If teachers aren't motivated by money . . .

If merit pay doesn’t motivate teachers, then it makes sense to cut teacher pay, argues Cafe Hayek’s Don Boudreaux, a George Mason econ prof, in response to a letter in the Washington Post from Rick Nelson, former Fairfax County Federation of Teachers president.

So if teachers do not respond positively to the prospect of higher monetary rewards, they are unlikely to respond negatively to the prospect of lower monetary rewards. Alternatively, if the problem with merit pay is that measuring teacher performance is simply too difficult, then we can conclude that Fairfax teachers now are as likely to be doing a truly lousy job at educating children as they are to be doing an excellent job at this task. . . .  If teachers aren’t motivated by money, then they’ll work just as diligently at lower pay as they will at higher pay; if cutting pay will, in fact, cause some teachers to quit, their replacements are likely to perform no worse than them.

The National Education Association is looking for a way to be positive — or at least sound positive — on merit pay, reports Education Intelligence Agency, which has “declassified” an NEA report on teachers’ views of Alternative Compensation Models in Minnesota and five school districts.

Reactions to the programs were all over the map, with some teachers loving the new system and others hating it, but a few common sentiments were expressed. The most important of these was the lack of simplicity. Many teachers didn’t understand exactly how their pay or bonuses were being generated and were forced to trust the district administrators to correctly apply and compute the pay. . . . This complexity makes the clarity of the traditional salary schedule more appealing by comparison.

The union is OK on extra pay for “professional growth,” as in Helena, Montana and  Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The report praises “skill- and knowledge-based programs that pay for things like embedded, relevant professional development and teacher career ladders.”

Pay linked to student achievement remains taboo, EIA points out.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. So if teachers do not respond positively to the prospect of higher monetary rewards, they are unlikely to respond negatively to the prospect of lower monetary rewards.

    I recognize he’s trying to make a point, but it would help if he did so without demonstrating that he flunked logic.

  2. It was probably an NEA member that “taught” him logic then.

  3. Roger Sweeny says:

    Here’s an interesting thought experiment. Most school systems have different “tracks” for teacher pay. Those with just a Bachelors are on the poorest paid track. Higher pay goes to teachers with a Masters. Then there may be additional tracks: Masters with 15 more graduate credits, Masters plus 30, and so on.

    What would happen to enrollment in graduate education courses if there were just one track, if everyone were paid the same as someone who had never taken a graduate course? Since my experience is that most teachers don’t think much of the usefulness of ed courses, my hypothesis is that enrollment would go to just about zero.

    (This, of course, assumes that teachers are not otherwise “incentived” to take ed courses. Most teaching licenses are only for a limited period of years, say five. In order to renew the license, the teacher must have engaged in a certain amount of “professional development.” Ed courses often count as PD.)

  4. Making bonus or merit pay based on test scores is like giving auto workers a bonus based on people’s driving skills.

  5. Amy Young-Buckler says:

    The problem with the merit pay programs that I have seen in the two school districts I have worked in is that they leave out whole groups of teachers. If you are not a core content teacher (reading, math, science, social studies – special education or general education) you don’t qualify for the programs. If we are all responsible for teaching students and making sure they learn everything they need to to be successful (no matter the assessment tool used) then we should all be eligible for merit pay programs.

  6. Just another reason why no one should give a crap about what an economist says is good for schools.

  7. I really need a new career.

  8. Alternatively, if the problem with merit pay is that measuring teacher performance is simply too difficult, then we can conclude that Fairfax teachers now are as likely to be doing a truly lousy job at educating children as they are to be doing an excellent job at this task.

    EPIC FAIL.

  9. Miller Smith says:

    Why not just hire teachers of high quality that you will pay the same high rate? Never keep a “bad” teacher longer than it takes to replace them with the high quality teacher you should have hired in the first place?

    I assume that the people who want to institute merit pay will only allow teachers that qualify for merit pay to remain employed as teachers? If not, why not? For God’s Sake the pro-merit-pay camp wouldn’t keep a teacher on the payroll and inflicting that teacher on classes of helpless students if that teacher doesn’t have “merit”…would they?

