Teachers: No merit to merit pay arguments

When Centennial High School English teacher Jordan Kohanim suggested that I run a column on the Monday print education page against merit pay to balance the one in favor it last week, I asked if she would write a piece. She and Northview High colleague Ashley Ulrich quickly produced this piece, which runs in Monday’s AJC Opinion section. Enjoy.

By Jordan Kohanim and Ashley Ulrich

Furloughs. Pay cuts. Class size increases. With all these factors, the talk about merit pay and the proposal of Senate Bill 386 brings Georgia public education to a crossroads. By switching to merit pay at this critical time, not only is the legislation dropping the proverbial straw on the camel’s back, legislators are setting up a system that will harm students for much longer than their terms in office.

The bill, which is not clear on how exactly teachers will be compensated, does claim to rely on more than just test scores to gauge teacher quality. Sadly, the fact of the matter is there are not enough resources nor enough time to devote meaningful observations that would measure a teacher’s performance. Test scores would become a large enough factor in determining teacher quality and the devastating effects of relying on such data would become widespread. Test scores also make an easy sound bite for politicians—without getting into the messy business of actually measuring learning.

What is the problem with using testing data to determine teacher effectiveness? It hurts students. First, most educational research argues that testing does not measure 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.” For decades, research has also argued that standardized tests disadvantage large populations of students. By measuring teacher effectiveness partly on this testing, schools that work with these student populations are already set behind, as well. The reverse is also true: schools (and students) at the top of the testing range have difficulty showing substantial gains. How do we quantify a gain when students are already earning “exceeds standards” marks on the CRCT or the EOCT?

Tests also do not measure skills that will be essential in an evolving global marketplace. If schools are to emphasize 21st century skills like innovation, creativity, technical skills, and critical thinking—standardized testing actually discourages them.

Another cause for concern is that curriculum, in response to increased accountability to testing, will pare itself down to test-prep. This has been proven by other states, like New York, who have seen this detrimental shift because of the emphasis on testing. 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)?

Beyond this testing issue, merit pay also presents other drawbacks. The role of educators is multi-faceted and it includes objectives that are immeasurable. For example, one colleague 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.” Isn’t that an important goal too?

Merit pay also attempts to reward or punish teachers for factors far out their control. Teachers cannot control student homelessness, transferring into the school late in the year, or the lack of academic culture in which a student is raised.

At the same time, merit pay will ignore those few factors that are within a teacher’s control: pursuit of upper-level degrees and continuing education. By leaving out raises based at least partly on degrees earned, it will create a void of teachers earning their Masters, Specialist, or Doctoral degree. If a teacher has to devote years and thousands of their own dollars to a degree program, on a teacher salary that gets cut with furloughs and losses of raises, too many teachers will not be able to take that financial and time burden on themselves with no payoff clearly in sight.

There are alternatives to merit pay that can be investigated. 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 abandoning this entirely, 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. Systems could also institute a comprehensive review: that is, having feedback from fellow teachers, community members, as well as students.

Rather than completely destroying how the community controls the quality of education in favor of a system that has been proven to fail in states like Texas, our legislators need to slow down and re-evaluate. Senate Bill 386 is a race for funding, and it lacks any actual plan for implementation in the bill itself. Ultimately, it will lead to demoralizing teachers, stunting innovation in the classroom, dumbing down curriculum, and denying students the first rate education we want for them.

Supporting and passing this bill, as it stands now, starts Georgia’s public education down a slippery slope that is doomed to fail. Once this is done, it will be hard to un-do. Imagine a tractor that slides down a muddy hill and gets stuck. This will be us: spinning wheels and fighting to get any traction at all in a year, or two, or three, when educators and students witness the failures of merit pay firsthand.

Why can’t we try to go about things in a better, fairer, more productive, responsible manner now?

