Merit pay can work for state and for teachers

Here is a teacher writing in favor of merit pay. This piece runs Monday on the AJC education page.

By Warren Buck

As a public school teacher, I’ve been encouraged by the spirited debate among Georgia educators and policy makers around performance compensation (or “merit pay”) for K-12 public school teachers. I am excited about the opportunity we have as teachers to re-energize our profession and find new and creative ways to drive student achievement.

What makes me hopeful is my own teaching experience. I taught in Gwinnett County public schools before becoming a founding teacher at KIPP STRIVE, an open-enrollment charter middle school in West Atlanta. While we don’t currently have merit pay at KIPP STRIVE, we try to foster a school culture that emphasizes accountability for parents, students, and teachers and also prepares young people for college and life.  Everything we do is designed to maximize student learning and a culture of achievement through collaboration.

The benefits I’ve experienced from this strong teamwork ethos lead me to believe that teachers and school leaders can work together to develop an equitable performance-compensation system that rewards the excellent teaching going on in Georgia schools. With teachers leading the way, an effective pay-for-performance system could become another tool to raising student achievement. To accomplish this, we’ll have to pay attention to some key areas.

First, it’s fundamental that teachers need to be involved in the design of any pay-for-performance program, since we bring classroom experience on what great teaching looks like and how to implement it. In Denver, Colorado, the ProComp program was developed in partnership with Denver Classroom Teachers Association.  This successful merit pay program has been effective in large part because it has been phased in over time and had the explicit support and buy-in from teachers.

Second, common sense also dictates that no single measure should determine whether a teacher receives merit pay.  Effective pay-for-performance systems rely on multiple data points. Data is imperfect, true, and we should always work to improve student assessment tools. But data still gives us an important objective measure to evaluate how well students are progressing toward their learning goals.

A third and related area is the type of data we would use, since when evaluating teachers, we will want to measure not only how many students pass the end-of-year course exam, but how much progress students make in a given academic year. Cumulative student achievement data reflects not just one teacher’s work but the many other excellent teachers a student has had prior to entering their current classroom. Using “value-added” achievement data would take into account the learning in the classroom and allow for more precise and fair evaluation of the current teacher’s impact on a student.

Fourth, a merit pay system should take into account school-wide student achievement results, since teachers are part of a broader community. We should reward teachers if a school meets its own goals and objectives. This promotes a team-oriented, collegial environment, since all teachers stand to benefit if a school succeeds. I see this spirit at work every day at KIPP STRIVE and I can attest to its amazing impact on school culture and student learning.

Looking at other evaluation areas, no effective system would be complete without an observation and peer review component. A fair, evaluative and developmental system could show new or struggling teachers a path to improving their teaching skills. A recent survey indicates that 80% of Georgian educators support such a system. Personally, I have grown the most as a teacher from the feedback I receive from my teacher colleagues at KIPP STRIVE. By learning from my peers, I feel more invested in my goal of helping my students grow.

Finally, in terms of incentives, just as we should reward a high-performing school, we should also reward teachers who self-select into low-performing or otherwise hard-to-staff positions, like math and science. In Florida, for example, teachers are eligible for bonuses for teaching in high-needs areas.

There’s no question in my mind that all K-12 teachers in Georgia share the same goal: helping students reach their full potential. We can achieve this goal if we work with policy makers and elected officials to frame this debate, rather than letting others frame it for us. It’s my hope that teachers will take the lead in developing a merit pay system that elevates our profession and equips our students to succeed in the 21st century.

243 comments Add your comment

justbrowsing

February 21st, 2010
6:02 am

Warren makes some great points, however, teachers have never been invited to the negotiating table, not even when the decision to apply for RTTT money was made. Again, there is a blatant lack of respect for the teaching profession in Georgia. We are just not taken seriously. As a result, it will not be used as a tool to reward great teaching, but as a tool to intimidate and erode what little professional discretions we have. I have seen great teachers be forced from this profession for personal vendettas- remove what little “tenure” rights some have and attach student performance to our economic positioning without reforming the corruptive practices in our schools (which the public is only beginning to see), and it is apparent that it will do little more than create more political mess. Maybe later, not right now.

Darren

February 21st, 2010
7:01 am

Warren is one of Sonny’s fishing buddies.

Crediblity much?

