Money for merit

Merit pay will attract better teachers, writes Louis V. Gerstner Jr., the former chairman of IBM and the founder of the Teaching Commission.

Pop quiz. Name the one American profession in which workers get almost no rewards for a job well done; that’s having the toughest time attracting and keeping the best and brightest people, just as it faces an unprecedented demand for new hires; and in which the quality of the worker determines, more than any other, whether or not our young people excel.

The profession is teaching. And that’s why Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s call to usher California’s schools into the modern era with performance-based pay for teachers is the right reform at the right time.

Lance Izumi of Pacific Research likes the governor’s proposals for rewarding good teachers and firing bad ones.

Designing a merit pay system that’s accepted as fair is quite difficult.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. I am a public school teacher, and I like the idea of merit pay. As long as I can have “merit” students. And who is going to ensure that “merit” students are equitably divided among a school’s teaching faculty?

    Let me guess what would happen under most circumstances: The Principal’s Favorites (teachers) will be assigned most of the “merit” students.

    And need I say that the “non favorites” are going to get the more “challenging” students?

    Joanne is right. Designing a fair merit pay system will be difficult.

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    Conan is going to have trouble paying teachers if he’s going to cut 2.2 Billion dollars out of the education budget.

  3. I can’t support anything that isn’t objective. The “value-added” assessments in Tennessee and Minnesota would be good places to start.

  4. Edwonk…Part of the answer is for the principal to also be evaluated on performance..that way, he will have an incentive to do things in a way that works best for everyone, rather than playing political games. Also, if the teacher measurements are based on value-added (student knowledge at end *minus* student knowledge at beginning), some of the student variance factor cancels out.

    BTW, it is difficult to design merit plans for *anything* and this includes fields where you might think it would be easy…like sales force incentive plans.

  5. Mad Scientist says:

    Name me one industry where unionized employees are eligible for merit pay.

    True merit pay and unions are incompatible concepts.

    When will you people learn this simple fact?

  6. Mr. Davis says:

    Designing a fair merit pay system is only necessary if teachers can only work for a state run school system. No private firm in a competitive environment has a “fair” pay system. It has a pay system. If an employee doesn’t like the pay, they can go work elsewhere. If all the good employees leave, so does the revenue stream. It isn’t fair, but it works.

    Schools would work too if everyone had a choice; parents, administrators, teachers. You could even choose to send your child to learn from a union worker, if you wanted to.

  7. Mr. Davis says:

    “BTW, it is difficult to design merit plans for *anything* and this includes fields where you might think it would be easy…like sales force incentive plans.”

    It is only difficult if management is unable to define what behavior and results it desires. Lincoln Electric does it very well. Educators will not well define the result they desire. To do so would make their job more difficult as the resistance to NCLB indicates and subject them to accountability which they are unwilling to accept.

  8. I agree with photocourier, and even to some extent with EdWonk. Designing merit pay systems is instrinsically difficult, and you will always get unintended negative consequences. The only thing worse is no merit pay at all.

  9. Gov. Schwarzenegger is proposing spending 7 percent more on schools. That’s $2.2 billion less, however, than the amount “guaranteed” in Proposition 98, which doesn’t seem to guarantee much of anything in real life. Except for bickering.

  10. What’s this nonsense about designing a “fair” merit system? Fairness has nothing to do with it. Do it the same way it’s done in any other company: set measurable goals for each teacher. And of course the principal will reward those who are on her good side. Just like in the real world.
    Mad Scientist is right though. The unions will kill this.

  11. Zippy The Pinhead says:

    Schwarzenegger may be able to sidestep the unions entirely by taking his CalSTRS/CalPERS pension reform directly to the voters, where I can’t imagine he’ll have much difficulty getting support.

    I believe it wouldn’t be too hard to sidestep the unions in this matter as well. There are many in teaching who don’t care what the unions say about anything.

    All Schwarzenegger has to do is dangle the right sort of carrot. For example, what if teachers were offered a fat raise and a two, three, or five year contract instead of tenure? Many would take it, I expect.

  12. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Some craft unions, such as Electricians and plumbers allow masters.

