Pro-kid, pro-teacher

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s plan for incentive pay for teachers in schools with a lot of low-income students is “an issue that is pro-teacher and, more importantly, pro kid,” writes Dan Weintraub in the Sacramento Bee. “Not only pro-kid but pro-poor-kid.” But the governor doesn’t know how to sell it.

Everyone knows that our poorest kids tend to clump in schools that depend too much on inexperienced teachers, many of whom are still trying to find their way in the profession. We have good, experienced teachers who would teach in these schools if they were rewarded financially for their trouble – just as in every other profession, where the toughest-to-fill jobs normally earn higher pay. So who or what is standing in the way of the students who need better teachers getting those teachers?

The teachers unions.

The unions have blocked higher pay for teachers with hard-to-find skills or teachers who work with hard-to-teach students.

The governor could “expose the terrible bargain the Democrats in the Legislature have made with the teachers unions, to the detriment of the people they claim to represent,” Weintraub writes. But Schwarzenegger hasn’t “connected the dots.”

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Mike in Texas says:

    Aww, the evil teachers’ unions are blocking progress again. If only they stand back and let the benevolent politicians and businessmen fix education (please put some sarcasm thingies on this site).

  2. I don’t see why people have such a problem with plans such as these. For every other job, you get paid to work more, or with tougher clients. But merit/incentive pay for teachers? Oh, no! No, they’re supposed to adore their job! You mean someone actually wants to get paid more for dealing with crazy, rotten parents of even more crazy and rotten kids who can just do no wrong? They should WANT to stay for hours past contract time, and still take home loads of paperwork to finish! Shame on them!

    How’s THAT for sarcasm?

  3. Mike in Texas says:

    It’s pretty good sarcasm, Sarah, I’ll give you that.

    Do you think I’ll get any credit here from the “reformers” for actually being against giving teachers more money?

    The real problem of course, is politicians throw these phrases around without any real plans. Does Arnold have some objective, specific things teachers can do to earn this incentive pay? Will it be based on test scores alone(a transparent attempt to win teachers over to high stakes testing)? Will they be doled out by the principals to their favorites (teachers who speak up for kids and against administrations are usually not very popular with principals)? What about teachers who do not teach in grade levels not tested? Are they just screwed? What about teachers who teach problem kids, or English as a Second Language kids? Or PE coaches, librarians, lab teachers? What kind of specific goals do they have?

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Why not allow teachers to evaluate teachers?

  5. Steve LaBonne says:

    Public employee unions exist to assure that people who don’t do their jobs nevertheless keep them, while advancement of the most capable is blocked or at best slowed (they’d make the drones look bad, after all). I experienced this first-hand in my previous job, and I’m very glad to be non-union now. I’ll bet a lot of teachers who have more self-respect and ambition than Mike would like the non-union life if they had a taste of it. Short of that they would certainly benefit from any proposal that makes a dent in the mentality that teachers are interchangeable units whose careers may only progress in lockstep via seniority. That’s a great source of frustration for high-quality people.

  6. Mike, the proposal Weintraub is talking about calls for paying teachers more to teach in schools with lots of disadvantaged students and paying more to teachers with hard-to-fill specialties, such as physics. The merit pay proposal, which looks DOA, called for leaving merit criteria to local districts.

  7. Mike in Texas says:

    I’m very glad to be non-union now. I’ll bet a lot of teachers who have more self-respect and ambition than Mike would like the non-union life if they had a taste of it.

    Ahh, I’ve reduced another reformer to hurling personal insults; looks like I win valuable arguement points.

    Joanne, thank you for the information. I hadn’t had time to read the Weintraub article.

  8. Steve LaBonne says:

    You just go right on flattering yourself, Mike; the reat of us will take no notice.

  9. Mike in Texas says:

    Steve,

    I’m amazed that so many people who say they are interested in reforming education will throw insults left and right at a teacher who is trying to tell them the way it really is.

    You may not agree with what I say or believe I’m accurate but you had no reason to claim I am without ambition or self-respect. You don’t know anything about me or what kind of teacher I am. The fact remains, I am an experienced teacher (12 years on the job) and I know what I’m talking about. Your hurling insults at me merely indicates to me you did not have a valid arguement to counter mine.