In a perfect world, yes, but that is not where we work and live

February 21st, 2010
7:02 am

Ah Mr. Buck, I agree that your arguments are valid but you mention the fact that “common sense” should dictate many of the parameters that should be set for this Merit Pay Proposal but it has been proven time and time again that the “powers that be” in the legislature and other elected officials do not possess “common sense”. They enact rules and bills that become law which the rest of us must follow and our opinions or experiences as educators are usually not asked for nor highly regarded. Have you even read SB 386 completely? I have and here are some highlights:

1. SB 386 directs the State Board of Education to create a state-wide evaluation instrument for teachers, a Teacher Effectiveness Measure (TEM), and for administrators, a Leader Effectiveness Measure (LEM) by July 2011. Fifty percent of the calculation of the TEM and the LEM will be based on student achievement, as defined by the State Board. The remaining 50 percent of the calculation shall be based on one or more factors as determined by the State Board. (IS THERE ANY MENTION OF TEACHERS BEING SURVEYED OR ASKED FOR THEIR INPUT? NO. IT WILL BE DETERMINED BY THE STATE BOE).

2. Under SB 386 an educator’s placement on the state salary schedule would not be based on an advanced degree. Educators who earn advanced degrees before July 1, 2013 will be “grandfathered” in and will be paid for those advanced degrees as long as educators were enrolled in advanced degree programs on or before January 27, 2010. (WOW-TALK ABOUT SNEAKY!!! IT DOESN’T MATTER THAT I HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED INTO A PH.D. PROGRAM THAT DOESN’T START UNTIL
THE FALL. I WASN”T “ENROLLED” BY JANUARY 27, 2010 SO EVEN I FINISH BY JULY 2013, I WON’T BE PAID FOR MY DEGREE. IT IS INTERESTING TO NOTE THAT THIS BILL ENCOURAGES ALL TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATION TO REMAIN STAGNANT IN THEIR EDUCATION BECAUSE ANY DEGREES ACHIEVED BY EDUCATORS IN THE FUTURE WILL NOT BE COMPENSATED. ALL FUTURE CHILDREN WILL BE TAUGHT BY TEACHERS WHO MORE THAN LIKELY WILL NOT PURSUE ADVANCED DEGREES TO FURTHER THEIR EDUCATION-NICE!) I’m sure the colleges and universities will weigh in on this as well since this will adversely affect their enrollments in Masters, Specialists and Ph.D/Ed.D educational degree programs.

3. The Governor’s office has indicated that it plans to fund the new performance-based program with a federal Race to the Top (RT3) grant for which Georgia has applied. (WHAT HAPPENS IF GEORGIA DOESN’T GET THIS GRANT? WHERE WILL THE MONEY COME FROM FOR THIS MERIT PAY PROGRAM? IF SB 386 MOVES FORWARD AND IS APPROVED WITHOUT GEORGIA RECEIVING THE GRANT, WHO IS TO SAY THAT WHEN ECONOMIC TIMES ARE TOUGH, THE MONEY WILL NOT BE FOUND TO FUND THE PAY FOR PERFORMANCE ASPECT. IT HAPPENED WITH THE NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFIED TEACHERS SO WHY WOULDN’T IT HAPPEN TO THOSE WHOSE STUDENTS SHOW GREAT ACHIEVEMENT?

Tony

February 21st, 2010
7:06 am

Politicians want to dismantle the current pay scale for a variety of reasons, but the main one cited is the claim that there is no connection between advanced degrees and improved student achievement. There have been several studies that attempt to analyze the possible relationships, but most have come to conclusions that are mixed. I reviewed about eight of these studies this weekend and a found several weaknesses that should prevent the use of their conclusions from being applied in such a broad way. But, since when did politicians need to follow good, sound research findings?

First major weakness: All the studies I reviewed were carried out in high poverty, low performing schools. This skews the results in several ways. The most obvious is related to teachers’ desires to teach in schools that are more responsive to learning requirements. High poverty, low performing schools are rife with problems that interfere with student learning many of which have little to do with teacher quality.

Second major weakness: The measures used for student achievement were not designed to measure growth in student achievement. Tests are given each year and each year teachers have different students. Designing a study that can adequately measure the factors related to improved student learning and make a direct link to a specific teacher characteristic is nearly impossible. The factors that affect student achievement can not all be controlled.

There are other weaknesses, too. What teachers need to be concerned about the most is the poor attitude directed toward us by politicians. Using anecdotal evidence, several politicians have remarked that when a teacher is asked why they pursued an advanced degree it was so he/she could earn more money. So what has happened is this: because we as educators learned the rules for advancement (earn the next degree) we are now being slammed by the politicians for having the desire to improve our incomes.