  13. Andy Freeman says:

    > I am a public school teacher, and I like the idea of merit pay. As long as I can have “merit” students.

    Once again we see that public school teachers either think that they’re special or have no understanding of how the rest of the world works or why we’re paying them. (As I’ve written before, I was a much bigger supporter of public education before I started paying attention to what its advocates said/wrote.)

    I’ll address the last point because that’s the one where they embarrass themselves the most.

    We’re paying public school teachers for the DIFFERENCE they make. Therefore, teaching “merit” students is no guarantee of success.

  14. I agree, Andy. In sales, some associates have better areas than others. Thus, while some merit pay is strictly commission based, other merit pay is often based on meeting goals.

    By the way, although Lincoln Electric does have a famous merit pay (really a piecework) system, it is embedded in a culture supporting it, and jobs that are compatible with this system. Every job can have some type of merit pay (and should!), but merit pay systems are not “one size fits all”. Also, there is no reason that a merit pay system has to be (or should be) contingent on one thing, like student scores, or student improvement, or principal ratings. A better pay system would be based on some type of “360 degree” appraisal, using various objective and subjective criteria. Of course, no merit pay system will be perfect, but it would be hard to design one that would make things worse! You can design a system with a good degree of procedural justice, and it will be seen by most as fair even if not perfect.

  15. Mike in Texas says:

    Why should, Louis V. Gerstner Jr., the former chairman of IBM, be considered an expert on what teachers need? Louis Gerstner is one of the advocates of treating schools like businesses, which they are most decidely not.

  16. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Perhaps teachers could be evaluated more readily if the evaluation of student progress went back to being honest.

  17. The above commentary is quite good.

    But why do all the districts in California have to use the same system? Why not leave it up to each district?

  18. I agree that schools are not businesses (I’m especially sure that students are not “customers” — our customers are actually the people that hire those we prepare for life after school.) I prefer the “students as clients” metaphor, because if you are a professional, like a lawyer or accountant, it is your job to make sure your client is prepared to face what is ahead, even if it means telling them things they don’t like to hear. Customers, on the other hand, are always right. (Yeah, sure!).

    But even if schools definitely aren’t businesses, that doesn’t mean that they cannot learn from business, and that there aren’t aspects of management involved in schools.

    I teach management, but my life long best buddy is an elementary school principal. I wouldn’t change jobs with her in a million years. The management politics and busy work! She’s pretty burned out after five years, and I don’t blame her. Teachers, administrators, parents…the kids are a breeze in comparison! The best part about teaching college is that it is actually ILLEGAL for me to speak with a student’s parents about their grades or progress (well, to tell them anything — I suppose I could listen to what they have to say).

  19. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Louis Gerstner is one of the advocates of treating schools like businesses, which they are most decidely not.

    Well there you go. Schools aren’t merely not business, they’re decidedly not business.

    None of that boring concern with efficiency. No unseemly pursuit of fickle customers. No dreary customer-satisfaction ratings that only measure the opinions of, well, customers.

    Schools are process centers of paradigmatic acquisition nexi where dynamic symbol referrents are compared and contrasted, introspection strategies are mapped against matrices of higher-order social constructs and knowledge surrogates are manipulated to maximize positive self-reference identifiers.

    Yawn. Where do I pick up my EDd?

  20. Mike in Texas says:

    Well by all means, Allen,let’s turn the schools over to the business, who have such a great plan they have to bribe journalists to say good things about it.

  21. Mike in Texas says:

    BTW Allen, your always concerned with the cost of education. Where is your outrage that the Dept. of Education spent a million dollars on propaganda?

  22. Andy Freeman says:

    > Where is your outrage that the Dept. of Education spent a million dollars on propaganda?

    The DoE has always spent MILLIONS on propaganda. Is MiT ignorant of this or merely trying to change the subject?

    Surely it can’t be because of who got the money or that it was spent on something that he doesn’t like.

  23. before asking “Why should, Louis V. Gerstner Jr., the former chairman of IBM, be considered an expert on what teachers need?” … perhaps one might direct one’s attention to the link Joanne provided, to seek out http://www.theteachingcommission.org/about/commissioners.html

    there one can learn the commission includes school superintendents, an AFT past-president, a high school physics teacher, and a dean of a major ed school. Hardly any lack of expertise in education.

