Jul 6, 2007

Another Idea Brought to You by Congress

Merit pay for teachers is an idea that is gaining ground in state capitals and in Washington, tying student achievement to salary increases. Does this mean that Congress will also vote merit pay for itself based on achievement? Can you imagine how much money such a move would save taxpayers?

If I may modestly add, the comments have encouraged a debate worth reading, prompting me to flesh out my thoughts about this topic as well.


Anonymous said...

As a former teacher, I do understand the draws of merit pay to the general public. However, I began my teaching career teaching primarily English as a Second Language students who were by state law held to the same standards and tested the same as English only students. Had my pay been tied to their test scores, I can only imagine that I would have never been able to pay the rent as most first year teachers I know. Most first year teachers just out of college cannot pay their rent on their salaries because of the high costs involved in becoming a teacher. For those of you who think we get paid too little and take too much time off, be aware, most teachers spend their entire summers preparing for the next year and working other jobs to pay their bills, additionally, there was not a school break that I did not see a good portion of the staff at work and in their classrooms even if the students were not. Give teachers a break, we do try and do our jobs, though society may think otherwise. And parents, please parent your children, because that is not our job.

Anonymous said...

One of my children's teachers taught the class that yeast makes bread rise because "little animals grow and grow and make the dough bigger". I had to reteach my child who then went back and taught the teacher about the mold eating the dough and giving off gas to make the air bubbles in bread.
Another of my children's teachers taught fractions by showing them how to draw pies and count the pieces (no other way). This continued until I saw my child drawing little pies with 32 slices in them. I didn't realize this was going on until I heard my child crying, "I'm so tired of drawing pies."
I taught her fractions.
We live in a very comfortable area but teachers are mostly sub-par in my opinion.
Administrators are mainly concerned about filling out forms and covering their butts.
I'm afraid merit pay would be paid to the undeserving.

Ms. Place said...

I sympathize with you Anon. Many of my friends have had to take over and teach a primary concept that the teacher botched. In fact, I fully believe that is the parents' job to ensure that their children are learning. Your statement illustrates the problem:
We live in a very comfortable area but teachers are mostly sub-par in my opinion.

My field is professional development, and I teach teaching professionals. By and large they are a hard-working, dedicated group. By and large they are WOEFULLY underpaid. Their salaries are so pathetic that to a large degree they are barely able to provide a decent living. Anyone who does not have a PASSION for teaching, a significant other to bolster the family income, or a trust fund will likely seek a more fruitful profession.

Many of my friends believe that the women's rights movement set the teaching profession back. Before you bristle, hear me out. In previous decades, the best and brightest women went into teaching and nursing because those were the only fields open to them. Society benefited from their excellent services for low pay. These days young women can enter any profession. Why teach for paltry pay when you can make twice as much managing a shoe store and ten times as much as a partner in a law firm?

So, to impose merit pay on a profession that is already short changed and stressed is unfair. In addition, when was the last time Congress made a wise decision regarding any bill of any kind? Our lawmakers don't seek out experts, and if they do, they don't listen to them; they don't plan strategically; and they don't budget for the bills they put through.

Teachers work hard before and after class and throughout the summer, as Anon 1 suggests. Their decisions and actions are constricted by superintendents, principals, politically correct thinking, and potential law suits. They are underpaid and overworked. They are second guessed at every turn by administrators and parents.

Let's give them a break and not impose another edict on them. And, yes, I will grant that there are some bad teachers out there. But they are far outweighed by the good, dedicated, and talented people who are stifled by bills, and rules, and bureaucratic oversight, and pathetically small salaries.

Who deserves $20 million more? A fabulous teacher who inspires your children to grow and reach for the stars? Or some vapid movie star couple like Brangelina?

Anonymous said...

This is a HORRIBLE idea. As the daughter, sister, cousin, niece, and in-law of educators, this makes no sense. It will become even harder to retain good teachers.

My father(secondary education) used to say that teaching was the only profession where you could spend 20 years and not have shit to show for it. And your own kids had better get scholarships, because there's never going to be a teacher's salary that can put 5 kids through college.

As far as the women's movement setting back the teaching profession, that's a crock, IMO. Women aren't the only ones getting crappy pay. The standards for teachers keep going down in the state where I live. Our population is growing so fast, this is the only way some school boards can hire enough teachers to TRY to meet the maximum student/teacher ratio requirements.

Support educators, and bright young men and women who want to be teachers will become teachers.

Why doesn't Congress pass a bill supporting ALL our educators, female and male? How about some universal health care while they're at it?


Ms. Place said...

Thank you, Nutmeg, well put and well said. And I stand corrected as far as the women's movement theory is concerned (although that is a tempting excuse.)

Every teacher I know is hard working. Some have more aptitude for facilitating learning than others. And with today's restrictions on teachers being able to discipline their pupils (my next door neighbor feels more like a baby sitter than a teacher), what chance do they have for meeting the arbitrary standards of No Child Left Behind. Is it really true that the only things that matter are reading, writing, and rithmatic? What about music, art, philosophy, and history?

Food for thought.

eric3000 said...

We are really in trouble when the only thing we teach our children is how to take tests.

There must be a better way to determine if a teacher is doing a god job.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think ours was the last generation that was actually taught how to think.

The two most important things being taught in today's schools?

1)How to fill out forms(tests).

2)How to stand in line.

I believe the 3R's provide the foundation for learning; and that music, art, philosophy, science, and history build on this foundation. They are all essential for a good education.

So is physical education, which is another victim of budget cuts. Many schools no longer have a recess period, either. Today's kids are being so short-changed I worry about their futures.

I also believe in lifelong learning. Search engines are a gift from the cyber-gods. I'll do a search on pre-conquest languages in the Americas and end up reading an article on archeo-astronomy...I love it!