UGA prof: Merit pay could turn children into “producing” workforce coerced to create “profit margin” scores

Despite all the attention on this blog to merit pay, UGA professor Stephanie Jones asked a question that we have yet to consider: Would merit pay for teachers legislate 21st child labor?

I am running her piece on the Monday education page, but here is a preview. I liked her essay because it raised scenarios I had not considered. Here is the piece by Jones, an associate professor in the Department of Elementary and Social Studies Education at the University of Georgia:

In many places around the globe, young children toil in factories, harvest fruits and vegetables, clean houses, and perform other “jobs” we don’t want to imagine young children doing. This forced work in sweatshops, in factory farms, or in the illicit sex and drug trades is roundly condemned as “child labor.”

But what happens when you put about a million children in 1st through 8th grade classrooms across the state of Georgia and force them to work under conditions where their individual teacher’s salary will be determined by the children’s performance on a state standardized test or other metric? Is it Child Labor? Whom the children would be working for at that point – and what they would be working for – becomes unclear.

United States Child Labor activists in the early 1900s were concerned about children laboring in factories and fields from morning until night. They claimed that such labor eclipsed opportunities in childhood to be involved with both physical recreation and mental stimulation. In other words, the child was being exploited for the economic benefits of others while the child’s interests and well-being were outright neglected. Activists sought to end this practice and argued for a free, compulsory education for all children that – presumably – would not exploit children for the economic benefits of others. Child Labor laws made it illegal to work youth during traditional school hours for these reasons.

Today up to a million children in Georgia – all below the legal age limits for work – board a school bus before sunrise and can still be found slumping over “homework” well after nightfall. Physical recreation during school hours – that chunk of time during the day when it is illegal to “work” youth – has all but disappeared.

Child Labor activists in the U.S. were concerned about the physical health, emotional well-being, and intellectual pursuits of children. They saw the working conditions of child laborers as worse than unethical: long hours, no breaks, no recreation, and no space for rich intellectual endeavors were considered to undermine human potential and the long-term health of a larger society.

Ask a child how she spends her seven-plus hours of school each day and a similar list of unethical practices may be compiled.

Tell that child’s teacher that her salary will depend on the testing performance of that child and chart the negative consequences on children’s working conditions in schools. Teachers – workers in the system controlled by bosses above  – will be exploited. Students – the “producing” workers in the system whose production of test scores will determine reward for those above them – will be exploited.

Business owners and supervisors worked children for long hours with no breaks and no recreation (and no choice in the matter) because they assumed they would benefit economically from the intensity of the child’s labor. Some may have recognized these practices as abusive, but the economic incentive was too seductive. What was best for children and their overall education and well-being was neglected under conditions of Child Labor. The neglect of children’s social, emotional, physical, academic needs inside schools where they spend most of their waking hours for most of their childhood is likely to become accepted practice under Merit Pay legislation linked to test scores.

How do we want adults in school to our children? Is it okay with parents if other adults look at our child and see them as potential “assets” for raising their salaries or potential “deficits” for lowering their salaries? What kind of pressure might a child feel when he learns that his teacher’s earnings are connected to his test scores?

How hard will a teacher push a child if she or he is trying to create a higher “profit margin” in test scores? Are we willing to sacrifice children and the rights they won through Child Labor laws in the early 1900s?

The focus in education has centered on big debates about teacher and school accountability for too long. These debates exclude children’s experiences of policy and the roles they are forced into every time new legislation passes. Putting our focus back on children has the potential to remind us who matters in these debates and the prices children are paying for adults’ thoughtless actions. Merit Pay linked to test scores is a move toward implementing a 21st century version of Child Labor. Multiple measures of success for children, teachers, and schools can put us back on track. Schools were not meant to be factories where children toil, indeed compulsory education for all was viewed as the antithesis of child labor. The ethical treatment of children should be a measure of success for teachers and schools, alongside multiple measures of children’s academic growth and overall well-being.