You have probably noticed that no numbers for potential salary scales have been placed on the table. Not even an example of what “pay for performance” might look like in terms of dollars and cents. One of the implied scenarios, as envisioned by politicians, is that the teacher is in control of determining how much he/she will earn based on how hard they work and how much improvement in student achievement there is. Until teachers see some proposals about what such a pay scale would look like, it is very hard for us to be hopeful that the legislature will produce a true model that is fair for everyone in the profession.

Georgia has already had pay for performance models, but these have been scrapped for various reasons. The most recent model was part of Roy Barnes’ A+ Reform Act. As this law was phased in, the schools would have received two ratings – one based on absolute performance and the other based on improvements in achievement. By meeting certain standards under either rating, schools would have been eligible for bonuses. Just before this was to go into effect, the law was revised. Can you guess why? Because the legislature and governor did not want to pay for the bonuses that would be due to the teachers.

National Board Certification is another pay for performance model that has been shown to provide benefits to students and schools. Yet the current governor has taken what little research exists about this program and twisted the results to say what he wanted. As a result of misuse of the existing research, he declared that this certification was ineffective and pulled the plug on funding. This has left 1000s of teachers in a financial mess because they have lost this bonus and they are facing the payroll cutbacks of furlough days.

Now, why would we even come close to believing that they will develop a fair model that will truly provide incentives to everyone? Why would we even believe they will fully fund such a model such that teachers would truly be in charge of setting their pay levels? Can we really trust the political machine to keep promises?

E. Cobb Parent

February 21st, 2010
7:47 am

While I believe that the current pay scale should be revised I have major concerns with the pay for performance. I had a wonderful conversation with a teacher yesterday. You could tell she was passionate about her students. She had 6 with EIPs, but said between all the meetings and paperwork they must do the students were not having their needs met. We talked about student growth, she said she could report student growth by pre and post test which Cobb requires in each subject. Some of the students that she could show growth in that area do not do well with high stakes tests such as CRCT. Obviously we need multiple measures. We need to revisit the amount of paperwork and documentation that is required of teachers. We need to look at their time and cut back on the amount of time missing from classroom instruction due to training and meetings. From the mouth of a teacher, ‘there is very little time to teach these days”

Another teacher!

February 21st, 2010
8:31 am

Darren, You’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head!

d

February 21st, 2010
8:39 am

To quote Mr. Buck: “we try to foster a school culture that emphasizes accountability for parents, students, and teachers and also prepares young people for college and life.” Therein lies two problems for any proposed merit pay. Who are the first two listed for accountability? Parents and students. Who is the one who sees the financial benefits or punishments? The teachers. Also, if they are first preparing students for college at Mr. Buck’s school, what happens to the students who have no desire for college and would rather learn a trade or enlist? These students are left behind in Georgia’s one-size-fits-all model of education that we are pushing all children into now with only one diploma choice. When students feel left behind and do not want to pursue the education provided to them, their test scores suffer, and again, who feels the financial consequences.

I do have to praise Mr. Buck on one thing — he doesn’t want to stick strictly with end of course tests, but unless we find a good way to evaluate students progress — which is too time consuming for the state to actually implement when they could run a scantron through a machine — it’s never going to be a fair measure of performance. All data needs to be cleared out each year to show how a student has performed. I cannot compare this year’s students to last year’s students. They are different groups, with different issues. If, however, I could evaluate, through actual assessments, each year, I could determine growth.

Just one other note that I found particularly disturbing. I was sitting in a staff development last week where the instructor stated that the companies that write Georgia’s standardized tests have stated that you don’t really need to know the content to be successful on the tests. If you know good test taking skills, you will pass. That’s sad. That’s why so many Georgia students who do go to college are in remedial classes when they get there — they don’t know how to think and don’t know anything because we’re testing them so much.

Jordan Kohanim

February 21st, 2010
8:43 am

Forgive the long posts…
Ok here we go:

PROBLEMS WITH MERIT PAY:
Right now schools are at a brink. By switching to merit pay at this critical time, not only is the legislation dropping the proverbial straw on the camel’s back, they are setting up a system that will harm students for much longer than their terms in office.
While most merit pay proposals claim not to rely only on test scores to gauge teacher quality, the fact of the matter is there are not enough resources nor enough time to devote to appropriate observations that would measure a teacher’s performance. Test scores would become a large enough factor in determining teacher quality that the devastating effects of relying on such data would become widespread.

