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