64 comments Add your comment

d

October 31st, 2010
11:43 am

People rarely explore the unintended consequences of their actions.
In my economics class, I teach the following:
1) People make choices
2) Choices have costs that lie in the future
The problem is that we, as a society, continue to allow people who have absolutely no clue how to run a classroom try to tell the professionals how to do it. I’ve used this analogy before, and I will do so again…. as a classroom teacher, I will not try to tell Sonny Perdue how to neuter a dog. I haven’t a clue. Why does he believe that with his expertise in the veterinary field, he knows how to teach my classroom? One of my colleagues said that the next time someone comes in to tell her how to run her classroom or teach a concept, she is going to tell that person to show her how to do it. How can someone who knows neither the content nor the pedagogy do it? These outsiders coming in have no clue so they think the best way to “improve” the education of American students is to pressure teachers into raising test scores without looking at the unintended consequences. I’ve been told by a higher up in the DCSS, who interestingly enough does not hold an actual teaching certificate in Georgia, that I need to “scaffold” my children’s learning when I asked how to meet artificial deadlines for testing when the students have come in without the basic understanding of skills needed to be successful in the economics course. In other words, when I have to take class time teaching basic graphing skills, I still must hold firm to the deadline to make sure the students know how to manipulate supply and demand curves or I personally will be held accountable for a lack of student achievement. You can see where teacher frustration comes in.

Just as a closing note, I’m going to quote Dr. King:
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

We have NCLB’d our children so far into standardized testing oblivion that we have forgotten how to teach children to think critically and build character. They don’t know how to question. They don’t know how to reason. This will be the downfall of the American education system.

Below the City

October 31st, 2010
12:16 pm

I agree with d. I teach middle schoolers. Our feeder school is a School of Excellence! It has been for several years; however, our middle school cannot meet AYP! Our students cannot THINK! I feel so sorry for them. They have been done a great inservice. It is not our elementary school’s fault. They are doing what is expected of them – and doing a great job! But the way the teachers have to teach in order for the students to meet AYP is detrimental to the thinking skills of the students. When they get to us, they expect to learn the same way, but our standards need for them to think! They cannot. They cannot even write in cursive. (That’s not tested on the CRCT, so it is not taught). Wonder what else our children aren’t going to learn because it is not tested on the CRCT?

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schlmarm

October 31st, 2010
12:29 pm

@ d, you are spot on, excellent points. Merit pay is a disaster for all concerned. As it is, students have become “data” producers, and nothing us. Countless Central Office “facilitators” with virtually no classroom experience micromanage the classroom teacher. Our system is broken.

schlmarm

October 31st, 2010
12:31 pm

“us” should be “else” sorry for the typo.

Competitive

October 31st, 2010
1:06 pm

Professor Jones has proven with her ridiculous editorial that having higher education degrees (especially when they come from the School of Education) does not guarantee actual intelligence.

Simple questions to Ms. Jones: What is the job of a teacher if it is not to increase learning and achievement in our students? Are teachers not supposed to push our students to maximize their learning potential? Do you really believe that free compulsory education is not designed to economically benefit others (ask every candidate for every political office in the last 50 years if improving education is supposed to have an economic benefit for all)? Should teachers allow students to do whatever they want during class because we might otherwise be impeding on their “right” to leisure? Finally, if this is the type of philosophy you are pushing in your education classes, how do you feel about the woeful lack of preparation you are providing to the future teachers stepping into the real world classrooms they will be entering?

I feel dumber for having read this crap. Unbelievable.

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Ella Smith

October 31st, 2010
2:41 pm

I think that there has to be a medium position on this. I agree that the treatment of students has to be a top priority. However, the product of our schools should be educated students and today we are not always producing educated students.

As an educator we do need to look at what we are doing constantly and constantly try to make improvements so that more students continue to make more achievement progress.