    How about this: We institute merit pay now and within two years we replace all the unmeritorious teachers with meritorious ones and we have the teacher quality problem solved.

    See? That was easy…now what was that I heard about a “pipeline?”

  10. Margo/Mom says:

    Roger asks, “What would happen to enrollment in graduate education courses if there were just one track, if everyone were paid the same as someone who had never taken a graduate course?”

    That is an interesting thought experiment. But, we would have to consider the impact on colleges and universities as well. Most consider their colleges of education to be “cash cows,” that is low-expense/high yield “products” that help to support other mission consistent endeavors with a differient yield ratio. With the loss of a highly incentivized market (through the removal of pay scale increments, or requirements for continued education), they might be faced with a set of decisions. Some may opt to discontinue their advanced degree programs. Some may opt to reformulate them to be more intrinsically attractive to teachers (which may be a good thing, or not). In the end, they may be forced to develop programs with a demonstrable chance of improving the quality of teaching. Perhaps the value of a degree might become enhanced. Hard to say. But interesting to think about.

  11. 1) Dunno ’bout “logic”, but it seems unreasonable to expect that a zero or negative correlation (student performance, teacher pay) above the current pay level would become positive below the current level, especially since “the current level” varies widely between teachers. Sorry, Mike, Bourdeaux is right about that part of the argument.
    2) If we can’t measure performance, what argument can anyone make for tax-subsidized schools? Why hire expensive teachers with college degrees when college drop-outs would be cheaper?

    I see two problems with merit pay:
    1) Notice that schools performance indicators always use Reading and Math scores? For their Brookings study, Chubb and Moe used standardized tests of Reading, Math, and Science. They did not use Social Studies schore because these did not correlate with anything (which is pretty funny if you know any statistics). What about P.E., Art, Auto Shop? or will only English and Math teachers qualify for merit pay?
    2) Merit pay is an internal accountability mechanism. Internal accountability mechanisms will fail, since they start at a point far along the process which economists call “regulatory capture”. Insiders will define “merit” to reward system insiders and punish whistleblowers. Ass-kissers will get Honors classes and G/T kids and the internal critics will get the alienated kids and the mainstreamed sp-ed kids. They get these now, but at least they don’t get their pay docked as well.

  12. Richard Nieporent says:

    I assume that the people who want to institute merit pay will only allow teachers that qualify for merit pay to remain employed as teachers? If not, why not?

    It is sad to see the lack of understanding of how businesses are run by some teachers. Do you really think companies who give out merit pay fire all of the rest of their employees? What they do is use merit pay to incentivize the workers to do a better job. Not everyone gets the same merit pay increase. The best workers get more than other workers and the lower performing workers get none. The ones who do an unacceptable job are fired.

    Of course the reason why the unions are against merit pay is that it would weaken their control over the teachers if some teachers could get better pay than others by doing a better job. After all, isn’t it the job of the union to get teachers higher salaries? If teachers could do this on their own, then there would be no need for a union.

  13. Tom in GA says:

    Making bonus or merit pay based on test scores is like giving auto workers a bonus based on people’s driving skills.

    Er, not if it’s done correctly. Of course, like the education students receive themselves, comments on an education blog are more about show than substance…

  14. Mr. Boudreaux should also know that salary is mostly a “hygienic” factor in employment. Meaning, one will not produce any more for a higher pay, but one will leave for poor or internally inequitable pay. For instance, let’s say every one at Nike was given a 20% pay increase, it is doubtful that the company’s productivity will increase 20% and the euphoria of the pay raise will disappear in about 30 days or less. On the other hand, if Nike were to cut everyone’s wage by 20%, productivity will decrease due to low morale and people will start looking for another job. This is a well-known economic principle found in most economic books.

    So, how do you compensate a behavior that results in improved productivity (people say test scores as a measure, others say otherwise, you fill in the measure for now). Do you reward the individual teacher? department? school? district? Each level has its own drawback. A greater weight must be given to anything that promotes the entities overall productivity/competitiveness while still providing measures for overall success, while recognizing the contributions from individuals or departments. This is the problem one faces when trying to increase productivity/competitiveness of one’s employees when they use compensation as the source of motivation. It’s true in business and in teaching.

