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Coming Soon to an NEA Affiliate Near You: "Knowledge and Skills Pay"?

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I've finally had a chance to go through this internal National Education Association review of several affiliates' alternative-compensation models (hat tip to Mike Antonucci).

It's worth checking out, although you'll have to read between the lines for the good stuff. Or you can just use this Teacher Beat Cheat Sheet (like, wow!).

Solidarity vs. Collegiality: Among the most interesting findings related to the Denver Pro-Comp model. Members felt that the program eroded solidarity by dividing membership between those that opted into the system and those that chose to remain on a regular salary schedule. Yet at the same time, they reported that the system's professional-development units increased collegiality and helped teachers work more effectively in teams in their own schools.

That's got to be a tough one for a national union that supports job-embedded training but doesn't like anything that calls solidarity into question. And isn't there a parallel here to the whole D.C./Washington Teachers' Union red-tier, green-tier idea? Officially, the WTU didn't like D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's tenure proposals, but perhaps that opposition was rooted in an even deeper philosophical disagreement—namely, when you start giving people choices, you divide the membership and make it harder to represent everyone's best interest.

Transparency vs. Accuracy. The systems that NEA and its own teachers deemed as being the most successful, in Helena, Mont., and Manitowoc, Wis., were the only two that didn't include some inclusion of student achievement in the teacher-bonus plans. Teachers felt that the measures based on test scores were not nearly transparent enough. Unfortunately, as an NEA official noted in one of the appendices, " ... simpler and more transparent measures can often be the most unreliable."

Knowledge and Skills vs. Outcomes: The Helena and Manitowoc plans granted more pay for things like earning national-board certification, a professional-development certificate, or completing "career-development plans."
But, unlike every other plan studied here, they focused entirely on what the teachers did, not on whether students learned more.

In pointing this out, let me be clear that I'm not trying to minimize what these plans accomplished. Teachers in both situations found that the programs increased opportunities for working with other teachers. Nevertheless, the focus on student outcomes seems to be where the conversation on performance-based pay is going at the federal level.

Antonucci has an analysis of the talk in the report about how the NEA might rebrand its opposition to performance-based pay in light of this report. My bet is that the NEA will do it by advancing "knowledge and skills-based plans" like Helena's and Manitowoc's, possibly combined with a career ladder.

And although detractors will view that as a disingenuous move, perhaps NEA deserves some credit for at least wrestling with this idea. Over time, there will be room for such plans to incorporate measures of student achievement, ones, we hope, that educators feel are transparent.

4 Comments

Stephen,

Have you already read the entire NEA report? It’s really impressive isn’t it? Even though it was confidential - or maybe because it was confidential - it was extremely thorough, fair, and practical, and constructive. Reading it makes you proud of teachers. The report makes you proud to be a union member.

I have to challenge some of your wording. When you read the spin of the anti-union blog that leaked the report (thus doing us all a favor) and read the NEA members’ deep and sincere feelings towards solidarity, and collaboration, then I think it would be more fair to write,

“That's got to be a tough one for a national union that supports job-embedded training but doesn't like anything that calls solidarity into question. And isn't there a parallel here to the whole D.C./Washington Teachers' Union red-tier, green-tier idea? ...perhaps that opposition was rooted in an even deeper philosophical disagreement—namely, when you start giving people choices, and THE OPPOSITION USES THAT TO divide the membership and (that) make(s) it harder to represent everyone's best interest."

Hmmm. When NEA talks about crafting messages, framing arguments, and creating a positive lexicon, John thinks it's "extremely thorough, fair, and practical, and constructive."

When I notice and comment upon said sentiments, it's "the spin of the anti-union blog that leaked the report."

It is not only teacher unions that call into question the value of programs that divide teachers within a building or program. Students are harmed when teachers do not work together. That is one of the prime flaws in the industrial model of teaching that has dominated the field for the past century.

Any program that induces cooperation and teamwork will benefit students far more than any that inhibits this cooperation. I expect the results might even be quantifiable in terms of student outcomes. If one of the side-benefits of cooperation is enhanced student achievement it is fatuous (and clearly self-serving) for someone who is a professional anti-union spin doctor to complain about solidarity...even if it benefits the union.

I don't know what the right answer is for a new teacher pay model. I do know that I am very self motivated, have a masters+ 30 credits (highest in our pay scale) and have taken an additional 10 credits in the past 8 years, since I began teaching. I enjoy learning and have had the fortunate circumstances to pay for these credits/classes.

I am now going for my master educator licensure(NBPTS). This is a venture I chose to do and I am excited to complete.

I do have colleagues that do not have the time or resources to complete the training I have enjoyed. Many of them have children, don't have supportive spouses and just place all of their energy into their classroom. They are great teachers.

I think most educators are making good choices to support student learning. I think it is okay to provide opportunities for "bonuses" for those dedicated above and beyond. I don't think we should punish educator's that don't want to spend their personal money for these opportunities. Although some grants to exist, they are pay back grants rather than prepayment for the program. All things aren't created equal and the demands are pushing people away from education. Further demands will push away individuals and deplete our options for bringing qualified individuals into the classroom.

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