Jordan Kohanim

February 21st, 2010
8:43 am

What is the problem with using testing data to determine teacher effectiveness? It hurts students-that’s what.
1. Most educational research will tell you that these tests are statistically and empirically non-indicative of student achievement, progress, or even potential. In fact, these numbers are so easily manipulated that they can be skewed for political agenda and end up demoralizing children that do not deserve such labels as “failed.”
2. Tests do not measure skills that will be most necessary in an evolving global marketplace. If schools are to emphasize 21st century skills like innovation, creativity, and critical thinking—standardized testing actually discourages those skills. Think too, what message does this send to students? It says learning- the acquisition of knowledge is nothing more than what can be contained in a test, and once you have taken said test, that learning is over.
3. Curriculum, in response to increased accountability to testing, will pare itself down to test-prep. Think about that for a moment. How are students going to compete nationally, let alone globally, if they can only think inside the box (or in this case—inside the bubble)?

Jordan Kohanim

February 21st, 2010
8:44 am

Most teachers will tell you that the problem with merit pay is that it assumes there is a one end goal. That isn’t the case. The role of educators is multi-faceted and it includes objectives that are immeasurable. For example, in talking to one of my colleagues, she said, “If a student enters my ninth grade classroom at a fourth grade reading level, I may not be able to get him to gain substantially in test scores, but I’m definitely going to keep him from dropping out and joining a gang.” Isn’t that an important goal too?
Merit pay also attempt to reward/punish teachers for factors far out their control. Many times in areas with a high transient population, the majority of students that begin the year in August, are not the same ones that are there around test-time in March.
So too, we must acknowledge the fact that the state of Georgia is unable to honor contracts paid to teachers now. How are teachers supposed to trust a system that has broken its legal obligations to teachers already?

Jordan Kohanim

February 21st, 2010
8:44 am

I would love for there to be a multi-level, collaborative, portfolio and observation-based system. I would love for students to be evaluated on different tiers of understanding (and they are in most classrooms), but the bottom line is that educational politics is more of a buffet line than a full-course meal. It always has been. Sadly, politicians are going to choose the things that are most cost-efficient. So away goes portfolio/observation and in comes check list. Out with true measures of achievement and in comes testing that can do more harm than good.

Jordan Kohanim

February 21st, 2010
8:44 am

ALTERNATIVES TO MERIT PAY:

The system we have now is not perfect. However, it does reward teachers for the only factor we can control: our own learning and professional development, our commitment to education, and observations made by our superiors. Instead of removing the locus of control for teachers, why not improve the system we have now? For starters, the state could honor National Board Certification, which is a nationally normed standard used to gauge teacher quality.
For example, many teachers have suggested have a 360 review: that is, having feedback from fellow teachers, community members, as well as students.

Jordan Kohanim

February 21st, 2010
8:45 am

It also important to note that with the current system in place there have been gains, even as teachers are being asked to do more with less. Among Georgia’s public high school seniors in 2009:17.8% scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam during high school. That is higher than the national average of 15.9%.Georgia is tied for 2 in the nation when comparing the five-year increase of public school seniors scoring a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam (5.4% growth compared to 3.2% for the nation.) Georgia ranks 3rd in the nation for its one-year increase of public school seniors scoring a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam (1.5% growth compared to 0.7% for the nation.)

Jordan Kohanim

February 21st, 2010
8:45 am

I don’t understand why Georgia legislators see the need to completely destroy how the community controls the quality of education in favor of a system that has been proven to fail in states like Texas.

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2009/11/texas_merit-pay_pilot_failed_t.html

Jordan Kohanim

February 21st, 2010
8:46 am

PROBLEMS WITH TEST SCORES AS A GAuGE:
1. Most educational research will tell you that these tests are statistically and empirically non-indicative of student achievement, progress, or even potential. In fact, these numbers are so easily manipulated that they can be skewed for political agenda and end up demoralizing children that do not deserve such labels as “failed.”
2. Tests do not measure skills that will be most necessary in an evolving global marketplace. If schools are to emphasize 21st century skills like innovation, creativity, and critical thinking—standardized testing actually discourages those skills. Think too, what message does this send to students? It says learning- the acquisition of knowledge is nothing more than what can be contained in a test, and once you have taken said test, that learning is over.

Jordan Kohanim

February 21st, 2010
8:53 am

Finally, Maureen,

Why does Mr. Buck get to put his views on the pro’s of merit pay on the front page of the Education section? Will AJC offer the same opportunity to the other side of the argument?

Pierce Randall

February 21st, 2010
8:55 am

I always wince at this kind of talk: “There’s no question in my mind that all K-12 teachers in Georgia share the same goal: helping students reach their full potential.”