154 comments Add your comment

B. Killebrew

February 28th, 2010
4:29 am

Perfectly written, Jor and Ash!

gwinnett educator\

February 28th, 2010
4:48 am

Enter your comments here

Way to go!

February 28th, 2010
5:07 am

Very well written. It should be forwarded to every Senator on the Senate Education Committee where this bill has been introduced!

Ernest

February 28th, 2010
5:57 am

Well written and thought provoking article! What I like is that while also pointing out the challenges with implementing merit pay the article also offered possible solutions to the overall teacher compensation discussion.

I will say that I am not sure the ‘optimum’ compensation model exists, not just for teachers but for any profession. I know many people have a concern with “just because you get an advanced degree, you get a raise without quantifying if that degree impacts student performance”. At the same time this did provide a way for teachers to make money, where as a profession, the opportunities are somewhat limited outside of the fixed salary schedule.

I wouldn’t mind see something where student growth played a part in determining increases. I acknowledge that high achievers will not have as much measurable growth year over year (unless we removed caps on what the content could be) than some students but there has to be a way we could come up with a reasonable alternative.

teacher

February 28th, 2010
7:12 am

can the governor explain how to determine the salaries for those high school teachers who teach classes without some type of exit test like the eoct or graduation test?

as someone who currently teaches students appropriately placed in college-track classrooms, i could possibly benefit from this new approach since most of my juniors are academically motivated, literate students when they enter our classroom. what about my colleagues who are forced to teach literary analysis skills, for example, to functionally illiterate students who would benefit more from effective communicative skills for the workforce and a more diverse curriculum?

how does the governor address student level and motivation, especially in classes with as many as 33 students? it is concerning to see how little attention is given to the most important participant in education: the student. in my county, the grading scale is devised to emphasize class work and “effort,” not mastery of skills, and teachers are either encouraged or forced to allow students to make up work, no matter how late or inaccurate. many of these “initiatives,” while helpful to a student’s short term goal of a grade, do little to help students’ acquisition of skills or responsibility. does anyone else think it’s strange that the current philosophy in public education, at least in my county and now in the governor’s approach, is one that makes only the teacher accountable? how are the parents involved, and what facilitates the student’s role in his or her success?

as someone who works in a “top heavy” school district, i am equally curious to know how the 900+ employees working in our central office will have their success measured? if these administrators are the ones purchasing ineffective programs and then requiring they be implemented, how are their salaries and qualities of life affected? perhaps they would be more prudent in their decisions to spend our students’ money if they, too, were held accountable for something.

Really?

February 28th, 2010
7:18 am

“First, most educational research argues that testing does not measure student achievement, progress, or even potential. ”

If testing doesn’t measure student achievement, why do teachers give tests? Teachers were using tests to evaluate student achievement long before standardized tests or NCLB came along. Do Ms. Kohanim and Ms. Ulrich really believe that all those teachers have been giving classroom tests and quizzes in a perverse effort to simply demoralize their students? The contention that tests don’t measure student achievement is patently absurd. They are not the only measure of achievement, and a poorly written test is a poor measure of achievement, but to pretend that test results have give no indication of achievement is disingenuous. How many of us would feel comfortable entrusting our health to a physician who failed the licensing exams? While passing the exam doesn’t ensure us that our doctor is competent, it does tell us that s/he has demonstrated mastery of the basics of their field. Whether or not test results should be linked to teacher pay is a worthwhile discussion, but the contention that tests do no measure achievement is ridiculous, and I question the motives of anyone making such an absurd argument.

Naomi Schapley One Teacher

February 28th, 2010
7:34 am

Jordan and Ashley are right when they point out the state can’t possibly fund what it would take to carry out the requirements stated in SB 386 (Obama’s RTT grant wouldn’t even come close). More tests would need to be created, more tests would need to be processed, more administrators would need to be hired in order to complete the yearly observations, etc. And in the midst of a billion dollar budget deficit, introducing bills that would burden tax payers unnecessarily is ridiculous

Naomi Schapley One Teacher

February 28th, 2010
7:42 am

There are two organizations that have sent over 10,000 emails to legislators in the past week telling them exactly what Jordan and Ashley have said: SB 386 is not fair and sustainable. One of those organizations is Teachers Against Merit Pay at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=299584138908&ref=ts . The other is GEA at gaedalliance.org .

