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Performance Pay: The Other 70%

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One of the main sticking points about performance-pay programs is that less than a third of teachers, usually around 30%, teach grade 3-8 reading and math, the subjects and grade levels that are most frequently tested per No Child Left Behind. A performance-pay system, the argument goes, should be able to offer all teachers in a school at least some (if not all) opportunities to win performance bonuses.

A new paper from the Center for Education Compensation Reform, a federally funded body that provides technical assistance to the the Teacher Incentive Fund grantees and disseminates resources on performance pay, attempts to offer some possible solutions to that problem.

Some of the solutions we've heard before: Use a schoolwide pay model, an idea that's already been embraced in certain contexts even by union officials. On the other hand, the paper also raises some ideas that could turn out to be pretty controversial. Teachers in grades K-2, it suggests, could consider using results from reading-skills inventories like the DIBELS, a test that has fierce detractors. (You can practically already hear the screams.) I can imagine similar concerns about using English-language proficiency exams for performance-pay purposes.

But overall there are some nifty ideas to explore here. Districts and schools could consider other state tests for areas like science and social studies; end-of-course tests for high schools; portfolios based on surveys, principal evaluation and other measures; individual teacher set goals (a la the Denver ProComp model); and other methods for awarding teams of teachers, such those that work together to help students with disabilities.

Let's hear from our readers out there that are involved in performance-pay plans about this topic. Leave a comment here, or drop me a line directly at [email protected] Inquiring minds want to know!

8 Comments

Compensation systems based in part on merit or performance do not fall in line with total quality management (TQM). TQM calls for collaboration and cooperation not competition. If the pay is not equally available to all, then it should be available to no one. Why not devise an assessment tool to use at the beginning of the school year and at the end to measure school year growth? Even that does not take into account family or neighborhood influences. What are we really talking about? What are we really measuring? If you want to improve education, improve the families and neighborhoods where the kids live. If you doubt that, consider that in the histroy of the USA, several moon landings have occurred. Compare that number to the number of school districts who have 100% of their students on grade-level.

I am a small business owner. I am on a performance plan everyday. Sometimes I win; sometimes I don't! On average, I get what I deserve and I think teachers should not be so worried about how this system is based. Just embrace any system and get started. It will, like businesses, average out and self correct. The ledger is seldom balanced monthly or even yearly. Sometimes it takes a career to even out.

I have a question. How is performance pay supposed to be implemented with teachers who teach kiddos with special needs?

Merit pay is an idea based on the free enterprise system, that those who perform in a superior way will produce a superior product and should therefore benefit from their labor directly. However, teaching children is a very complicated task that is much more than the results of any standardized tests. Teachers are preparing students to be citizens of the world and how exactly can that be measured empirically? Creating a climate of care and cooperation will raise test results in the long run. If teachers cooperate and work together, build communities of lifelong learning, etc. The money needs to be given to the teachers for supplies. I have visited many public schools all around the country and I am shocked at the incredible technology available with each student having access to laptops and internet, but no ink or paper to print out their reports! Something is very wrong with this system and we need someone from outside the system to come in and help evaluate the problem and suggest some real workable solutions.

As many others, I am deeply concerned about using student performance on assessments as a means for measuring teacher performance. There are too many other factors that influence test scores.I do believe some kind of merit pay is a great idea, but I don't know of an appropriate solution.

We need a great deal of work to create a viable way to do "value added" assessments. Until that is accomplished talk of performance pay for individuals will inevitably lead to either the sort of unanswerable questions posed above or some subjective rubric being applied by a supervisor, with all the problems that entails.

I too am concerned about how those teachers who teach the slower learner can be evaluted in a performance pay system. I have willingly taught, chapter I, SIA, EIP, ELL, LD, SPED students for a number of years. When questioned, the powers that be say that children will be measured for growth in a single year, supposedly "leveling the playing field". Frequently these children are not able to learn a years worth of knowledge in a school year. If they were, they would not be at risk to start with.I am proud of my students accomplishments, and feel I have done an exemplarly jobs on most occasions. If I am correct about my teaching indevors, but my students scores don't reflect it, how then will I reap the benefits of performance pay? If scores are used, even if all teachers who reach a certain level are to receive this perfprmance pay, how are low performing students to be distributed in classrooms? Will teachers willingly teach several at-risk students if they know this will hamper their chances to qualify? If a child walks through your door 2 grade levels below, are going to embrace the challenge or ask that the child be placed elsewhere? I personally don't know of any teachers who would not make the low performing child welcome, but it sets teachers up not to risk teaching at-risk students.

Ok-so where does National Board Certification fit in the scenario? I worked my tail off to earn this designation which not all 50 states recognize or properly fund-it's high time this is given national support!!!

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