We have to hire far too many teachers in the United States at public or private schools for us to be able to count on the particular goodwill of that workforce. At some level, any education system has to settle for people with mediocre interest or ability teaching. Rather, the focus should be on creating a system that is cost-effective, and manages the talent we do have in the way that creates the best outcomes.

I have no problem with teachers’ unions aggressively negotiating for their labor conditions, either for pushing against merit pay, pushing to hire more teachers, or pushing for a merit pay system that just pads the current pay system. (That said, the public has the right to push back against these things, until we have teacher pay equilibrium.) I mean, teachers might even, at some level, have the interests of education at heart, but by viewing potential educational reforms through the lens of making their profession economically-sustainable for them–what’s good for teachers, through teachers’ eyes, is almost necessarily good for education.

But this veneer that every teacher is uniquely interested only in the educational outcomes of their students without regard to the general conditions of their profession is not coherent. Yes, teachers are no doubt more concerned with the welfare of students in general than the average person, but that rhetoric puts teachers on a pedestal. Today, any time there’s some scandal about test cheating, the debate divides along the lines of the public thinking that it’s been lied to about the type of people who work in the profession, and some no doubt claiming that attempts at so-called educational reform encourage teaching around the test, and it was only inevitable that some teachers cheat that. We might even imagine that every time a parent, with this idea that teachers, when collectively bargaining for salaries, actually only have what’s good for students in mind, to be quite disillusioned every time they meet a teacher who does not have time to deal with that parent’s every concern, or doesn’t do what that parent thinks is better for their child, even once.

That said, the US pays a non-trivial (but not exorbitant) amount more for its teaching professionals than do other countries with comparable educational outcomes. It’s a little bit overblown that the country as a whole is much worse educationally than other developed countries–we’re usually around the top 11, 12 or so, but just pay more for it. States like Georgia face the particular problem of regional imbalances in education, and that does seem to stem from the degree we pay teachers and administrators less. (Although it’s worth noting, I believe, that most other developed countries in the world have more extreme regional imbalances than the United States.) But, to improve education, we either have to pay more for it, or find some way to make it more efficient.

Merit pay might do the latter, but it’s hard to imagine for reasons I’ve outlined, us hiring only talented, caring teachers across-the-board. We need other answers if the system is going to produce good educational outcomes.

ScienceTeacher671

February 21st, 2010
9:04 am

For reasons already stated, I am not a fan of what we’ve already seen of proposed Pay-for-Performance. As Tony stated, the pay-for-performance plans which have already been implemented, such as NBCT and Georgia Master Teacher have not been funded adequately and/or have been discarded prematurely.

Now the state wants to revise our existing testing protocol and create new layers of testing to implement still another plan? How much will this cost? Note that SB 352 mandates revising current tests so that a child’s CRCT scores from one year can be compared with those of the previous year to ascertain whether or not the child has achieved a year of academic growth – according to SB 352 this calculation would be used to “grade” schools, and apparently it would also be used in conjunction with SB 386 to “grade” teachers. There’s also the matter of developing tests for those subjects which aren’t currently covered by the CRCT or EOCTs.

So far, IMO, this is just another sop to the testing companies along with an attempt to make public schools look bad and cut teacher pay scales.

ScienceTeacher671

February 21st, 2010
9:12 am

@Pierce Randall: Please note that Georgia does not have teachers’ unions, nor does it have collective bargaining for teachers.

One thing I’ve noticed about other developed countries with “better educational outcomes” is that they seem to have a system of accountability for parents and students; i.e., students who don’t perform at a certain level do not get to attend the more prestigious schools, do not get to participate in college preparatory programs, etc. Perhaps we in the United States should consider those points before automatically blaming teachers.

Ninth grade teacher

February 21st, 2010
9:17 am

Thanks Jordan for pointing out the realities of what we face in a “general ed” ninth grade class. Many of my students are entering in without the ability to read the stories in the text. They barely can write. I’m not teaching honors or pre-IB. How are you can going to judge my merit pay based on the clientele that I have? By the end of the semester they may fail the EOCT, but some progress has been made. I can’t give individual attention as we are over-loaded..and now they want more kids in a classroom. It truly is enough to hang it up. I’ve taught for 18 years and finally I’ve reached my limit. I feel disrespected, over burdened, and sadly I truly love teaching, but without support from my administration, community, and government, I don’t think I will be in this field much longer.

ScienceTeacher671

February 21st, 2010
9:19 am

Why is the blog monster eating everything I post???

catlady

February 21st, 2010
9:22 am

I will take pay for performance as along as I identify how we will measure performance, and as long as the other three legs of the stool are also held truly accountable: students, parents, and administration/legislature.