Brian Aiken

February 28th, 2010
7:42 am

Extremely well done. You present the issues in a cohesive direct manner. I have yet to hear any word as to how the this plan would compensate teachers of subjects like art and music or PE. Often these are the carrots that give students the incentive to stick to their core classes. The success of “no pass no play” is proof of this.
My other concern is that Ga DID recognize and promise compensation for National Board Certification, only to renege on this commitment. This action leaves the Ga legislature with a huge credibility gap. Again, kudos, well done

questions

February 28th, 2010
7:44 am

How will Georgia measure student growth? You can’t measure it with the current tests in place, unless the ITBS is given in all grades. Even then, the test would need to be given at the beginning and the end of the year.

Naomi Schapley One Teacher

February 28th, 2010
7:47 am

Brian,

With SB 386, teachers–especially new ones–are getting the stick and not the carrot.

specialist teacher

February 28th, 2010
8:10 am

In my title I school, already EIP classrooms are not teaching science or social studies curricula, just intense focus on CRCT skills, reading and math. How soon until all teachers are just drilling for the test? Our principals direct the specialists to “teach content” within our areas. What has happened to teaching the arts for the sake of arts education? what has happened to whole child learning? A nation of students well trained in how to take a standardized test will be the result of pay for performance!

Nikole Allen

February 28th, 2010
8:27 am

@ Really—Formative assessment has been used by teachers to assess progress, but so has our own observation. These are informal, used to help me adjust my teaching, There is no pressure mounted upon students. It may have been better for the authors to put “standardized” testing in the place of testing.

Suze Berry

February 28th, 2010
8:31 am

The statistics involved in this is beyond reality. In order for all teachers to be on an equal playing field, every single class will have to be tracked and documented for the beginning ability of all students, the movement of students (when did kids enter the class), how many ESOL or special needs kids and where are they on the skill level, absences of students (because it has been researched and proven that school attendance is more a factor of school success than intelligence – or will teachers also be held accountable for the number of days their students are absent ), and dozens of other items. To ensure equality in merit pay the data needed would be beyond the ability of a school system to deal with. Of course, we’re all fairly certain that the state wouldn’t bother to collect this amount of data – it would be cost prohibitive – which means that teachers are going to end up being evaluated on criteria that they have no control over. The only facts involved in the bill is that it is an ill-thought out response to a grab for federal bucks (should we even mention here that according to the U.S. Constitution federal government has no business in education) and an attempt to save paying teachers with advanced degrees larger salaries. Why pay a teacher $70,000 a year for a masters or specialist degree when they can pay someone with a BA or BS half that amount? Looking at Georgia’s education budget cuts over the last 6-8 years shows a pretty clear picture of where our lawmakers place the education of our young people. However, when all is said and done I will be happy to support merit pay for our teachers just as soon as the governor and his cabinet, the school superintendents, and the boards of education are placed on one as well.

Happy Teacher

February 28th, 2010
8:36 am

Well written article.

Here is a fascinating, albeit brief, look at what makes a great teacher for this generation of scholars, which I think is germane to this conversation.

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/secrets-americas-greatest-teachers-9961455

Reality Check

February 28th, 2010
8:36 am

Great article Ladies…..

For starters, the state could honor National Board Certification, which is a nationally normed standard used to gauge teacher quality. Systems could also institute a comprehensive review: that is, having feedback from fellow teachers, community members, as well as students.

