Union says 'no' to AP bonus

Offered a $856,000 grant to expand Advanced Placement classes, the Leominster, Massachusetts teachers’ union said “no” by a vote of 305 to 47.

A portion of the grant goes toward paying teachers of Advanced Placement courses bonus money if they successfully recruit more students to take AP courses and if the students perform well on the end-of-the-year AP exam.

Students also would have received cash payments of $100 for every AP course they passed.

Bernadette Marso, outgoing president of the Leominster Education Association, said the union objected to “pay for performance.”

The grant also would have covered half of students’ costs for the AP exam and paid for professional development for teachers.

Via EIA Intercepts.

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Comments

  1. There’s no reason I should be paid more than the guy next door just because I teach AP and my students do well. It’s hard work, but so is teaching my remedial class. Just a different set of teaching skills. But, hey, how much are those pass bonuses? I had a BUNCH of kids take that test in May and I know that most of them passed.

    FWIW, it should be pay for passing score, not recruiting. That’s an invitation to watering down the course.

    $100 for passing the course or passing the test? Grades in the course are still relatively arbitrary by teacher.

    A week-long APSI is about $1200/teacher. My state university system pays for it and gives me graduate credit. Maybe Massachusetts should do the same. It is excellent professional development — and very inexpensive compared to the pointless circus shows districts like to bring in.

  2. Ragnarok says:

    The general principle is, the higher the skill level, the higher the pay. I think this has been badly corrupted (think Wall Streeters who’re paid millions for driving a company into the ground), but it’s a reasonable principle.

    Mutatis mutandis, it’s a lot easier to train a ditch-digger than a physicist, and you want to motivate the few who can grok physics. So you pay them more. Right?

    If you don’t want to be paid more, that’s quite OK; but it don’t affect the principle.

  3. I think the principle is supposed to be higher pay for higher performance, regardless of skill level. May seem like a nit, but I think that distinction is part of what led to the Wall Street problem you mentioned.

    Was the NMSI approach really the best way to work with the teachers’ unions? It seems like the recruiting part of the process would have been best left to another group of people. If the issue was strictly about increasing teachers’ skills with the potential of greater student interest in AP classes then maybe the teachers would have been more agreeable. At least that would have established a much clearer bottom line for the teachers’ to answer to: “Students sign up for AP classes, but there are no teachers to teach them”. And if teachers don’t want extra money for teaching AP classes I don’t see why there would be any problem with giving them what they want.

  4. Parent2 says:

    The Massachusetts program is an offshoot of the National Math and Science Initiative, Inc (NMSI). I believe the goal of adding in cash incentives for the teachers, is to encourage them to expand the pool of students taking AP classes, and then to teach the class to a high level, so that as many students as possible pass. In order to qualify for this grant, the school systems must commit to increasing the number of students taking AP classes, sitting exams, and passing the exams.

    Not all Massachusetts teachers choose to sacrifice the interests of students to the interests of the union. Worcester and Marlboro have joined the program. (http://www.nationalmathandscience.org/index.php/articles/major-advance-worcester-north-and-marlboro-high-extend-access-to-ap-courses.html) I like the attitude of this teacher, “In an interview, Ms. Frangos said, ‘AP is not for the privileged; it’s for the prepared. If we grow the pipeline, they’ll get the 3, 4 or 5. All kids are potential AP students.’”

    As a taxpayer, who hopes to live to a ripe old age in this country, I’d really like to see more students allowed to take AP classes. I’d like to see more students prepared to take AP classes from the beginning of their school career.

  5. Lots of misconceptions here. First, teaching AP does not necessarily require a higher skill level. It requires different skills (and tends to be a lot of work), but is no more advanced than teaching any other course well. For AP, I need to have a more thorough knowledge of my subject area (not a big deal); for regular classes, I need better skills in teaching methods. AP kids can generally roll with so-so pedagogy — they’ll fill in the gaps. Classes with more average students, students with disabilities, ELL, etc. demand that I design lessons much, much more carefully.

    Secondly, the needs of the children are not being sacrificed in any discernible way, except perhaps a few bucks in their pockets (about $40/test and the unspecified “reward” for passing the class). As far as we know, the school is still offering AP classes to all who want to take them. You don’t need any outside group involved. Shockingly, I even do this! Heck, my evaluating principal doesn’t even know I teach AP… but let’s just keep that close to the vest, shall we?

    Pre-AP is a great idea. CB has a lot of curriculum materials available to districts who want to do it, including something called SpringBoard.

    Again, districts should not be “allowing” kids to take AP; the courses are supposed to be open to anyone with the desire to take them. That does not mean all students should take one, but the opportunity should always be there. If the pressure is for passing scores no matter what, the teachers’ motivation is to restrict entry to those likely able to pass; that’s an administration/school climate issue, not an AP issue, per say.

  6. Parent2 says:

    Lightly seasoned, in your state, the courses may be open to all. I congratulate you. In Massachusetts, frequently, they aren’t. Our district recently cut the number of AP sections. With the (specified by union contract) required maximum allowable class sizes, that sets a limit on possible seats in AP classes. In our district, that will cut the already (miserably) low number of 30 seats per AP subject to 20 seats. “As far as we know, the school is still offering AP classes to all who want to take them.” Lacking the proof that this is happening, in Massachusetts, we cannot assume this. Heck, I know of a district which lists an AP course in their program of studies, but doesn’t hold the class.

    I could even say that this program operates as a bribe to the administration and those who hold power in the district–which includes the teachers’ union–to increase the number of students prepared to, and allowed to take AP classes.