Thank you, Tony, for your analysis.

Pierce, please note that other countries don’t take all comers, and keep them no matter what they do.

ScienceTeacher671

February 21st, 2010
9:24 am

Ninth grade teacher – exactly! Many of my students who have been socially promoted into 9th grade will fail the Physical Science EOCT, because they can’t read it! If someone could read it to them, so that they were being tested on science knowledge rather than reading skills, I have no doubt that more would pass.

Warren Buck

February 21st, 2010
9:26 am

9th GT – The states proposal is based on a value added model where your performance is judged on the progress made with each individual student, not “passing rates”.

I hope you find a school that supports you….they are out there!

Joy in Teaching

February 21st, 2010
9:30 am

Pierce Randall @ 8:55 am stated “I have no problem with teachers’ unions aggressively negotiating for their labor conditions, either for pushing against merit pay, pushing to hire more teachers, or pushing for a merit pay system that just pads the current pay system.”

Where does he get this rot? Georgia is a RIGHT TO WORK state. Teachers in Georgia are not allowed BY LAW to collectively bargain for ANYTHING.

If we were, we definately wouldn’t be rolling over to take it from this stupid governor and his icky greasy minions.

See everyone at the PAGE rally on Tuesday!

d

February 21st, 2010
9:35 am

Warren, the problem is how are they going to measure this. The answer, undoubtedly, will be the easy way. EOCT, CRCT, GHSGT scores which don’t show growth. All of this is in part to obtain the RTTT grant which the governor didn’t follow all the rules and I will be shocked if Georgia “wins” this go-round.

d

February 21st, 2010
9:38 am

Joy in Teaching: the way I read that comment from Pierce is he supports us becoming a collective bargaining state. We could dream, right?

ScienceTeacher671

February 21st, 2010
9:44 am

Joy in Teaching: The PAGE rally has been postponed until the legislature gets back into session, according to an email sent out by Tim Callahan late last week. You might want to check.

Jordan Kohanim

February 21st, 2010
9:45 am

Warren,

Explain “progress made with each individual student.” This is based off test scores, correct?

Scott

February 21st, 2010
9:47 am

As a teacher in a Metro Atlanta system, I too like the idea of having good teachers be rewarded for their performance. I would point out though, that none of us have seen a plan. The devil is in the details. Obviously I don’t have the capacity to put all the problems in this comment. Maureen, have you considered trying to get one of the politicians pushing for merit pay to sit down and explain the details to some educators, and let the educators ask about these pesky details? It would be incredibly informative.

catlady

February 21st, 2010
9:49 am

ST671, It is like that in the elementary grades, as well. We test 3rd graders on the CRCT, and their work on the science, social studies, and MATH sections are predicated on their reading ability, not whether they have learned the material. In second grade, most of the test is read to the students. Then they hit 3rd grade, and, because they are passed along without mastery of skills, they are not able to read the test for themselves.

The first, best thing we can do is to expect mastery of reading and math skills before they are sent on to the next grade. Those who, after 2 years in first grade, for example, show mastery would be quickly evaluated and placed in sped. Then, they would be governed by the IEP and get (assuming the government starts to fund sped again) the help they need.

Scott

February 21st, 2010
9:49 am

One after thought, Mr. Buck suggests that his school has the collegiality without having merit pay at his school. Doesn’t that suggest that the change he is suggesting is possible without revamping our pay system, particularly at a time when we can’t pay teachers their contracted salaries?

ScienceTeacher671

February 21st, 2010
9:53 am

I notice that the KIPP STRIVE academy has a longer school day and a longer school year, and parents and students must agree to attend regularly. Meanwhile, those of us in “regular” schools have a shorter school year due to furlough days, and students who may or may not show up on scheduled days.

math 88

February 21st, 2010
9:55 am

This is one of those things that sound great to the public, because they do not understand the realities of it. For example, the CRCT does NOT show growth. The 6th grade math CRCT is difficult. Without much effort, the passing rate will go up in the 7th grade because the 7th grade math CRCT is easy. The state average was 90% passing. The 8th grade math test is difficult, with an average pass rate of about 70% I think. Now- I teach 8th grade math. I had a 80% pass rate. MUCH higher than the state average but 9 points lower than this same class got last year. Do I get my merit pay? I also have concerns that my own gifted child will be left to fend for herself since she would probably pass the stupid test the first day of school. No teacher will have time to worry with her since she’s a “sure pass”. The teacher will be too busy trying to drag the dead weight over the hill. There’s no question why more public school teachers such as myself are seeking private school for their own children’s education.

