Teacher Merit Pay 1

First things first, what’s the problem we’re trying to fix? Arne Duncan, as a high-profile representative of conventional wisdom, would probably answer this way. “The problem is motivating teachers to work harder so that we can close the achievement gap between more and less wealthy students, improve graduation rates, and hold off our traditional economic rivals, Japan and Germany, and our emerging ones, India and China.”

So here are the assumptions: 1) teachers don’t work hard; 2) because teachers don’t work hard, we have a pernicious achievement gap; 3) schools exist to help us maintain our relative advantage in the global economic race.

Conventional wisdom suggests teachers don’t work hard because their pay is predetermined based upon their educational credentials and years of service. That combined with tenure translates into educational malaise. This is a deeply held view by many Americans who view business model principles as immutable.

Business model peeps reason schools are like car dealerships and fast food restaurants. There’s no point being sentimental about shuttered dealerships and restaurants because they are a natural byproduct of intense free market competition. Keep your consumer eyes on the prize, a wide choice of affordable, high quality cars/food.

If unfettered competition is the economic magic bullet, no reason it can’t be the educational one too. Schools in a given locale don’t fear one another enough nor do teachers within individual schools. The proliferation of student test scores enable us to keep score between schools and teachers within individual schools.

Before I proceed, is that the problem merit-based teacher pay is supposed to fix?

3 thoughts on “Teacher Merit Pay 1

  1. While I agree with Arne Ducan and your final assumption, I do not agree with “lack of effort” as the underlying problem. From my layman’s view, I believe the public’s issues are not based on effort, but on getting the best individuals teaching our future generations, and giving the taxpayer/parent an accountable system to evaluate performance (between both teachers and schools). While effort is important, I would take the great/gifted teacher at 75% effort, rather that the “wrong person for the job” at 100%. Just as I would prefer Meb in Street shoes as my relay partner against you and Lance in running flats – no matter how much effort you two expend, we’ll still be waiting for you two at the finish line.

    Given that premise, I think the initial determination needs to be “What constitutes a “great” teacher, and how does the public evaluate their performance. Once those are resolved, I would then develop tools to attract and keep great teachers.

    • Watershed moment in Positive Momentum history, the older brah is in the HOUSE. A few family members are faithful lurkers. His unusually sensible comment is a perfect segue to the next post, Teacher Merit Pay 2. And I’m going to let the running jab slide since he was nice enough not to bring up the Long Beach State-UCLA bball game. And I thought CSULB was a volleyball school.

  2. You smart people are confusing me. Break it down, please. Are you saying that teachers are ineffective because they don’t make enough money? So if we pay them more they will teach better? If true, then I would counter that maybe the wrong people are teachers. Here I thought that teachers were intrinsically motivated to make a difference in a child’s future and not hold that child’s future ransom for a bigger paycheck. Really? Maybe my teachers weren’t paid well enough and I need it in plain language, please.

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