Now, if you could just take the above and remove all the “Political Correctness” and other nonsense (including “Race Bias” from reviews) then it might work; however, me thinks that anything done along these lines would be “subjective” at best and still would not give a good picture of the person being reviewed. How ’bout just teaching the class, give tests once a week and a final at the end of the term……those that pass, pass……those that don’t, fail…..I would think that approach would certainly give the teacher a great incentive to actually teach and to help those in need of additional help…….or is this approach too simple? Teachers have to be held accountable just as most everyone holding a position at a private company…….there has to be a measure of effectiveness……passing/failing interim tests and finals seem logical to me…..of course, I’m just a dumb high school graduate and I know nothing.

No to merit pay

February 28th, 2010
8:43 am

Go Jordan and Ashley!!!

Reality Check

February 28th, 2010
8:53 am

If I’ve already said it, why hasn’t it been posted?

fultonschoolsparent

February 28th, 2010
9:12 am

It’s unbelievable that the legislature is coming up with yet another extremely vague program that would be cost prohibitive at exactly the same time that furloughs are rampant. It’s just another attempt to throw up a smoke screen that keeps the focus off of the mess the legislature has already created over the past 8 years in education by slashing funding. Roy Barnes was arrogant, but Sonny Perdue is just stupid.

MS Man

February 28th, 2010
9:20 am

There is already a mechanism in place to ensure that students who aren’t in a teacher’s classroom for the Full Academic Year are not counted for AYP. FAY doesn’t count any student for AYP who wasn’t enrolled on both the Fall and Spring FTE count day. If they weren’t there those days, they don’t count for the academic achievement portion of AYP for schools. This would be a fair way to counter the argument about transient students. I also think that PE and Art and Music could easily create performance measures that were locally controlled but outlined by a state process that would demonstrate growth over time. I think that local districts should be given an outline on how to measure growth, but not have to really on a state created/state administered exam (CRCT, EOCT, etc.) to measure growth. Of course, that causes districts to need to share information, processes, and assessment ideas. It could happen…

catlady

February 28th, 2010
9:32 am

I am guessing instituting this would have an even MORE chilling effect on identification of sped kids than the rediculous way we have implemented RTI.

Have the authors looked at Class Keys? We are told it will be part of the evaluation, instead of GTOI (I am guessing it is in addition to GTOI and the monthly “snapshots”) (because we know, no matter how stupid, we never drop these state-devised things because that would impact people at the state DOE). With class keys, you will spend hours more each day documenting each breath you take, and justify why you took the breath, plus test the students before and after you take the breath. Complete with copies of EVERYTHING. I am not kidding!

ScienceTeacher671

February 28th, 2010
9:41 am

When I worked in the private sector, the company recognized the value of continuing education, and would pay for it. Education required to maintain job skills was paid in full, and education designed to improve job skills was sometimes paid in full and sometimes in large part.

Contrast this with the education sector, which requires employees to pay out of pocket even for the skills to maintain their certification.

ScienceTeacher671

February 28th, 2010
9:58 am

Congratulations to Jordan and Ashley on a well-written explanation of how many teachers feel about SB 386!

I don’t understand why our legislators would want to commit to what would necessarily be significant and expensive revisions and additions to our state testing program while the state is in a deficit situation. I still wonder if someone in state government is profiting when the testing industry gets more business from Georgia.

Tip of the Iceberg

February 28th, 2010
10:01 am

Jordan, Ashley (and Maureen):
Thanks for starting this important discussion.
Any teacher or principal who studies page 100 of Georgia’s Race to the Top Grant Application will see what our Governor has planned for us. SB386 is just Sonny’s mini-me version of RTTT.

The designers of the state and federal versions of these merit pay plans haven’t done their homework. At the very least, they have ignored some very strong research that is well documented in Daniel Pink’s latest work, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. Motivation 2.0 (the Carrot or Stick approach) appears to work well with simple manual tasks like punching out widgets on the assembly line, but it doesn’t work well with more complex tasks like designing a new widget. (Teaching or leading a school is a very complex task.) Pink explains the short-term and long-term pitfalls of the rewards and consequences approach and actually shows us a better way with his Motivation 3.0. There are lessons in his work for politicians and teachers.

catlady

February 28th, 2010
10:03 am

Any sight of my 9:20 posting?