I am not against merit pay. However, I think care needs to be given in putting merit pay in place. This is not something that should be put into affect without a great deal of planning and thought.

d

October 31st, 2010
2:47 pm

@Competitive I think you miss the major point to the article – I doubt the author is not in favor of compulsory education, but rather is the method in which we are assessing our children producing the result that is comparative to unpaid sweatshop labor. Do you honestly believe a child’s ability to properly fill in a scantron is the best way to measure whether or not he or she has learned? How do we know where that child came from? As I mentioned in my earlier post, if a child does not have the base set of skills necessary to do my curriculum, how much time do I dedicate to ensuring that I can get the child ready to learn supply and demand before actually teaching supply and demand? Has the child not learned anything if I have him properly reading and constructing a line graph if he did not have the skill before? Yet according to your argument, I am an ineffective teacher because he does not yet understand supply and demand in the time allotted. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing against assessment of student learning, but should my worth as a teacher be measured based on artificial time lines and standards set by those who don’t know what is really going on in the classroom? At what point does my word and training as a professional come to mean something? Education has to be something beyond the strict memorization of facts, figures, and dates. If we are not teaching our children to actually think for themselves, to analyze information, to evaluate data, then our republic, created by some of the greatest thinkers of their time, is doomed to become a footnote in the pages of history.

Ed Johnson

October 31st, 2010
2:47 pm

Great that Prof. Jones’ scenarios help to break through some thinking barriers!

Now, look to see the scenarios’ underlying archetype, where standardized tests scores themselves are the currency for trading in children’s value in school. Merit pay simply elevates the trading to include mainly teachers, so makes an already bad paradigm worse.

Too many of us continue to think that the best way to improve school always lies in “doing to” somebody rather than “doing with” anybody, that the problem is never the system as designed and operated by those in charge. The “doing to” superintendencies of Atlanta and D.C. show the falacy and the consequences. What more proof might one need?

What's best for kids?

October 31st, 2010
2:48 pm

I absolutely agree with the author. Our high schoolers get more breaks than do the elementary kids. The little ones get maybe fifteen minutes a day. The high schoolers get thirty (a five minute break after every class) and then at least 25 for lunch. I hate seeing what these children are forced to do without breaks.

have we forgotten?

October 31st, 2010
3:23 pm

wow, a lot of ppl have forgotten what is was like in elementary and HS. I lived for recess and got by in school work. Sports, friends, and weekends in HS ruled. Think critically; you have to be kidding. I have three degrees and it wasn’t until I hit my thirties that I was able to even know what self analysis and critical thinking were. Maybe thats why the founding fathers put an age restriction for becoming President.

STOP, think about what ppl are saying 10 year olds think critically? HMMMMM…. A fifteen year old boy think critically? HMMMMMM…..

Teachers can provide information, procedures, and facts to the students that are willing to learn…. important part for STUDENTS WILLING TO LEARN

Seems most ppl in these Ivory towers and paper printers have totally forgotten about BRAIN MATURITY?

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It's gotten ridiculous.

October 31st, 2010
4:15 pm

I am currently seeing this first hand in my son’s first grade classroom. I liken the teacher to a heart specialist with no bedside manner. When it comes to academics she is spot on, but the kids are petrified of her. Homework is not graded but heaven for bid if they don’t complete an assignment. We get a note the other day about how disappointed she is that very few in the class have used a particular website for furthering education. Reading 25 minutes a night, homework that takes 20-25 minutes and then testing questions on the computer on top of that? Are you serious? The kid is in first grade. These kids have already spent 7+ hours in school. This teacher is doing everything possible to make her children succeed regardless of the method and the damage she is causing to the children. It’s not every teacher at the school – unfortunately we got “one of them”.

wagnert in atlanta

October 31st, 2010
5:08 pm

UGA professor Stephanie Jones exemplifies what is wrong with the teaching of teaching today. She frightens herself with a concocted boogeyman — children enslaved by teachers frantic to earn merit pay — while ignoring the actual monster, an educational system that produces high-school graduates who can’t read their own diplomas. Merit pay may not be the complete answer to this problem, but it can help — if we can’t fire the totally inept teacher, at least we don’t have to pay him the same salary as the good teacher, and maybe he’ll get the idea and quit. It is interesting to note that the education establishment — the NEA and the schools of education — inhabit a world in which the problems of education can be cured by more teachers being paid more (and no teacher ever being fired), whereas the public’s cure is better teachers being held responsible for the quality of their product — the student — and bad teachers being fired.