    So, I find it interesting that everyone outside of teaching knows how to motivate teachers but not their own employees. I don’t believe that teachers entered the profession for the paycheck. There are other altruistic factors that influence a teacher’s motivation. The idea of “fairness” is a big motivation. Teacher’s are not afraid of increasing their effectiveness, but they are given a certain environment in which to work. Many of the work conditions are imposed by entities outside of teaching dictating conditions that seem logical in thought, but not in practice. Teachers need access to researched, science-based techniques and not the “flavor du jour” of what makes a best practice.

    (Source of much of the information above can be found in the book “Making Common Sense Common Practice” by Ron Moore, 2004.
    Internet Source: http://books.google.com/books?id=-Yw-7v7aGiUC&pg=PA391&lpg=PA391&dq=compensation+and+behavior&source=bl&ots=hNYHaBItqk&sig=x2D-DqKyqB9QtxFj0hwmX6C96VE&hl=en&ei=oIR4SrfEGpLglAfs24SZBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#v=onepage&q=&f=false)

  15. Sorry Malcolm but I disagree. Hayek’s problem is, as an economist, he thinks everyone is motivated by money.

  16. Roger Sweeny says:

    I fear we are partly talking past each other. Teachers certainly care about more than money. I know a teacher who took a substantial pay cut to move from an affluent district where teachers weren’t supported to a less affluent one where they are. Teachers share this trait with most workers. Most everyone is willing to trade off some money for work that is satisfying, comfortable, close to home, etc.

    But, again like most workers, teachers do care about money. Otherwise, there would never be a teachers strike for higher wages. (Dan Mott, teachers strikes are almost always about getting higher wages, very rarely about fighting lowered wages.)

  17. I also disagree Malcolm but my area of disagreement is in the failure to include all the professionals in the organization in any incentive scheme.

    If only the teachers are measured for performance and the administration isn’t then the administration is free to pursue ends unrelated to or even destructive of the incentives designed to motivate teachers. To borrow Teach_J’s specious example, if auto workers receive bonuses for exceeding production quotas but their bosses don’t then what incentive do their bosses have to support the exceeding of production quotas by their subordinates?

    Either the entire organization has a stake in success or incentives merely become a means by which management manipulates workers to their own ends because if management doesn’t have incentives that are explicitly aligned with the organization’s goals then they’ll find incentives that support their personal goals.

  18. As other people have remarked, he flunked logic.

    let’s play: “If people don’t respond to being given more oxygen, then they won’t complain if they receive less oxygen.”

  19. insiderknowledge says:

    The problem with the theory of merit pay is that there is no way to guarantee better performance through increased pay. Simply put a teacher can only be responsible for creating an effective lesson plan and implementing it as best as possible. It does not guarantee the the students will learn more or perform better on tests. An analogy to this would be Bill Belichick. widely regarded ass the best football mind. He can come up with the best game plan in the world but if the players don’t execute the plan won’t work. Should he get paid less because of that? How much is actually is fault? The same goes for teachers. How much of student performance is their fault? Is it their fault for poor attendance? Is it their fault for lack of nutrition? Is it their fault for the behavior of distractive students? There are so many variables that go into success in schools that I simply cannot see how we can quantify it in order to reward or punish teachers monetarily.

  20. Mike, if teachers are not motivated by money, then increases in teacher pay would be better spent on other things. It may well be that any particular teacher would not change his/her classroom behavior, but that does not imply that merit pay would not work. Non-teachers might well be motivated by the opportunity to replace slacker teachers and do a better job. Further, while motivation may not change, a salary increase could compensate a teacher for the purchase of supplementary materials.

    Allen, I don’t see that your observation, that others might also be motivated by performance incentives invalidates the point that teachers could be. It looks to me like we agree that the entire system needs to respond to performance incentives. That’s what a competitive market does.

    Steven, people do respond to oxygen. Ask any high-altitude climber or free diver.