Mo' Freddie

February 28th, 2010
10:13 am

This is a very well written letter and I too agree that merit pay would be detrimental to our profession and to the children we teach. I would like to know how this merit pay program (and that voucher bill) will be fully funded statewide admist the current economic climate? How are we teachers expected to do our jobs the best way we can when Purdue and them are cutting everything, yet expecting us to raise student achievement?

It’s time for teachers to take a stand for their profession and their students. I am a firm believer that one will do what is allowed. If the status quo is allowed to continue doing what they are doing, then this mess will continue. It is time for all educators and supporters to take a stand; “this state is a non-unionized state” is a mere excuse. Write to your senators. Let’s have more protests. Something…Waiting for the next election cycle may be too late; the time is NOW!

There is strength in numbers. But if the numbers are not there, fired up and fed up, then we become part of the problem. Apparently, they are not taking us seriously now.

Explain

February 28th, 2010
10:18 am

Can anybody explain why it isn’t anything but absolute insanity to base teacher pay on test scores when we still don’t have a handle on what may be the biggest cheating scandal in the history of public education in Georgia?

Reality Check

February 28th, 2010
10:26 am

For starters, the state could honor National Board Certification, which is a nationally normed standard used to gauge teacher quality. Systems could also institute a comprehensive review: that is, having feedback from fellow teachers, community members, as well as students.

Now, if you could just take the above and remove all the “Political Correctness” and other nonsense (including “Race Bias” from reviews) then it might work; however, me thinks that anything done along these lines would be “subjective” at best and still would not give a good picture of the person being reviewed. How ’bout just teaching the class, give tests once a week and a final at the end of the term……those that pass, pass……those that don’t, fail…..I would think that approach would certainly give the teacher a great incentive to actually teach and to help those in need of additional help…….or is this approach too simple? Teachers have to be held accountable just as most everyone holding a position at a private company…….there has to be a measure of effectiveness……passing/failing interim tests and finals seem logical to me…..of course, I’m just a dumb high school graduate and I know nothing.

Reality Check

February 28th, 2010
10:32 am

So, Maureen, it seems that, because you choose not to post my comment, you don’t value opinions that you find different :)

Lee

February 28th, 2010
10:36 am

“If a student enters my ninth grade classroom at a fourth grade reading level…”

Ahhh, there’s the rub. How many times have I read a similar statement on this blog? And when I read that comment, I would venture to say that the vast majority of the time, it is because one or more teachers in the previous grades did not do their job.

And yet those same teachers are getting their step up raises simply because they’ve logged another year in the system. They are receiving raises because they’ve obtained advanced degrees from some on-line diploma mill.

Still, no one asks the question “Do we really need to pay premium wages for PE teachers with Phd’s?”

We taxpayers are footing the bill, but our children are paying for it…..

Explain

February 28th, 2010
10:37 am

@Really, is lifting a 300 lbs barbell an measurement of strength? Yes, and if a trainer was to get his move his client from lifting 300 lbs to 350 lbs, he could demonstrate his effectiveness according to the test of lifting the barbell.

But what if the trainer has a client who can only lift 50 lbs? That trainer could help his client make huge gains, from 50 lbs to 200 lbs, so if that client still can’t lift 300 lbs at the end of the year, do we say the trainer failed to provide growth, even though that client made bigger gains than the one who lifted 350 lbs?

According to this bill, we simply don’t know, because the people pushing this bill won’t provide a simple answer to a straightforward question. Or other straightforward questions, such as how you can base a bill on test scores right now when the entire integrity of the testing process in Georgia has been called into question.