Enough!

October 31st, 2010
5:10 pm

@ It’s gotten ridiculous. If you think it is bad now, just wait until the teacher has a cool $10,000 or more of her salary based on her students’ test scores. Everyone will hate school; the students, the teachers, and the parents. And don’t forget that the administrators’ salaries will be based on the test scores of the school as a whole, they will be riding those teachers like donkeys to get results.

Aiken Faque

October 31st, 2010
5:47 pm

The question here is not that we have ineffective teachers, we do. The question you must ask is why Principles have not gotten rid of them. Two come quickly to mind. There is a huge leadership vacuum at the Principle level, and schools have little to no effective professional development programs. Many of the problems that you want to blame on teachers would disappear if we had better leadership at the Principle level.

The Principal is responsible for everything that occurs or fails to occur in each school.

That is Leadership 101.

bootney farnsworth

October 31st, 2010
5:54 pm

God above, that woman is allowed to teach?
I’d bet my car she’s tenured. Only tenured faculty come up with
such stupidity.

child labor? as a boogieman for merit pay?
only a liberal can come up with such tripe.

are our kids working too hard in some schools?
yup. is it because too much is expected of them?
for the most part, nope.

its because far too many faculty at all levels are pitiful
at doing their job correctly. they waste time, are unprepaired,
and are more consumed with internal political pissing contests
than being effective in class.

at GPC where I work, we hve two kinds of faculty. those who
give a damn, and those who spend their time whinning. and its
amazing how many of the ones who give a damn are effective in
class and how many of the whiners aren’t.

bootney farnsworth

October 31st, 2010
5:55 pm

@ Aiken

stop talking sense

bootney farnsworth

October 31st, 2010
5:56 pm

I have major concerns with merit pay, but child labor?
sweatshops?

hardly

bootney farnsworth

October 31st, 2010
5:57 pm

if Stephanie is so concerns about evil profit, I’m sure the UGA
foundation would be more than happy to relieve her of her execess
pay.

bootney farnsworth

October 31st, 2010
6:02 pm

interesting how this idiocy just happens to come out the day before an election.

suprising, no.
interesting, yup.

d

October 31st, 2010
6:11 pm

@wagnert – if you honestly believe NEA is standing in the way of ineffective teachers being removed at all costs, you highly misunderstand the mission of NEA. Pull up their website and look at the header – Great Public Schools for Every Student. It doesn’t mention keeping bad teachers in the classroom. I’ve had conversations with leaders of local NEA affiliates where they have personally recommend that bad teachers seek other lines of employment. Protecting bad teachers at all costs? Hardly. If the organization is the bane of public education, why are 1 out of every 100 Americans a member? Add AFT’s numbers to that and you have over 4.5 Million Americans advocating for public schools. Does this mean there aren’t bad teachers? No, of course not. Does it mean we’re going to fight to keep bad teachers in the classroom? No, of course not. I personally believe that personality conflicts between leadership and classroom teachers should not be the deciding factor in what makes an effective teacher – which is what “tenure” (or fair dismissal as it is known in Georgia) is designed to prevent. On a similar note, you won’t find NEA advocating for eliminating evaluation of student learning. On the contrary, as the professionals who actually know what’s going on in the classrooms, we simply ask that it be a true evaluation of student learning. The standardized testing regiment we subject students to is not fair. What happens if there is a tragedy at a school the week before testing? Do you honestly believe that students are going to perform to standards? Never mind that, it’s all the teachers’ fault, right? I will say yes, evaluate teachers based on their effectiveness at their craft. And yes, as a leader in my NEA local affiliate, I will say that bad teachers need to go, but we first need a fair way of judging teacher effectiveness, which the people who actually make the calls (and that’s not people with actual training in education) don’t really know how to do. Just test, test, test and test some more right? That’ll cure all of our problems.

bootney farnsworth

October 31st, 2010
6:38 pm

@ d,

further on your points

we have to deal with all kinds of stupid testing, goals,
initatives ect which are political in nature to get everything
from funding to worthless recognition.