  21. Ragnarok says:

    “Allen, I don’t see that your observation, that others might also be motivated by performance incentives invalidates the point that teachers could be.”

    I think he’s making the point that change should be systemic.

  22. Roger Sweeny says:

    It is certainly true as a matter of logic that people might not respond to a potential increase in the money they make but would respond to a decrease. It is also true as a matter of psychology that people are generally more sensitive to monetary loss than to gain.

    But let’s be real. Teachers do care about potential increases in their compensation. If they didn’t, teachers’ unions wouldn’t have nearly as much to do, and graduate schools of education wouldn’t have nearly as many students.

  23. Richard Nierpont,

    Union members are against merit pay because it gives more power to their bosses. In fact, it makes their contract almost irrelevant. How many teachers would be willing to file a grievance over a contract violation knowing it would kill their chances for merit pay?

    Without merit pay, there’s little incentive to be a suckup, to sleep with the boss, to undermine your coworkers, and all that other stuff I hear about from my friends in non-union jobs.

  24. Ragnarok says:

    Quoth Dowd:

    “How many teachers would be willing to file a grievance over a contract violation knowing it would kill their chances for merit pay?”

    Oh, so they do care about extra money? ‘Fraid I missed that.

    “Without merit pay, there’s little incentive to be a suckup, to sleep with the boss, to undermine your coworkers, and all that other stuff I hear about from my friends in non-union jobs”

    Or to do their jobs, methinks.

    Try reading “Work Hard. Be Nice”.

  25. (Insider): “The problem with the theory of merit pay is that there is no way to guarantee better performance through increased pay…
    I simply cannot see how we can quantify it in order to reward or punish teachers monetarily.”

    Certainty is for children and religious warriors. All the problems with financial incentives apply as well to non-monetary incentives (which line a teacher will get next year, which students, which room, etc.).

    “What works?” is an empirical question, which only an experiment can answer. A competitive market is an experiment in how to use resources to generate consumer satisfaction. A State-monopoly is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls, a retarded experimental design. That Dewey, the patron saint of the College of Education and the champion of “inquiry”, also endorsed socialism demonstratees to me that he did not believe his own words. Maybe it was sibling rivalry.

    Uniform salary schedules make sense if administrators have no way reliably to assess teacher performance. Since we have methods to assess student performance in basic literacy, and in Math, Chemistry, Physics, and probably in foreign languages, we can measure (with some imprecision) teacher performance. Schools might possibly use teacher salary incentives to raise performance in these courses. Since schools have used advanced degrees to raise teacher pay, and since the lack of any relation between advanced degrees and student performance has been known for decades, one may confidently predict that the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel’s schools (the “public” schools) will either (a) not implemente merit pay or (b) perverte merit pay to reward union activists and administrators’ relatives.

    Myron Lieberman wrote of a survey which found that administrators opposed merit pay schemes because they anticipated that these would require a lot of extra work and generate dissention among the faculty.

  26. (Insider): “The problem with the theory of merit pay is that there is no way to guarantee better performance through increased pay…
    I simply cannot see how we can quantify it in order to reward or punish teachers monetarily.”

    Certainty is for children and religious warriors. All the problems with financial incentives apply as well to non-monetary incentives (which line a teacher will get next year, which students, which room, etc.).

    “What works?” is an empirical question, which only an experiment can answer. A competitive market is an experiment in how to use resources to generate consumer satisfaction. A State-monopoly is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls, a retarded experimental design. That Dewey, the patron saint of the College of Education and the champion of “inquiry”, also endorsed socialism demonstratees to me that he did not believe his own words. Maybe it was sibling rivalry.

    Uniform salary schedules make sense if administrators have no way reliably to assess teacher performance. Since we have methods to assess student performance in basic literacy, and in Math, Chemistry, Physics, and probably in foreign languages, we can measure (with some imprecision) teacher performance. Schools might possibly use teacher salary incentives to raise performance in these courses. Since schools have used advanced degrees to raise teacher pay, and since the lack of any relation between advanced degrees and student performance has been known for decades, one may confidently predict that the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel’s schools (the “public” schools) will either (a) not implemente merit pay or (b) perverte merit pay to reward union activists and administrators’ relatives.

