Here's a July '09 NM Independent article on our state education Secretary Veronica Garcia's proposal to study merit pay.

Luckily, Garcia knows the pitfalls of tying judgement to standardized test scores:
"Garcia and others say merit pay is worth considering, but only if a more comprehensive set of data than student standardized test scores is used to assess teachers."

I just ran across an interesting sharing of teachers' opinions on teacher education in the New York Times' "Room for Debate" column.
Here is the first comment, which is a very good argument AGAINST merit pay ...

"The Value of Epiphanies

I teach high school English and journalism, and have for more than twenty years. The students in my journalism classes are among the highest achieving students in the school; traditionally more than half of the top ten students each year are in enrolled in my classes. During the summer and after school I teach remedial English skills to students who did not pass our state standardized test.

To evaluate and pay teachers according to student performance based on standardized test scores will not produce better teachers, or better students. If a teacher helps a non-reader to become a reader, if a teacher helps a student realize the value of knowing how to write well, if a teacher opens up just a small window for further learning to occur, he is a fine teacher. Extra pay is not given to teachers who provide epiphanies and a foundation for lifelong learning. How sad it would be to give extra pay to teachers who turn out top-notch standardized test-takers.
— Pamela
"


As this issue receives more attention (President Obama supports it), is there anything you would like to "get off your chest?"

Do you think a "just" system could be developed for merit pay for teachers, or not?

Tags: degrees, education, merit-pay, opinions, teacher

Views: 9

Replies to This Discussion

I teach an Emotionally Disturbed class. I think if I keep my kids in the room all year, and they don't break anything or anybody, I deserve merit pay!!

Okay, seriously - I don't mind using standardized tests, but they should measure movement rather than whether or not a student is at grade level. Some kids don't advance a whole year in a school year. Some students lose a lot over the summer. If we're going to use testing, I think the fair thing would be to test in August and again in April. Has the student advanced? Maybe not in all areas, but in some? I don't see any reason we couldn't design a computerized exam that got progressively harder with correct answers, and easier with incorrect answers. That way we wouldn't be limited by the metrics of pen & paper tests.

Also, what then happens to teachers of students with multiple handicaps? Those students can't and don't sit for standardized tests, but their teachers work quite hard.
From the NY Times teacher quoted above:
"If a teacher helps a non-reader to become a reader, if a teacher helps a student realize the value of knowing how to write well, if a teacher opens up just a small window for further learning to occur, he is a fine teacher. Extra pay is not given to teachers who provide epiphanies and a foundation for lifelong learning. How sad it would be to give extra pay to teachers who turn out top-notch standardized test-takers."

But I like how you said it, Lucky:
"... they should measure movement rather than whether or not a student is at grade level. Some kids don't advance a whole year in a school year. Some students lose a lot over the summer. If we're going to use testing, I think the fair thing would be to test in August and again in April. ... Also, what then happens to teachers of students with multiple handicaps? Those students can't and don't sit for standardized tests, but their teachers work quite hard."

Your suggestions provide actual hands=on, experience=tooled ideas, straight from the source.

LET'S LISTEN TO TEACHERS - THEY KNOW WHAT WORKS!
I think a lot of the pressure for merit pay would be removed if there were more effective ways to force out poor teachers. My predecessor at my current library job was there for over thirty years, getting one of the highest salaries in APS, while running the library into the ground and keeping students from using it. Somehow, even though the poor state of the library came up at school accreditation visits, she never had to leave until she retired.
This is one issue I don't agree with President Obama. Teachers do need to get rewarded, possibly monetarily, but not for test scores.

The school I am working in now spends an enormous amount of time "teaching to the test" and teaching "test-taking strategies" within the curriculum. While these students may perform well on the upcoming NMSBA, I don't see any higher-level thinking taking place. If we continue to hold our the NMSBA as the standard for "good teaching", we are short-changing our students. Yes, they will be "top-notch standardized test-takers", but at what cost? They will not be able to problem solve, think creatively, work cooperatively.

There are some teachers who will never receive this "merit pay" for their efforts despite their talents and dedication. I speak of those teachers that work with ESL students or students with disabilities. I have been blessed in my teaching career to work with such teachers, they are enormously creative, hard-working. I have learned a tremendous amount from them. Their students make growth, but not enough to be measured on an NMSBA.

Merit pay is not the way to motivate teachers. Poor test scores are NOT the result of unmotivated or undedicated teachers. Anyone who works in education knows this, but somehow the public and those making laws aren't getting it.
You all - munecamama and Ray and Lucky - are so articulate about this issue - you speak from the heart of deep experience. Your voices need to be heard.

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