From Turman thru Obama: none of them had real knowledge about
education, but they made rules anyway. same thing governors,
from Talmadge to Perdue.

are there some problems with NEA? sure.
any organization run by people has its issues.

problem we have here is people want a simple
solution to a complex situtation

Atlanta mom

October 31st, 2010
6:59 pm

As some educator on this blog said once, everyone knows who the bad teachers are. Parents, teachers and administrators. .Somehow, we need to use this information. I firmly believe that 90% of the teachers out there are good. But the other 10% are giving everyone a black eye.

truth hurts

October 31st, 2010
7:11 pm

@it’s gotten ridiculous: This amount of homework is what it is going to take to keep the US at par with the rest of the industrialized world. Why have we fallen in universal education measurements globally? Because parents don’t like the quantity of homework and the rigor of classwork that it takes to keep up. In Korea, in Germany, etc- parents are used to LOTS of homework and difficult classes, and the children are excelling. We have GOT to change our attitudes about what it takes to be successful in school. Furthermore, national testing may be the only way to keep grade inflation under control. However, if teacher salaries are contingent upon test scores, so must student’s pass or fail. If you don’t pass the test, you don’t pass the class. And none of the “summer school” bologna to pass the class. Fail is fail, period. Unless of course, the teacher gets paid once the child “passes” summer school.

Dr. Tim

October 31st, 2010
7:15 pm

This is a silly essay written by a silly person.

Sam

October 31st, 2010
8:50 pm

Ask a Korean kid how many hours of school and schoolwork he/she has every day. I bet you anything it’s a lot more than 8 hours. American kids are LAZY compared to other countries. The teacher assigns 25 minutes of reading a night because THEY SHOULD BE DOING THAT ANYWAY. It’s the MINIMUM. Who cares if they’re in first grade or in tenth grade. Kids don’t read, they watch Jersey Shore and play on their Nintendo DS.

Atlanta mom

October 31st, 2010
10:28 pm

If children are to do 2 hours of homework, it should be meaningful. I challenge any elementary school to give two hour of meaningful homework

b

October 31st, 2010
11:13 pm

Dear Aiken Faque,

I don’t think that there is a “huge leadership vacuum at the Principle level,” at least not in my county. I have great principAls that inspire me to keep growing as a teacher. However, perhaps that is because my principAls and not principles went to Leadership 101.

kwanza

November 1st, 2010
2:53 am

@bootney farnsworth and sam– ok i was holding my breath for your kind of comments…not gonna lie, i was getting a little afraid. Reading that piece led me yet again to the conclusion that we are in a dark place when it comes to education, us Americans, us Georgians. I’m not saying merit pay is all it’s cracked up to be (nor will I say that even works), but we’re little by little assuming this anti-competition, anti-work-like-the-quality-of-your-life-depended-on-it” paradigm, and it’s really scaring me. We shouldn’t even let our minds wonder too far in that realm…the realm that says it’s ok for your children to be mediocre. Nor should we let that message seep too far into the mainstream because ignorance seems these days to be very contagious. the day that we started to shun competition and challenge is the day that we signed our sentence of “real decline”. I’m surprised not more people are speaking out against what this article suggests.

Fled

November 1st, 2010
2:54 am

I’m glad to see that republican stupidity (there really is no other word for it) remains fully embedded in many of the dim people in Georgia. I sure would hate to read an intelligent, thoughtful discussion on this blog, as that could make me regret getting the hell out of there.