ScienceTeacher671

February 21st, 2010
9:56 am

KIPP STRIVE is maintaining a small size and small classes in part to individualize instruction for struggling students, while those of us in “regular” schools are given ever-larger classes and still expected to individualize instruction for students who are academically behind as well as for students who are chronically truant and for students who lack motivation. Where’s the accountability?

ScienceTeacher671

February 21st, 2010
9:57 am

KIPP STRIVE academy mandates parental involvement. Those of us in “regular” schools are sometimes fortunate to have working phone numbers for parents. Where’s the accountability, and where is the accountability needed?

ScienceTeacher671

February 21st, 2010
9:57 am

KIPP STRIVE has a structured and disciplined environment, and parents and students must agree to abide by the rules. In “regular” schools, not so much.

Warren Buck

February 21st, 2010
9:58 am

Scott- actually, at our school, the money is spent well and we have not faced pay cuts. Also, we are paid a little more than our peers at APS schools because we are contracted for longer hours. So, though we don’t have “merit pay”, we do have teachers that have merit pay mind-set, which I believe leads to the collegiality and the school culture that is the hallmark of KIPP’s success.

Also Scott, could not agree with you more on your previous(9:47) post…

rosie

February 21st, 2010
10:05 am

How about a letter from someone with a differing persepctive published together? Let’s look at a differing view point. Sounds like AJC is endorsing Sonny’s pay for performance.

What about the teacher that teaches AP level classes? What about the teacher with a class where at least half of the class is special needs? What about the teacher teaching pregnant or parenting teens missing 30 days or more per year? What about the teacher teaching courses with not CRCT or EOCT?

A pay for performance program will only work if it is based on school wide performance. I think most teachers would go for school wide pay for performance. This type of programs encourages teamwork and cooperation. Such a program would reward all of the teachers in a school for meeting school-wide goals. The individual pay for performance model puts teacher against teacher competing for certain groups of students.

Ole Guy

February 21st, 2010
10:05 am

Someone has just awoken from a long sleep; during that period of slumber, said someone dreamt of everlasting goodwill among all within ed land…respect, support, recognition…all the ideals to be found within the land of milk and honey. Said someone, recently awoken, continues to apply those ideals in the current world of reality.

Look people, please forgive these reality-based comments which probably only serve to stoke the fires of discontent, and at the same time, fuel the demoralization machine which affects teachers statewide. Reading this sort of drivel not only pisses me off but causes me to wonder just how many educators out there are actually content with the status quo, how many professionals within the Georgia educational community, following each kick in the professional pants, are willing to reply with the “Thank you sir may I have another” response.

Concerned Teacher

February 21st, 2010
10:09 am

Merit pay is going right back to the good ol’ boy syndrome. The buddies win and the kids lose . . . again.

Jordan Kohanim

February 21st, 2010
10:09 am

Rosie said; “Sounds like AJC is endorsing Sonny’s pay for performance.” I agree and think offering the other side of the argument in print would be better for everyone. Show both sides and let the people decide.

Forrest Gump

February 21st, 2010
10:11 am

Darren is a fan of our continuously eroding status amongst industrialized nations because of our unwillingness to change the status quo in public education. “Stupid is as stupid does”.

Buckfull of stuff

February 21st, 2010
10:14 am

Private schools, Ron Clark Academy and other charter schools have the one ingredient that the hypocrit public, the hypocrit parents, and some hypocrit teachers refuse to address or put into the equation of merit pay and educational outcomes.

That is the “parents”. Whereas parents AGREE and CONTRACT to support, adhere to, and MAKE their children follow these schools’ rules, regulations, and EXPECTATIONS, the “for real” public schools parents have generally a “laissez faire” or worse a “confrontational” attitude towards schools.

There is a mega difference between having the school bus pick up a kid for a short ride to the local schools and having to drive a kid 10-15 miles to a charter school.

Obama, Arne, Purdue and all other hypocrits must know that popping up a magnet schools in each neighborhood will do NOTHING if parental attitudes DO NOT CHANGE.

Buck, what does KIPP do with the parents who don’t give a flying buck?

Warren Buck

February 21st, 2010
10:15 am

Jordan and Rosie – trust me, there have been leads on this blog against merit pay. I was asked to write this op-ed in response to another excellently argued op-ed written and posted a few weeks ago. I’m sure it is available in the archive.

from Senator Golden

February 21st, 2010
10:18 am

Merit pay plan another bad idea for Georgia schools

By Sen. Tim Golden

In his eighth and final year of office, Gov. Sonny Perdue has his legislative floor leaders pushing a proposal that would do away with salary scales for public school educators based on their experience level, in favor of a “merit pay” system that would be largely tied to students’ scores on standardized tests.