@Really, if entire departments in your company had their sales figures called into question, would you want your pay based on your sales figures compared to those of your peers?

Numbers, numbers

February 28th, 2010
10:47 am

Here are the numbers Mo’ Freddie. Teachers have made the choice to make PAGE the largest educational organization in this state. And what did mighty PAGE do when teachers were furloughed?

Mighty PAGE took to the pages of the AJC and suggested that teachers need to act more professionally. You have administrative bloat that has spiraled out of control for years, and PAGE is silent, but when teachers’ pay is cut after they signed their contracts, mighty PAGE takes to this paper and says teachers need to act more professionally?

And teachers kept their membership in PAGE? And teachers complain that their voices aren’t being heard and taken seriously?

As poorly as teachers are being treated these days, maybe it’s time for teachers to look at themselves, and who they choose to represent their concerns, and ask themselves if they aren’t being active co-creators in their own misery?

Mo' Freddie

February 28th, 2010
10:48 am

@ explain…

For starters, test scores are the easiest way to appease the public in demonstrating student achievement. Any educator will tell you that measuring student achievement is a multi-faceted task. That’s why some schools are high performers and some are not. Yet all teachers are held to the same standards. That’s one of many reasons merit pay in education is so unfair.

While effective instruction given by teachers are crucial to student achievement, it is not the only attribute needed to increase student achievement. However, many of those who are in power lack the fundamentals in education and learning. These same individuals have the authority to tell us teachers how to do our jobs. So this is what you get…

As the cliche goes, “when there is a will, there is a way”. Many good-hearted people, who the public put their trust in, compromise their beliefs and the public trust to save their schools and their jobs. It doesn’t make it right; but this is where we are, where bad decision-making begats more bad decision-making. Adding merit pay to this equation will ensure more cheating incidents.

WhatAreTheChoices?

February 28th, 2010
10:52 am

PAGE hasn’t done a lot, but what has GAE done?

For that matter, what have AFT and MACE done? And are these options available statewide?

What’s left?

Tiffany

February 28th, 2010
10:58 am

@Really? – By testing, these two educators mean STANDARDIZED TESTING. You would have failed on that reading comprehension bubble. Does that mean you deserve less funding?

justbrowsing

February 28th, 2010
11:01 am

I would need to see more information about how a teacher’s added value is going to be formulated. I am unable to see how this can be achieved without giving tests at the 9, 18, and 27 week marks and this will ultimately cost tax payers more money. Is it worth the hassle? Tennessee tried a similar model and it also had mixed results- 3 percent increase in math scores and no significant changes in reading. With research available that discredits this process, why are we so hell bent on adopting what has proven to be ineffective in every state where merit pay scales have been implemented? At this point, any candidate for the governorship who endorses this plan will not have my vote. It will be the deciding factor for me at the polls. This is absolute garbage. Can they provide any research that “merits” it’s full scale implementation? What research shows that it has made a difference for students- anywhere? Pure folly.

Mo' Freddie

February 28th, 2010
11:05 am

@ Numbers, Numbers: We are >>>here<<<

Although I am not a member of PAGE, I do understand why teachers would continue to pay membership there — for legal protection. However, quite frankly, neither teacher association (including GAE and MACE) are doing enough to fire up their members to take a stand. As a result, when others say crap like "you should be thankful for having a job", many teachers here take too much heed in that, thus becoming fearful and complacent.

Again, one will do what is allowed. Indeed, we teachers need to look hard in the mirror. Those teachers who know what's need to be done refuse to be the scarifical limbs; they will just leave the profession. If nothing is done, I may be in that number.

Numbers, numbers

February 28th, 2010
11:05 am

GAE hasn’t been much better, if at all. Even in a system notorious for administrative bloat, DeKalb County, ODE the DeKalb County branch of GAE said on their website they oppose any cuts in administration, even as teachers’ retirement benefits were being reduced.