  24. Mike in Texas says:

    The DoE has always spent MILLIONS on propaganda. Is MiT ignorant of this or merely trying to change the subject?

    Actually, until this all came out, I was ignorant of it.

  25. Mike in Texas says:

    Chris,

    I have visited their site. Their FAQ starts out with “why is there only one teacher on your commission”? and then answers questions why a former teacher on the commission, the former AFT president, has issued dissenting opinions against parts of the commission’s report.

    The Supt. on their staff is the genius who decided Atlanta’s elementary schools don’t need playgrounds and young kids don’t need recess.

  26. Andy Freeman says:

    > Actually, until this all came out, I was ignorant of it.

    Did MiT think that the DoEd was different from other govt depts in that it didn’t engage in self- and policy-promotion or does he now think that it’s different because it does so?

    Either way, it’s another example of being out of touch with reality.

  27. Mike in Texas says:

    Andy,

    I had never checked to see if govt. depts did such things. I knew various companies do it all the time, and lazy TV producers air it for them (or get paid to air them) as bona fide stories, never mentioning who paid for it.

    I also knew the Dept. of Ed. had hired a PR firm to promote NCLB and was scoring reporters on how favorably they reported on it. I guess what really surprise me is that someone would have taken such tainted money. But then again, if I remember correctly Spiro Agnew sold out for a whole lot less.

  28. Andy Freeman says:

    > I had never checked to see if govt. depts did such things.

    In other words, MiT doesn’t know how govt works.

    In other news, unions do this too, as do “public interest” groups.

    > I guess what really surprise me is that someone would have taken such tainted money.

    What makes MiT think that Williams is the only one?

    Which reminds me, why is this money tainted? Is all such money tainted, or only when money that is used to promote programs that MiT doesn’t like?

  29. Mike in Texas says:

    The money is tainted b/c he didn’t disclose he was being paid to promote that point of view. If other journalists (excuse me, pundits) are doing so they are accepting tainted money also, regardless of what side the stand on.

  30. “What makes good schools good? If we could wave a magic wand and improve one thing, what would it be? Buy new desks and books, cut class size or put an exemplary teacher in as many classrooms as possible?”

    One thing? It reminds me of the comment that one parent told me long ago. Public schools are OK if you get the right teachers. If not, your child is screwed. The idea was that good teachers make up for bad curricula.

    This is the “All we need to do is get good teachers.” idea of improving education. Good at what? State education leaders are open to these discussions because they get to avoid talking about educational philosophies, curricula, grade-by-grade expectations, social promotion, and removing disruptive and non-performing students. How much good does it do to have a good teacher if the curriculum mandates mixed-ability, child-centered, discovery, teacher as guide-on-the-side classes. Does a teacher deserve a merit pay increase if he/she is good at a bad curriculum, or in spite of it? What if teachers can’t have problem kids removed from their class. Will that affect their merit pay chances? Will the teachers get merit pay increases if their kids do better on pathetically poor state tests? “Merit” and “good” are relative terms only. Who gets to calibrate exactly what they mean? Merit pay and in-service training does not deal with fundamental issues – what is the curriculum, what are the grade-by-grade expectations, what testing is done, and what do you do if the students do not meet those expectations. And, I might add, what you do if a school does have some bad teachers.

    Why does this discussion leave many topics off of the table? Why are they looking for a silver bullet? Why can’t they define all of the issues and tackle them head-on? I can’t understand the simple-mindedness of all of this.

    Besides, merit pay and unions are incompatible. In our schools, if a teacher is very good in the grade/subject they teach, all of that can change when a RIF(Reduction In Force) sets off a chain-reaction of seniority-based bumping of teachers throughout the school. When this happened in our school a year ago, I never saw so many nice parents so pissed-off in my life. Then, there is the rule that says that teachers coming in from out-of-state have to start at the bottom rung of seniority and pay, no matter what their credentials and experience. What kind of professional accepts this kind of working environment?