    Myron Lieberman wrote of a survey which found that administrators opposed merit pay schemes because they anticipated that these would require a lot of extra work and generate dissention among the faculty.
    OH! You’re my new favorite blogger fyi

  27. Malcolm,

    Hayek’s arguement is one that might logically make sense to someone who is ignorant about what he is discussing, but apparently he forgot about a little thing called “inflation”.

  28. Richard Nieporent says:

    Dowd, your comments would be funny if they weren’t so sad. You are comparing teachers to the downtrodden masses who are being exploited by those evil capitalists. According to you, being a teacher is the same as working in a sweatshop? Without a union the principals would increase their workload, lower their pay and fire them if they ask for any benefits. Is that correct? There is only one problem with this scenario. It is totally fallacious. Who do teachers work for? Isn’t it the benevolent government and not the evil capitalists? Are you trying to tell us that it is government that exploits the poor teachers? If that is the case then maybe the teacher’s unions are supporting the wrong political party.

  29. Actually, Richard, if you look at a history of teacher compensation and working conditions, increasing workload, reducing pay and benefits, etc. are not fantasy conditions. There are still districts that don’t allow paid maternity leave. In California, home of the all-powerful unions, class sizes are up over 40 this year. For an English teacher, 40 x 6 preps is 240 essays x 10 minutes each.. 2400 minutes on a 60 minute plan per day.

  30. Roger Sweeny says:

    Lightly Seasoned,

    You have to mark 240 essays? Wow. I sympathize.

  31. Richard Nieporent says:

    I think you missed my point that if teachers are being exploited then it is government, not the evil capitalists, that are doing the exploiting. If that is the case, then why do teacher unions continue to support the Democrats?

    There are still districts that don’t allow paid maternity leave. In California, home of the all-powerful unions, class sizes are up over 40 this year. For an English teacher, 40 x 6 preps is 240 essays x 10 minutes each.. 2400 minutes on a 60 minute plan per day.

    There is a simple way to prevent teachers from being exploited. It is the same way that engineers and computer professionals use when they don’t like their pay or working conditions. They quit and get a new job with a company that provides better pay and working conditions. After all, nobody is forcing you to work for a school district that provides poor working conditions.

  32. While there are some flaws with this logic, he argument suggests an important qestion.

    That is, if increased perfomrance or improved recuiting are not good reasons to raise teacher pay, then why should we ever do so? (Even if we don’t literally cut teacher pay, we could even achieve long term cost savings by not increasing it to match inflation.)

    It’s a valid question, and one that we should all face more often. It is not an economic question, per se. It is not a pedagogical question, either. It is a moral question. Morally, given all the practical considerations, what ought we pay teachers?

    Sure, we can say that we’d love to pay teacher $100,000 a year, but that’s in a vaccuum. The moral question can be asked of a real context, with competing costs and limited total funds.

    There are many aspects of this to consider. One of them, perhaps closer to an educational issue than most, is the imapct on students of knowing that teachers are horribly paid. Let’s be clear on this: students well know that teachers are poorly paid. Does it make it harder to kids to listen to teachers when they know they are paid poorly? Would paying teacher more — and putting real effort into letting students know about this — make kids respect them more, in our money-centric culture? I mean, why should kids respect teachers, when they think that teachers aren’t smart enough to make real money?

    Just trying to offer another way to think about the issue…

  33. Roger: I mark thousands of essays in the course of a school year.

    Richard: Right. It works just like that. Question: I am earning at step 12 in my current district. I decide I don’t like it here anymore and decide to jump to a neighborhing district. What’s my pay cut?

  34. Roger Sweeny says:

    Lightly Seasoned,

    You bring up an interesting point. Since there is no effort made to identify better or worse teachers, and no effort made to pay better and worse teachers differently, no teacher can say, “I’m a very good teacher. You’re not treating me fairly. I’m going to go where they treat me and pay me as I deserve.” In fact, since one of the two determinants of salary is seniority, any teacher knows that if she goes somewhere else, she will probably wind up at the bottom of the seniority ladder, taking a pay cut.