    Yes, the needs of the students are being sacrificed. In order to pass an AP Calculus exam, the student needs to possess certain skills when she walks into the classroom in September. Committing to increase the number of high school kids who are prepared to take AP classes in September means committing to raising the bar for students in middle school, and in elementary school.

    Catherine Johnson, at Kitchen Table Math, has been posting about the different cultures which exist in schools, particularly the paradoxical culture of limiting access to the AP track in affluent high schools. (http://kitchentablemath.blogspot.com/2009/03/wealthy-schools-decline-at-top.html)

  7. AP policy varies by school, and sometimes department.

    I am intimately aware of the skills one must possess before hitting the sunny shores of AP — and the work one does as the e3l33t AP teacher when those skills are not in place. In my district we don’t do any pre-AP, but standards are high enough that it doesn’t really matter. My English program and the Calc program are the biggest in the building (but I’m going to beat him next year… ha ha!).

    Hey, I thought Massachusetts was the Be All and End All for ed in this country. Are you saying it ain’t so? (I was educated through my B.A. by the MA public school system, but not in Leominster or any of the districts mentioned here.)

    Schools sometimes keep courses on the books even though they don’t make. We have a couple of AP courses that aren’t actually offered due to students not signing up in adequate numbers. It isn’t sinister. Budget cuts are indeed cutting AP sections in many places.

    Honestly, you don’t need to bribe teachers (maybe admins). You want AP teachers who want to do it. Find a few good, young, ambitious teachers and send them to an APSI until you find the teacher interested. The program will build from there.

  8. AP classes might be this huge impressive thing from the viewpoint of the kids and the parents, but should not be difficult to staff with teachers. The material is just college freshman material. A college graduate should have an easy time with it.

    The schools I know of assign the AP classes to the longest serving teachers as a reward for long service or to recognize that said teachers are too tired for class room control and need an EASIER assignment.

    I find this story mystifying.

  9. I just don’t understand what’s so advantageous about separating the world into “AP” and “not AP”, or why juggling the relative size of the two tracks is important.

  10. Ragnarok says:

    Per Lightly Seasoned:

    “Lots of misconceptions here. First, teaching AP does not necessarily require a higher skill level. … For AP, I need to have a more thorough knowledge of my subject area (not a big deal);”

    Hmm, let’s take calculus. Are you really saying that understanding Taylor-Maclaurin expansions or Rolle’s Mean-Value Theorem ain’t much different from the standard calculus courses? I doubt it. For that matter, I doubt that most math teachers understand limits – and limits are fundamental in calculus.

    The “…more thorough knowledge of my subject area…” can be a very big deal indeed.

    And those who can understand these things are worth more than those who can’t.

  11. Yes, Ragnarok, as someone who teaches in the AP program and coordinates closely with other teachers who teach in the AP program (incl. Calc, Chem, and Physics), I’m saying it is no big deal. The material is advanced for a *high school student*, not a college graduate, and certainly not someone with a Masters in their subject area, which is a requirement for teaching AP and is already “worth more” on the salary scale. Now, what is your personal experience as an AP teacher? How many sections have you taught, how have your kids scored? What type of teaching experience have you found the most valuable in designing and implementing these courses?

  12. Yes, Ragnarok, as someone who teaches in the AP program and coordinates closely with other teachers who teach in the AP program (incl. Calc, Chem, and Physics), I’m saying it is no big deal. The material is advanced for a *high school student*, not a college graduate, and certainly not someone with a Masters in their subject area, which is a requirement for teaching AP and is already “worth more” on the salary scale. Now, what is your personal experience as an AP teacher? How many sections have you taught, how have your kids scored? What type of teaching experience have you found the most valuable in designing and implementing these courses?
    BTW I love your blog!

  13. There ya go Ragnarok. One teacher’s as good as another, as interchangeable as gears in a huge, indifferent machine.

    And that’s a good thing.

  14. Ragnarok says:

    The problem with defending an indefensible position, Mme. Lightly Seasoned, is that you very quickly lose any room to manoeuvre.

    “…someone with a Masters [sic] in their subject area, which is a requirement for teaching AP and is already “worth more” on the salary scale.”

    So someone with a “Masters” is worth more than someone without; it’s reasonable to argue that some such people are worth more than others…

    And bang! goes your argument

  15. Ragnarok says:

    “BTW I love your blog!”

    Mah blog? I don’t gots no blog.

  16. Liz in PA says:

    I’d like to jump in on for “shouldn’t be hard to find teachers” idea. I was part of a proposal team for the NMSI grant (not in PA, for the record). In that state, especially in rural/poor districts, we had lots of principals and teachers saying “I’m not interested in AP b/c our kids can’t do it…and our district doesn’t have the money to risk on that anyhow.” THAT’s what the NMSI structure is really targeted at – and effectively so. In those situations you have to get everyone willing to “take a flyer” on AP–students, teachers, and admins. The idea is that over time, the school culture will change from “can’t” to “can” and then you won’t need the (fairly small, actually) cash incentives.

    Also, for the record, the NMSI program is a scale-up of a Texas program, which has shown impressive results particularly with minority students. I think they’ve been surprised at the union issues encountered in their grantee states, though – apparently the union situation in Texas was much different.

  17. I read a suggestion that small rural schools might look to non-teachers in the community to cover hard-to-find courses; a pharmacist teaching chemistry was a specific suggestion, since even rural areas usually have a pharmacy within reasonable distance. Of course, it’s not likely to happen if such people are made to take ed courses and deal with all the educrat blob requirements.

  18. Pharmacists teaching chemistry, engineers teaching calculus… my goodness, if that worked, people might get the impression that ed schoos and teacher’s unions didn’t contribute anything of value!

  19. s/shoos/schools/