SB 386 is under consideration in the Senate Education & Youth Committee, where it should stay because it is a terrible idea for Georgia’s public schools. Student achievement is – and should be – the ultimate goal of our school system, connecting standardized test scores to teachers’ and administrators’ paychecks is not the way to reach that goal and could, in fact, have an adverse effect.

First of all, standardized testing is only one means of measuring academic success and is not necessarily the most reliable. It is an even less reliable method of evaluating the performance of teachers, because there is nothing “standard” about the classroom resources, academic programs or socioeconomic conditions that exist from one school system to another, much less, one school to another.

Government’s reliance on common evaluation instruments and standardized test scores has already led to charges of educators being encouraged to specifically “teach to the test” rather than providing a broader learning experience that our students will need for success in life. Even worse, dishonesty in the reporting of test scores has already been alleged in some Georgia school systems.

So-called merit pay is promoted by its supporters as a vehicle for increased accountability in our public schools. I am not arguing there is anything wrong with accountability. But when it comes to student achievement, there are many variables that go beyond the efforts of our teachers in the classroom. In addition to holding our educators on the front lines accountable, we must also measure the performance of parents, school board members, state legislators and, yes, our governor.

Under our Constitution, public education is the responsibility of state government. Yet over the last eight years, Gov. Perdue and the legislative majority have shirked most of that responsibility through budget cuts, higher class sizes, unfunded mandates, increased paperwork, teacher furloughs and shifting the tax burden to the local level.

In the amended budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2010, Gov. Perdue proposed slashing another $299 million from K-12 education funding. The Legislature has reduced that number to $281 million, but it stills brings the total school cuts for this year to $692 million. Educators, like other state employees, must take three more unpaid furlough days between now and June 30.

During the budget hearings, state School Superintendent Kathy Cox confirmed the fact that some 35 local school systems across the state are near the financial breaking point. Those school boards must decide whether to make payroll or keep up bond payments on school buildings. Superintendent Cox said more education cuts will have a devastating effect on many more school systems that are “teetering on the edge.” She warned that some systems are already in the red. This leaves local school boards with no choice but to expand class sizes up to 40 students or increase local property taxes, or both.

We all know these are unprecedented economic times, and belt-tightening is to be expected. But when it comes to reducing the funding of public education, this governor proposed drastic Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding cuts in seven out of his eight years in office – whether economic times were good or bad. The only year he did not was 2006, when he was running for re-election.

The eight-year assault on school funding under this administration now totals around $2.3 billion, not only hurting our students but shifting the burden to the local level where property owners are forced to make up the difference. The vast majority of school districts across the state have had to raise property taxes because of the cuts in QBE funding from the state. The governor calls these “austerity cuts,” but as I have said before, there is nothing austere about merely shifting the tax burden from one level of government to another.

Gov. Perdue’s misguided education policies do not stop with QBE funding cuts. He has also attempted to eliminate state funding for school nurses and bonus pay for teachers earning national certification. Meanwhile, as public school funding is slashed to the bone, the governor and the legislative majority passed a huge tax break for private schools and repeatedly pushed for private school vouchers.

Now, on his way out of office, Gov. Perdue is proposing a teacher pay system tied to student test scores. Is there anything more cynical than the state demanding higher test scores while pulling more state resources out of our schools year after year? How can the governor make this proposal with a straight face?

Sen. Tim Golden (D-Valdosta) represents the 8th District and is Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Jordan Kohanim

February 21st, 2010
10:18 am

Warren,

I’m well aware of the other leads. I wrote one. I’m wondering why your piece ends up in print and the other side of the argument does not. Again–offering the other side of the argument in print would be better for everyone. Show both sides and let the people decide.

ScienceTeacher671

February 21st, 2010
10:22 am

I agree with the idea of posting opposing viewpoints side-by-side at the same time.

Warren Buck

February 21st, 2010
10:23 am

BOS – We still keep teaching their child as hard as we can and we make sure that we let the student know that our expectations for him/her do not change just because their parent doesn’t live up to their end of the bargain.

Realistically, there is no “punishment” for a parent who doesn’t do what they’re supposed to (and there are MANY). But we also will not punish the child. If they are behind in the race, we just try to make them run faster….

Buckfull of stuff

February 21st, 2010
10:29 am

…and the kid keeps disrupting, not studying, christmas trees the EOCT/CRCT….. is he/she with you until you graduate him/her to the next level