Keep on ‘lecting republicans, y’all.

catlady

November 1st, 2010
7:15 am

Well articulated. While I don’t think there are many American kids actually suffering in sweatshop like conditions as part of their education, education HAS lost the well-roundedness it used to offer. Most of our kids don’t work all that hard (see the article in today’s AJC about the number of remedial students in college), and I can tell you that by passing kids on and on without mastery or accountability accruing on the student side, we will continue to see this).

However, there is more to it. The prof is right–the message is important. Instead of children knowing (as I did) that I needed to work hard for MY future, we are sending the message that they need to work hard for their teachers’ future! (As a comparison, I am very offended by the SRA/DI method of requiring students to respond, IN UNISON, TO THE SOUND OF A DOG CLICKER. To me, we are giving an Adolph-Hitler type message!)

catlady

November 1st, 2010
7:22 am

It’s probably the ultimate expression of education by the business model and kids as widgets, that teachers have been arguing against for several decades.

Ed Johnson

November 1st, 2010
8:11 am

@Kwanza, want to see scary? Then this copied from EdWeek:

Updated (6:07pm): The transcript is now available for Obama’s speech at the White House Science Fair today. In his remarks, the president reiterated his point about honoring excellence in science and math as much as it’s regarded in sports.

Here’s an excerpt: “So we welcome championship sports teams to the White House to celebrate their victories. I’ve had the Lakers here. I’ve had the Saints here, the Crimson Tide. I thought we ought to do the same thing for the winners of science-fair and robotic contests and math competitions. Because often we don’t give these victories the attention that they deserve. And when you win first place at a science fair, nobody is rushing the field or dumping Gatorade over your head. But in many ways, our future depends on what happens in those contests—what happens when a young person is engaged in conducting an experiment, or writing a piece of software, or solving a hard math problem, or designing a new gadget.”

Obviously, President Obama sees excellence in science and math as one young person having beat out all other young persons, as in a sports competition — one winner, all others losers. Now that’s really scary, Kwanza. It also helps to explain why “Race to to Top” is a competition.

November

November 1st, 2010
9:06 am

You know, folks, some people get too much education and that allows them to spit out the tripe that is being articulated in the above article. My opinion, for whatever that’s worth, and I’ve stated this before……”Merit pay will never work in the teaching profession” because of the different levels of achievement in students. One year a teacher may have twenty eight wonderful, bright kids who really want to learn and have testing results through the roof, and as a result, he/she gets merit pay. The next year may be just the opposite with a bunch of rowdy, slow learners and consequently, bad test results……is he/she not as good a teacher as the year before? I think not……the teaching is just as good, but the students either can’t or don’t want to learn. Should he/she not get merit pay? Should he/she have to return the merit pay they got the previous year? It’s a concept that absolutely will not work and the subject should be dropped post haste. On to more important subjects……please remember to vote responsibly on November 2nd :) That’s tomorrow :)

Dr NO

November 1st, 2010
9:19 am

Child labor? What a silly article.

Not buying the propoganda. No way, no how.

Dr. John

November 1st, 2010
9:46 am

Enter your comments here

JB

November 1st, 2010
9:46 am

The hardest thing about solving a problem is actually figuring out what the problem is. You don’t need standardized testing to determine whether a teacher is good. Any child, parent and, hopefully, the teacher’s manager/school administrator can tell you that in a heartbeat – for free. I attended private school and every kid there knew who was a great teacher and who was terrible – so did the principles. The bad ones didn’t stay long. The problem with public education is that once you determine a teacher is below par, you can’t do anything about it. Within the public school system you are forced to stay at that school with that teacher. The teacher has no oportunity for additional training. Rather than spending millions, possibly billions, on testing, why not let parents choose where they want to send their kids. Administrators would then have to choose between keeping bad teachers, providing additional training or losing students and funding.