  10. Steve LaBonne says:

    First, I also know at first hand what I’m talking about when it comes to public-employee unions- the non-teacher ones are not all that different from the teachers’ unions in the way they operate. Second, as a parent and taxpayer I am your customer (figuratively for you, literally for the teachers in my own district). If you don’t like input from the people who consume your work product and pay your salary I have one word for you- tough. You’d better get used to it. Finally, I have taught for a living, though at the college rather than the K-12 level.

    Based on all the above I repeat my opinion: if you had any real professional self-respect or ambition you would at least be willing to consider with an open mind the kinds of reforms mentioned in Joanne’s post. Don’t like that assessment? Too bad.

  11. You still don’t make a point, Steve. How does trashing Mike in Texas build a plan for merit pay for teachers? Certainly teachers want their “customers” to be happy. How many teachers go into the profession thinking “man, I can’t wait to be mediocre and hold back a bright colleague today..” Likely very few. And if they are, they should, and can be, removed.

    Unions aren’t a monarchy – you can be fired. In Illinois, it takes a year, but it can be done and is. Blaming unions for blocking merit pay is easy, but what’s not easy is addressing a situation where the least advantaged kids need the best teachers.

    But the same situation exists with health care, with police and fire services, and, a friend of mine tells me, cable TV installers. No one wants to go to communities that need help.

    If I were an expert teacher, is an extra 10K a year gonna get me into a really terrible school, when the job I might already have is tough enough? I don’t know, but what I do know is that as long as those problems exist in the world at large, they’ll exist in education.

  12. Steve LaBonne says:

    As long as the unions insist on being part of the problem, by blocking common-sense initiatives that recognize that not every job in the bargaining unit is interchangeable with every other, they, and supporters of the current dysfunctional way of doing business, deserve all the bashing they get.

  13. Well, that’s certainly insightful. Thanks for your positive thoughts towards creating a better future for our kids.

  14. Mike in Texas says:

    Steve,

    Who says these are common sense initiatives?

    I seem to remember reading that Los Angeles, like many urban school districts, has many school buildings in near of serious repair or replacement. But yet, Arnold has proposed cutting 2 billion dollars out of the state’s education budget. Is that common sense? Why not spend the money on proven solutions like reducing class size (and I mean real class size reduction, not the token effort the state made previously that reduced elementary class sizes from 29.75 students per class to 29? Why not fix the schools that are falling apart? I’ve noticed its always the poor, inner city schools that are falling down, and you never see a dilapidated adminstration building.

  15. Mike in Texas says:

    WEW wrote:
    Why not allow teachers to evaluate teachers?

    This goes on in most elementary schools. All you have to do is find out what teachers have the other teachers’ children in their classrooms.

  16. When I was looking at teaching as a career there was “combat pay” offered at several districts in the Bay Area (Oakland and some in San Francisco). I think it was about $5,000 per year (10 years ago). Is this the incentive pay people are talking about? Isn’t this already happening in some places?

  17. Steve LaBonne says:

    Mike, what reason is there to believe that just reducing class size by adding more of the worst and/or least experienced teachers to the schools that better teachers resist going to (in the absence of incentives), will help at all? That’s not only not proven (since the evidence for a real educational effect of class size per se is very weak at best), it’s a fantasy.

  18. Steve LaBonne says:

    P.S. Please don’t erect a straw man by saying that I claim such pay differentials would be a panacea. Of course they’re not. But what’s the principled reason for insisting they can’t even be tried?

  19. Mike in Texas says:

    That’s not only not proven (since the evidence for a real educational effect of class size per se is very weak at best), it’s a fantasy

    Actually there’s solid evidence to show reducing class size to 15 students per classroom will improve academic performance. You just choose to ignore it.

    Please don’t erect a straw man by saying that I claim such pay differentials would be a panacea.

    Surely you can’t still be referring to me. No where did I suggest you were making any claims

  20. Teachers evaluating (and/or policing) other teachers doesn’t always work. The same issues come up as with teachers’ unions, or the Catholic Church attempting to discipline their own priests. The teachers who are the most popular and the best politicians come ahead, rather than the best teachers. And what happens when a bright hardworking young teacher comes into a school and makes the old fogeys and their cartels look bad?