How do teachers in DeKalb not conclude that ODE made it a higher priority to protect administrative bloat, in a system notorious for it, than they did to protect teachers from having pay and benefits cut?

As bad as teachers are being treated in Georgia, and as sorry as you can feel for them concerning this treatment, it may be time for teachers to look at themselves and see if they aren’t being co-creators in their own mistreatment, by who they let choose to speak for their concerns.

RJ

February 28th, 2010
11:10 am

@specialist teacher, I agree 100%. I spend most of my day teaching “content” subjects. Physical Education, Music, Art, Foreign Language are all thrown to the curb. We are desperate to make AYP. I am not qualified to teach reading or math, yet I am forced to abandon MY content to teach these subjects. The whole child is being completely ignored. The sad part is that I don’t think this is going to even work.

This is a great article. Will the powers that be actually read it and attempt to do what is right?

jane

February 28th, 2010
11:10 am

I am a retired educator who earned an EdS during my career. I am disturbed that this article, filled with poorly constructed sentences and rambling discourse, was written by college-educated individuals who are also educators.

Mo' Freddie

February 28th, 2010
11:12 am

So why two of my comments are not posted? I don’t think I am saying anything offensive.

What’s the deal?

:(

Mo' Freddie

February 28th, 2010
11:18 am

@ Numbers, Numbers:

In my opinion, coming from an unionized state, none of the teacher associations here in Georgia is doing enough to fire up their members to take a stand. Most teachers who are members pay their membership for so-called legal protection. But I do agree with you on this; teachers are a HUGE part of the problem for allowing this to go on for so long. Those individuals who know what need to be done will just leave the profession if nothing worthwhile is done. I may be in that number.

disturbia

February 28th, 2010
11:18 am

If this article disturbs her, e e cummings must drive poor Jane insane.

I think if I were a retired educator, I’d be much more concerned with the ongoing assault on the teaching profession in Georgia, and how that ultimately affects students.

Chris M.

February 28th, 2010
11:21 am

Great article, thanks for posting. Another thing to question in relation to this “merit pay” proposal is, how will Special Education teachers be evaluated differently? Many Special Education students have testing accommodations because of their disabilities during the school year, but don’t perform well on standardized tests like the CRCT because the accommodations cannot be implemented as effectively on a standardized test? With the “inclusive” classroom being strongly pushed, there are more and more Special Education “collaborative/interrelated” teachers than ever before. Our students do not test as well..we worry, will this put us on the bottom of the pay totem pole?

The new CRCT

February 28th, 2010
11:27 am

Let’s see if the General Assembly can get a sample CRCT science question correct.

The General Assembly’s actions toward teachers best represents

A- a wise old owl.
B- a snake in the grass
C- a jackass
D- Both B and C

Happy Teacher

February 28th, 2010
11:28 am

The conclusions of this article are very interesting:

http://www.nctq.org/nctq/images/nctq_io.pdf

Especially when they are contrasted with the views of teachers that are against merit pay.

(BTW- isn’t it just possible Mrs. Downey is busy on this beautiful Sunday and unable to free posts from the blog monster? Probably not a huge conspiracy…)

Explain

February 28th, 2010
11:33 am

Happy teacher, how can anyone advocate for pay based even partly on test scores at this time when we haven’t even begun to get a handle on what may very well be the largest cheating scandal in the history of public education in this state?

Shouldn’t the trust in the sanctity of the testing process be restored first, before we even begin to ask teachers to buy into this?

Joy in Teaching

February 28th, 2010
11:41 am

@ Happy Teacher

Given the fact that you have taught for less than 3 years and not all at the same school, I respect the fact that you are still naive things in the education biz. When you’ve been teaching long enough to have been screwed over by the state of Georgia (and you will be), I have a feeling that you won’t be so quick to trust that politicians will stand by their word.