In addition, study after study has shown that there is no correlation between pay and job satisfaction. Merit pay is no way to motivate teachers and won’t make the bad ones any better. Similarly, we want our kids to be self-motivated and love learning. Do you honestly believe the way to get kids excited about any subject is to award high scores on a standardized test?

money

November 1st, 2010
9:46 am

@truth hurts and others

there we go again comparing the US to other countries. Other places around the world DO NOT count all the test scores. Finland, the only students that take the test there are Native born citizens from Native born parents. Other countries weed out or selectively promote students depending on test scores when the child is only 12-14 years old.

When did Bell invent the phone (how old was he?); Edison? Einstein?

Seems like what this is turning into is those parents that push their kids to become stars and look what happens to the majority of them. Crash and burn, baby.

Someone on these blogs once used a cooking analogy; Microwave vs stove/grill, think about those ribs or roast; you just cant throw it into the fire; sure it will get cooked but how good will it be?

Dr. John Trptter

November 1st, 2010
9:52 am

The students are treated like Twinkies floating down a conveyor belt. I really don’t have time to address this asinine merit pay notion this morning, but I have written six to eight articles on it recenlty, and these articles can be found on http://www.theteachersadvocate.com. There you will find articles on why merit pay does not work and should not work. It is based on Max Weber’s production model. This may work for inanimate objects coming down a conveyor belt but children are not inanimate objects. This is the problem from the outset.

You guys have a great day. I see that my Cousin Booger has been on here. Has he been behaving himself? I hope not.

Dr. John Trotter

November 1st, 2010
9:54 am

Hadn’t finished my breakfast yet. Misspelled my name. “Trptter” looks a little bit Russian, eh?

Dr NO

November 1st, 2010
10:00 am

Your breakfast of toothpick pieces and corn nerblets?

You Asked

November 1st, 2010
10:04 am

As a teacher your students are your primary customer or the people you deliver your core services to. Administrators, parents and the community are secondary stakeholders.

Like any other person who labors in the marketplace your performance delivering your product (curricula, instruction, grading, labs, etc.) should have an influence over your pay and promotions. The outcome of your product and delivery (student learning and achievement) may also influence your professional compensation and progress.

The whole issue of teaching in difficult schools and districts can be mitigated by pre and post testing of local student groups and basing “success” on improvement within that student group. A baseline of mimimum standards should apply to all students statewide.

You Asked

November 1st, 2010
10:08 am

Dr. Trotter -

In stead of opposing teachers having accountability measures, create metrics that would be a good indicator of an educator succeeding with their students. It is done all the time in service industries and even government. Arguing that advocates of performance based compensation are wanting to go back to the days of Weber and Taylor is a red herring.

Dr. John Trotter

November 1st, 2010
10:32 am

The Students’ Refusal To Learn!

By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD

The biggest problem in public (note that I said “public”) education today is the abject lack of motivation to learn on the part of a very large portion of our students. It’s not a problem with teachers, although some teachers are naturally more effective than other teachers…just like some physicians, lawyers, and engineers are more effective than others.

The motivation to learn is a cultural phenomenon, and until the educrats and policy-makers understand this and put this in any equation, their new-fangled educational fads may indeed make money for some publishing companies and other educational-curricula companies but they will not have any positive impact on learning.

Neither Arne Duncan, Mahatma Gandhi, Eugene V. Debs, Eleanor Roosevelt, Julian Bond, Ronald Reagan, Roy Barnes, Nathan Deal, Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Steve Harvey, Steve Jobs, Ted Kennedy, Georgia O’Keefe, George W. Bush, William Faulkner, John Grisham, Bill Gates, Martin Luther, Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, Hillary Clinton, nor Huey Pierce Long could make these unmotivated students learn unless these students first decide to learn. Julian, Eleanor, and Soren could jump all around the room tooting whistles (of course, the stilted scripted curriculum would not allow them this kind of creativity!) and blowing bagpipes, but if these unmotivated students still refuse to learn, they are not going to learn, despite what any adult does. This is what needs to be in any equation…the students’ REFUSAL TO LEARN.