    Let the parents do the evaluations, and have the freedom to choose teachers, schools, and even entire systems.

  21. Why not spend the money on proven solutions like reducing class size […] ?

    Time to bone up on your Marzano; class size isn’t even in the top five factors that affect student achievement.

  22. Mike in Texas says:
  23. Mike in Texas says:

    Marty,

    No class size isn’t one of his factors, but I’ve searched his bio and can’t find “classroom teacher” listed anywhere. Also, in his sample instructional manual he begins with his first page is devoted to (drum roll) A MISSION STATEMENT. Now there’s the kind of bold innovations we should be embracing. A useless document suitable only for being mocked in Dilbert cartoons. I once heard a speaker say the only mission statements that were any good were capable of being understood by a clerk at the nearest convenience store. If they can’t tell you what it means then it’s not worth the paper its printed on.

    So you’ll forgive me if I’m not impressed by Marzano’s ideas. Not to say he’s wrong; I just didn’t see anything in his work to say he’s any more right than anyone else. Or to put it more kindly, his ideas would probably work for some kids and not work for some kids. In the end its the teacher’s job to find out what does work.

  24. Walter E. Wallis says:

    If teaching is a profession, then teachers have to develop professional tools for evaluating effectivness. Every other profession does. Does popularity color the evaluations? Sure, but so what? I know some engineers are prettier than me, but I am the one who started out in the sewers and worked my way up, so it evens out.
    I admit I am just a silly old man, but I still believe that if we only allowed teachers to teach then our kids would learn.

  25. I still think that the parents need to be the final arbiters of teacher effectiveness. I don’t mean allowing them to micro-manage the teachers, though. I mean allowing them to have greater powers of selecting teachers, schools, and systems – and the right to legally withdraw their children from anything unsuitable (or harmful). That also comes with full responsibility for their children’s upbringing and education.

    Beyond that, teachers can still review each other, like in any other profession, as Walter suggested. And the bad but highly political teachers are usually the ones most involved with union/managerial activities.

  26. Geez, your computer craps out for a couple of days and the world just moves on without so much as a “by your leave”…..

    Mike in Texas wrote:

    Actually there’s solid evidence to show reducing class size to 15 students per classroom will improve academic performance.

    However “solid” the evidence may be it’s definitely elusive. So far you’ve offered an Ohio teacher’s union article’s interpretation of a former NEA president’s research, to stretch the definition of the word to meaninglessness.

    emmett54 wrote:

    Certainly teachers want their “customers” to be happy.

    And who would that be? Certainly not parents if your definition of the word “customer” is to have any validity. It’s not like the parents can, in any meaningful way, take their business to a competitor.

    Unions aren’t a monarchy – you can be fired. In Illinois, it takes a year, but it can be done and is.

    A whole year you say? That certainly is the sort of timeframe that’ll allow for the efficient removal of incompetent teachers.

    By the way, how much does it cost to fire a teacher in Illinois? The reason I ask is that in New Jersey it takes two years and costs a minimum of $200,000. I understand that figure isn’t at all atypical.

    I don’t know about you, but I tend to wonder what other purposes each of those $200,000 chuncks of cash could be put to if they weren’t being spent to can bum teachers. And of course, it also makes me wonder what happens to the teachers who aren’t quite worth $200,000 to can.

    Do they do the honorable thing and commit hara-kiri?

    Naw, probably they just go on, collecting their paychecks and losing not a minutes sleep for the lousy job they’re doing.

    Mike in Texas wrote:

    No class size isn’t one of his factors, but I’ve searched his bio and can’t find “classroom teacher” listed anywhere.

    I understand. I know how to work a light switch so I ought to be consulted on national energy policy. I’ve also piloted an airplane so I ought to have something of substance to say about the aerodynamic qualities of a new airplane.

    So you’ll forgive me if I’m not impressed by Marzano’s ideas.

    Why? Is your opinion of any value? Being a teacher doesn’t mean you’re a good teacher and being a good teacher doesn’t mean you have anything of value to say about education policy and theory. And that’s assuming you don’t have a personal axe to grind. Not exactly a safe assumption when your position on education can be summed up in four words: more money, less accountability.