  31. Mike,
    Great that we settled your first question about expertise on “what teachers need” let’s turn to your next questions: # of teachers and AFL dissent

    worth understanding the FAQ
    http://www.theteachingcommission.org/about/FAQs.html

    not only do they cite the dozens of conversation with teachers, but the executive director McCown was also a teacher (as was Feldman)

    it’s equally clear that Ms. Feldman did not issue a dissent. The FAQ explains that “she had reservations about specific recommendations, but remains a member of the commission and a co-signer of its final report.” I applaud their directness in stating concerns of the members.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your concern about the superintendent of Atlanta (that is an exceptionally bad call) I’ve had that discussion with other teachers — including one who was briefly proud that her kids were going to the library instead of outside for recess. On the other hand, she’s not the only superintendent.

  32. It worth noting that the “it will be difficult” is not a meaningful objection.

    After all, raising a child is difficult, but not a substantial argument that it shouldn’t be done.

    Merit pay can be done, even in union settings, even in “mixed-ability, child-centered, discovery, teacher as guide-on-the-side classes” The objections do speak to fixing other problems such as mandated curriculum and measurement. Merit pay remains a keystone so cement it all in place by aligning values and incentives.

  33. Andy Freeman says:

    Is it only money that is/can be tainted, or do equivalents count as well?

    For example, a journalist who reprints press releases effectively has more time-off.

    That’s no different, and it is fairly common operating procedure, and has been for decades.

    And yes, govt agencies, unions, companies, activists, etc. all produce materials so that journalists can get more time off.

  34. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Well by all means, Allen,let’s turn the schools over to the business, who have such a great plan they have to bribe journalists to say good things about it.

    Anxious to change the subject, are you?

    The subject is merit pay and a guy who has a thing or two to say about merit pay is Lou Gerstner.

    That would put him in marked contrast to public education advocates – that would be you – who seem to think you can continue to sell the idea that education is too delicate and too complex to be subjected to anything as crude as numerical measurement.

    Mere numbers can’t capture the excitement, the wonder, the transformational nature of real education.

    So shut up and keep shoveling the money.

    Trouble is, the public seems to have developed a case of indigestion when asked to swallow the notion that poor results, continually-growing budgets and no accountability are just what’s needed to maintain the ongoing educational miracle.

    You could sell the notion that if only the experts had the proper resources and if only the experts had the proper authority and if only the experts weren’t having their elbows joggled by the unlearned then educational paradise would bloom across the land.

    You could sell that notion. Once. But now you’re trying to convince the people who were the fodder that justified your educational paradise that they ought to subject their children to the same tender mercies.

    Not working out, is it?

  35. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote:

    Trouble is, the public seems to have developed a case of indigestion when asked to swallow the notion that poor results

    Actually, the public is not impressed with the anti public school propaganda being perpuated throughout the media. That’s why very few parents choose to move their children to charter schools.

    The public also didn’t buy the large scale attacks on teachers. It was just last year the reformers crowd was trying to portray teachers as lazy and incompetent. When that didn’t work, they switched to attacking teachers’ unions (remember Rod Paige’s remark about the NEA being a terrorist organization). Since that didn’t work out either they have now switched to attacking the Education schools and their teacher training. What will it be next year?

  36. To get back to the subject at hand, higher pay won’t attract, or at least retain, better teachers.

    It’ll certainly cause the current crop to try to hang onto to their newly more-remunerative positions but some extra bucks won’t get the lousy teachers out of their hair, the administration off their backs and the union out from up their….well, off their backs.

    Of course, the Gubernator is more then just a slab of beefcake so he may have some more substantive reforms up his sleeve.

    Suppose the prospect of merit pay is bargained away to reduce resistance to an expansion of the charter cap?

    The unions may want to pretend that they are an immovable force but if that were the case then Arnie wouldn’t be smoking his stogies in the Governor’s mansion. Ergo, Arnie and the unions aren’t pals and Arnie doesn’t owe them anything but a swift kick. What remains to be seen is whether the unions have the political capital left to stop the governor on all fronts.

    Uh Mike. Denial’s only virtue is that it requires very little effort.