Committed Educator

February 28th, 2010
11:42 am

The Rand Corporation conducted a study on implementing Merit Pay in Florida. Below is a synopsis of the research that may assist our policy makers here in Georgia.

“Our results suggest serious challenges to using standardized test scores to measure teacher performance as part of a merit pay system. Ideally, a system would be transparent and easy to understand, since this would help policy makers and teachers to understand what exactly is
needed to earn a bonus award. A system must also isolate the contributions of each teacher from the prior academic achievement of students assigned to each class. Policy makers should be wary of adapting performance measures without a thorough understanding of the properties of a particular measure. Errors in defining teacher merit will distort the incentive effects of bonuses and may distort the effort of teachers in promoting student learning.

Performance measures should be based on multiple years of data on students and teachers. Single‐year measures of teacher performance are highly volatile given the relatively small numbers of students taught by a teacher in a given year and the idiosyncrasies of student
assignments. Policymakers should monitor the bonus awards and examine patterns of awards across teachers and schools. While high‐ or low‐quality teachers might be disproportionately assigned to some grades, subjects, or schools, strong patterns in the data may also suggest that the performance measure is biased. For example, suppose that bonus incidence is higher for suburban schools than for central city schools. This finding might indicate that teaching performance is truly
better at the suburban schools, but the finding might alternatively indicate that the measure of teacher performance is correlated with prior class achievement.

Policymakers should be careful to adopt performance measures with good statistical properties, but they should also be proactive in searching out and resolving potential problems with the measure that is adopted.

Policymakers should also monitor the trends in student achievement scores overall and for various student groups (e.g., low‐ versus high‐proficiency students). A key benchmark for the merit pay reform is whether overall achievement levels rise with the implementation of a merit pay system. Disproportionate changes for some groups relative to others may indicate that the teacher reward system is placing undue emphasis in improvements for some segments of students.

Teacher performance should be based on growth in student achievement and not on the proficiency level of students in a teacher’s class. Teachers who are assigned students with high prior achievement are much more likely to have high end‐of‐year proficiency scores than are
teachers who are assigned students with low prior achievement. Simple proficiency measures will distort the contribution of an individual teacher to student learning and provide undue “merit” rewards for teachers who are assigned high proficiency students.

Our primary analysis has focused on measuring teacher performance using standardized test scores. However, many performance‐related pay systems, including MAP, also include subjective evaluation of teacher performance in the award calculation. The literature on subjective evaluations suggests that these evaluations will be compressed, especially when the evaluations are part of a merit pay system. As a result, the evaluations may implicitly carry a small weight as compared with test‐based performance measures and play little role in how
bonuses are awarded. Districts should monitor evaluations to assess their effectiveness and role in the merit awards. If evaluations do uncover important differences among teachers, the ranking system should be adjusted to assure that these evaluations are weighted appropriately.
More research is needed on how classroom evaluations from principals and other observers correspond with performance measures based on student achievement results. Little is known about what specific classroom practices and strategies translate into test score outcomes.
Similarly, teacher performance measures, like those used in a merit pay plan, might be related some teacher preparation courses or professional development programs.

A better understanding of what factors contribute to better classroom success would help districts to hire and train better teachers and to encourage more effective classroom practices.

What are the prospects for merit pay? The traditional compensation schedule links teacher pay to educational background and experience—two factors that have weak to nonexistent relationships with classroom success. It is true that no merit pay system will meet all the
challenges and develop a perfect measure of teacher performance. The key issue is whether the incentive and sorting effects of an admittedly imperfect merit pay system can improve the quality of the teacher workforce. We believe that piloting such systems and carefully
monitoring their results is a valuable exercise.”

jane

February 28th, 2010
11:43 am

Ur rite disturbia we dont need to wory about litle detals
I am concerned about the “state of education” in Georgia and the United States.
I devoted 31years to a profession I loved and am still closely tied to by family and friends.
No need for clever comebacks – it is serious business.