If a public defender’s client is found guilty by the jury (and the evidence is overwhelming that the client is indeed guilty), we are not going to tie the public defender’s salary to “his” guilt rate, are we? What about a physician who is assigned Medicaid patients who have very unhealthy lifestyles? Are we going to tie his or her pay to the incidence of the patients’ high blood pressure? The lawyer can defend a client but he or she cannot acquit the client. The physician can treat a patient but he or she cannot heal the patient. The teacher can teach a student but he or she cannot “learn” the student.

It is easier to just blame the teachers for the shortcomings of the students and their parents. To heck with it! Let’s just blame the teachers, so think these educrats and politicians. (c) MACE, November 1, 2010.

kelsnorr

November 1st, 2010
11:10 am

I agree with Dr.Trotter—”It is based on Max Weber’s production model. This may work for inanimate objects coming down a conveyor belt but children are not inanimate objects. This is the problem from the outset.”

I have Dr. Jones as a professor at UGA this semester and we have dove into vigorous discussions surrounding the student being referred to as an “object”. This is a major problem and I agree that those opposing this article are doing so with the mindset that the relationship between a teacher and his/her student’s should be non-existent; that, instead, these teachers are running an assembly line form grade to grade, in which each grade level is responsible for instilling specific bolts or screws (aka NCLB standards) which will be what holds a student together and makes him/her a successful product of the educational system. I pity those who go throughout their life with this notion and who view children (ANYONE under the age of 18) as an object. An object does not have a personality, it cannot think for itself, it is controlled by others and used for the benefit of the one who is using it. Did you notice how many times I used the word “it”? I hope so. Our students have personalities and they have the ability to think on a higher level no matter what the age is! Don’t believe me? I challenge you to place yourself at a play kitchen in a pre-school or amongst the role-play/costume area of a classroom. There you will find 4 and 5 year old students pretending to be doctors and using terminology that many “adults” would rarely give students credit for attaining. Students are NOT objects and should not be treated as know-nothing or oblivious items moving down an assembly line that, if broken (not up to par based on test-scores) will once again work properly if we force a universal bolt in it’s side; assuming that what fixed the previous object will also fix the present. This is not the case for HUMAN BEINGS. We are all unique in thought and our processes.

I, personally, loathe standardized tests and I pray that nothing hinders me from the opportunity to know my students as capable and unique individuals. I agree with Dr. Jones, in that, merit-based pay will de-humanize our students. For those opposing, how will merit-based pay improve student’s ability to learn? I believe that through merit-based pay the focus will be completely on the teachers abilities and not the students. All in all, the students BETTER understand the standard or they will be deemed an idiot, as will their teacher.

kwanza

November 1st, 2010
12:56 pm

@Ed

I don’t think Obama’s point in saying what he said was that there should just be one winner and all other losers. To extract that from that quote is pushing it a little. But what’s wrong with competition?!!!!!! I feel like I shouldnt even go into a discourse defending competition because we all know why we compete and why we lead our children to embrace it. Now I didn’t get on here to defend Obama today, but goshdarnit I guess I will. If he didn’t promote competition, he’s a welfare-loving socialist. If he promotes competition he’s a nazi. Sometimes I think just sit and come up with creative ways to denigrate Obama…even if there are logic holes and contradictions. Ed, I think you are in a great minority with your ideas…and a bit out of touch with reality. Please really explain what the problem is with competition in education because from what you’ve been posting on here, it sounds like _____ Anyone else want to fill in the blank? I’m curious in knowing what other’s think. Is subjecting students to a math competition abuse? Is rewarding the best science fair project wrong? I have no comment on the viability of race to the top, but I don’t believe RTTT money will be the defining make or break variable in education success.

[...] Here it is! [...]

[...] Thanks to the Atlanta Journal Constitution for publishing my op-ed essay on merit pay, high-stakes testing, and child labor. [...]