  37. Mike in Texas says:

    Denial’s only virtue is that it requires very little effort

    You should know Allen.

    Edwonk wrote:

    Let me guess what would happen under most circumstances: The Principal’s Favorites (teachers) will be assigned most of the “merit” students.

    Actually this hits the nail on the head.

  38. Andy Freeman says:

    When you insist that other people shouldn’t have choice, you don’t get to complain about the consequences of that lack of choice.

    In other words, MiT thinks that merit pay will screw him because “the boss” has some effect and he’s worried about having a bad boss. He “forgets” to mention that he demands the system that gives a bad boss such power.

    Out in the real world, competent people walk away from bad bosses all the time. Eventually, the biz either fails or the boss gets replaced.

    Competent people always benefit from choice.

  39. A while back I read (in a Thomas Sowell book?) that public school teachers place a higher emphasis on job security then the population in general. If that’s true, then Mike’s desire to maintain the status quo that he complains so bitterly about is perfectly rational.

    A competitive environment holds no attraction for someone who prefers certainty to opportunity.

  40. Mike in Texas says:

    Competent people always benefit from choice.

    Oh I get it, I’m supposed to sit back and not complain about a sytem designed to screw me over, lest I be considered incompetent.

    Of course the problem is, the system will be designed to stick the shaft to all people who are not considered favorites.

    This may come as a big shock to you Andy but many administrators do not look favorably upon people with opinions other than there on. In fact, many administators can be downright vinditive towards people with differing opinion. Despite the so called all powerful teachers unions speaking out against outrageous policies can and does cost teachers their jobs.

    Mike’s desire to maintain the status quo that he complains so bitterly about is perfectly rational.

    I’m proud of you, Allen. Your learning to insult people without having to resort to name calling or personal attacks. I’d like to think our frequent discussions on this board have helped to improve your vocabulary and your ability to use it. 😉

  41. Andy Freeman says:

    > I’m supposed to sit back and not complain about a sytem designed to screw me over, lest I be considered incompetent.

    Try reading for comprehension this time.

    The “bad boss” problem in public schools is a consequence of the public school monopoly that MiT vehemently supports. (The monopoly traps both students and teachers.)

  42. Mike in Texas wrote:

    I’m proud of you, Allen. Your learning to insult people without having to resort to name calling or personal attacks.

    Thanks Mike but try not to overwork your irony muscle. It’s clearly underdeveloped.

    What exactly is your beef? That I made some generalizations about teachers or that the generalizations weren’t distinctly complimentary?

    Oh and by the way Mike, Andy’s right. Kids aren’t the only people who are borderline-hysterical with happiness when summer vacation rolls around.

    Kids are happy to get out of school and loath to return and the same thing can be said, largely, of teachers. You think maybe that’s a phenomenon that bears some thought?

  43. Mike in Texas says:

    Andy Freeman wrote:

    The “bad boss” problem in public schools is a consequence of the public school monopoly that MiT vehemently supports.

    So, the solution then is to create a system of independant schools where the principals not only have greater hiring and firing discretion, but won’t be required to have any formal education training? How would they know if a teacher was good or not?

  44. Andy Freeman says:

    MiT can’t make an argument without introducing a straw-man to argue against.

    In this case, no one ever said that the principals in a choice-system had to be education-illiterate, so naturally MiT asserts that they must be and argues against that.

    He also missed the point – choice benefits good teachers. They won’t be stuck with bad principals, something that MiT often complains about.

    As to how we’re going to measure “good teachers”, we’re going to measure the difference they make in students, that being the reason we’re paying them. And, we’re going to let parents take their kids out of schools and classrooms, and the money will go with them. Bad schools and teachers won’t have students, or money.

    Perhaps MiT will tell us why we should continue to pay bad teachers.

    Or maybe he’ll tell us why teachers shouldn’t have choice. I wonder why he really bristled at “Competent people benefit from choice.[1]”? (Surely he’s not going to argue that they don’t.)

    [1] Incompetent people do too, but I doubt that that’s MiT’s objection.

  45. MiT wrote:

    >”So, the solution then is to create a system of independant schools where the principals not only have greater hiring and firing discretion, but won’t be required to have any formal education training? How would they know if a teacher was good or not?”

    It doesn’t matter. Leave it to the parents to decide by giving them choice. Public schools are not meeting their expectations. Choice would also give you the option to work at a school that applied your talents the best. Everyone benefits. Choice is good, just like in the real world.

    It’s nice to know that you are so concerned that you are willing to take your (own?) time speak out to fix things. You just have to keep in mind that others are doing that too, and many of us don’t have any personal vested job interests at stake. We are concerned only about providing the best education for every child.

    Many of us don’t care much for teachers’ unions, state public school administrators, and the state and national politicians who want to play partisan politics. Some might take a practical view that the NCLB and charters are the only feasible (brute force) way to force change in a stagnant monopoly, but have no interest in any Democrat or Republican agenda.

    In our state, the arguments focus on the conflict between the teachers’ unions and the state public education officials and politicians. The politicians and education adminstrators (in a proactive way) push NCLB, “Standards-Based Education” and state testing. The individual schools and teachers’ unions complain bitterly about about meeting these standards.

    I am part of a third, unrelated group of parents (of all political beliefs) who are asking just what is going on. Our state standards are fuzzy and set very low expectations. Being rated as a high performing school is not good enough. Many of us parents grew up in public schools and now find that we can’t get that same level of education for our kids. I look at our fuzzy state NSRE exams and find that they are incredibly simple (as are the NAEP tests – what one education writer called the “Gold Standard”) and wonder why kids do so poorly on these exams.

    What is the problem? Why can’t schools meet the requirements of any of these simple tests and still have plenty of time left over to do a whole lot more? Some of the tests might be awful, but I have yet to see one that isn’t incredibly simple. Schools should just fix them or deal with them and move on. If you look at the NAEP testing site you will see that the questions are very simple and the results are horrible. What is going on? On top of it all, most teachers who complain about testing don’t complain that the tests are too simple, they just want to get rid of the tests. Even if you get rid of the tests, the expectations are still low and fuzzy.

    Independent private K-8 schools were unheard of when I was growing up. Now, they are expanding like crazy. The reason is that the public schools are setting lower and fuzzier expectations. The problem is not testing or not testing. The problem is low expectations.

  46. It’s been my experience that, contrary to popular belief, it’s quite easy to fire a tenured teacher.

    All it takes is a vote of the board of trustees and they can do that it in one night.

    Another myth is that the union will back up teachers to the hilt. The truth is that the union is selective of who they’ll back up. To save money, the union will often steer the teacher into resigning with a pay settlement.

    Many teachers are fired without it appearing on the books that they were fired.

    Let me tell you how it really is.

    If a male teacher puts his hand up a girl’s dress, he’s terminated that afternoon.

    If a teacher repeatedly ignores the principal’s directive not to refer to abortion as murder, the teacher could typically be fired within the year, but more likely, a little longer.

    If a teacher is lazy and is obviously just going through the motions and shows no interest in his students and their achievement, the principal can make that teacher’s life miserable to the point where he voluntarily resigns.

    But can the principal fire him for just being dumb and lazy? No. If he has tenure, it’s quite difficult. But as a I said, there are other methods and they’re used all the time.

    I’ve seen cases where the super directed the principal to “get” the teacher and the principal simply fabricated reports of “too much chalk dust in the chalk tray” and the like.

    Tenure doesn’t protect teachers. It just makes principals lie.

  47. Oh please, Robert. Tenure isn’t sought after because teachers like to make principals lie. It’s sought after because it confers a degree a job security.

    Similarly, unions don’t get to collect their dues because it just seems like a good idea. They bargain for pay and bennies and put the collective muscle of a gang of teachers at the disposal of the individual teacher.

    And a union can’t be seen as too picky about who it defends and who it doesn’t defend. If anything, the union is more likely to be over-zealous and under-discriminating in defence of a member. Otherwise, what’s the point of belonging? Or what’s the point of voting for this particular union rep?

  48. Andy Freeman says:

    > Otherwise, what’s the point of belonging? Or what’s the point of voting for this particular union rep?

    Union membership is often a condition of employment.

  49. Andy Freeman wrote:

    Union membership is often a condition of employment.

    Yup, but that law is enacted after the union has the political clout to do so. Besides, the internal political dynamics of a union put a high premium on non-judgemental support of a member whose job is on the line whether it’s a right-to-work state or a closed-shop state.

    To get back to this particular merit pay proposal, I think it’ll fail and for the same reason that all merit pay schemes fail in the public education system: they’re an attempt to graft a function onto an intrinsically inimical organization. No one that’s part of the public education system gets anything from the introduction of a merit system and no one outside the public education system has much of a say.

    If you look at all the involved parties and look at their input to any measure of teacher merit, the scheme falls apart.

    Will teachers welcome this proposal? Cripes, why?

    Will administrators welcome merit pay for teachers? Again, why? If it comes with some budget attached then, yes but otherwise it’s just another thing to worry about, another responsibility. Besides, administrators already have an objective measure of teacher competence: any teacher that causes me any problem is incompetent.

    School boards? Teacher competence is only one item on their agenda and most of the other items don’t come with some serious, immediate push-back attached.

    Parents? Yeah, right.

    State and federal politicians? This week the problem is education. Next week it’ll be prison reform or tort reform or the budget or environmental issues.

    So, who in the public education system places a significant enough premium on teacher competence to be undeterred by the problems and has the power to incline the system toward teacher competence over time?

    The answer: no one.

  50. Allen, you misread what I wrote.

    I’m stating from that from my experience tenure isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

    Why wouldn’t unions defend their members? Money. Every case that the union takes on costs money. They’d like us to believe that they’re always their for us but when when push comes to shove, it’s a different story.

    It’s a myth that tenure gives teachers great job security. And it’s a myth that the teacher’s union will always defend a teacher who’s under attack. These two myths are repeated so frequently that they’re taken as fact.

  51. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen and Andy,

    I have taught in both Texas and Florida and neither place require union membership as a condition of employment. What states is it required in?

  52. Robert Wright wrote

    I’m stating from that from my experience tenure isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

    Hardly anything is. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t confer enough in the way of advantages in terms of job security to be unworthy of pursuit.

    Why wouldn’t unions defend their members? Money.

    Cuts both ways. A union that doesn’t vigorously defend it’s members from termination is a union that’ll have its members wondering what their dues are going for and doing more then wondering.

    These two myths are repeated so frequently that they’re taken as fact.

    That’s because they are fact and posing the exception as the rule doesn’t change that even if the exceptions are what you’re most familiar with.

    Other then as a legal requirement, why would anyone join a union other then for the expectation of greater pay or greater benefits? You’re paying dues, you expect something for those dues.

    Mike in Texas wrote:

    What states is it required in?

    Here ya go: http://www.nrtw.org/rtws.htm

  53. Mike in Texas says:

    Well Allen, according to the website you provided me teachers cannot be required to join a union. The question and answers about teachers can be found here The first question regarding teachers is “Can I be required to be a union member or pay dues to a union?” and the answer given is, “You cannot be required to be a union member in any state”. There are some fuzzy rules about unions if you are not in a right to state you can be forced to be a fee for any rights and benefits the union obtains for all teachers.

    However, that is far from requiring anyone to join.

  54. None of which has much to do with the fact that unions, by their nature, are dead-set against merit pay.

    Joanne wrote:

    Designing a merit pay system that’s accepted as fair is quite difficult.

    Which is pretty clearly true and has nothing to do with the importance of a merit pay system.

    In fact, it may be so difficult to design an objective merit pay system for teachers that the only way to handle the situation effectively may be to handle it indirectly by making merit pay a function of school quality.

    One nice thing about a merit pay system, at any level, is that it is quite possibly incompatible with the district-based public education system. Another nail in the coffin.

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  1. QUOTE OF THE DAY.

    Tradeoffs are everywhere.

  2. Quick hits

    Lotsa good comments on this Joanne Jacobs post about merit pay for teachers. Maybe if the good teachers got paid well enough, they wouldn’t have to strip kids to find $10. How are we going to convince kids that it’s…