    By so vehemently opposing any sort of merit pay, we have reduced our bargaining power. (At least, if we think we’re good.)

  35. Richard Nieporent says:

    In fact, since one of the two determinants of salary is seniority, any teacher knows that if she goes somewhere else, she will probably wind up at the bottom of the seniority ladder, taking a pay cut.

    Very interesting. So this is what the teacher unions have done for you. By basing pay on seniority, they have locked you into a job so that you have no alternate but to stay where you are. Then they prevent you from getting merit pay. What is it going to take before you realize that the unions are not helping you?

  36. Hmm. Since I’m not a member of the union, I’m not sure it gives a big rat’s fart about me nor me about it.

    I’ve written quite a bit here and on my own blog about the relationship between merit pay and career mobility on the teaching force. In sum, it isn’t to anybody’s benefit (except ours) to give us the economic freedom to jump districts — merit pay under the current proposals gives administration even more power than it already has without giving us equitable control over our careers. Under the present system, we can simply wait out a bad principal, under a merit system, we’re more screwed than those in the private sector since there is no appreciable free market for our skills — the government price fixes our salaries.

    What happened to Jaime Escalante (Stand & Deliver) is a very good lesson in what can happen to an exceptional teacher under a bad principal. (See Reason Magazine article).

  37. Anyone who’s impressed with Chinese acrobats has never seen the contortions proponents of the public education system will put themselves through to find something to praise in the current system or find ways to praise what under more normal circumstances would be seen as a crime against humanity and common sense.

    We’ve got some of the usual suspects showing up to bemoan the impossibility of merit pay who on other occasions bemoan the poor pay of teachers leading to the conclusion that while paying teachers to do a good job is a horrible miscarriage of justice just paying teacher more is the essence of justice.

  38. Mike,

    Please explain how you shoe-horn “inflation” into this discussion. Seems to me Bordeaux’s argument is independent of the rate of change in overall price levels. Why do you expect otherwise?

    According to the rational expectations model, people adjust to anticipated inflation or deflation and append to employment or other contracts clauses which adjust wages or rents to expected price levels. Bordeaux’s argument does not depend on teacher salaries being paid in paper money, gold, cowrie shells or beaver pelts.

  39. Malcolm,

    Bordeaux talks of cutting pay, or refusing to raise teachers’ pay.

    Let’s see, if the cost of everything goes up, and my salary remains the same, than the money I make buys me less.

  40. (Malcolm): “Mike, if teachers are not motivated by money, then increases in teacher pay would be better spent on other things…” (Mike): “Malcolm, Hayek’s arguement is one that might logically make sense to someone who is ignorant about what he is discussing, but apparently he forgot about a little thing called ‘inflation’.”
    (Malcolm): “Mike, Please explain how you shoe-horn ‘inflation’ into this discussion. Seems to me Bordeaux’s argument is independent of the rate of change in overall price levels. Why do you expect otherwise?”
    (Mike): “Malcolm, Bordeaux talks of cutting pay, or refusing to raise teachers’ pay. Let’s see, if the cost of everything goes up, and my salary remains the same, than the money I make buys me less.”

    Agreed. I don’t see how that affects Bordeaux’s argument.

    How does a general rise in the nominal price level (inflation) relate to whatever impact a change in compensation would have on a change in effort? In a deflationary, zero-inflation, or inflationary environment, people are motivated (or not) by changes in real (purchasing-power) compensation. Merit pay offers salary enhancements (over other teachers and the individual teacher’s previous salary) to teachers whose students perform better than average by some measure (standardized tests, retention, disciplinary referrals, etc.). It does not matter whether you are paid in paper money, gold, cowrie shells, or beaver pelts. You could have any rate of inflation whatever in any of these curriencies, and still merit pay would create pay differentials in REAL wages, based on performance. Bordeaux’s point remains: if, as union opponents of merit pay insist, pay (at any rate of inflation) does not matter to performance, why do we pay teachers more than the minimum wage?

  41. Why, indeed, does anybody make more than minimum wage?

    Because there’s a certain demand for people to teach. Note the flood of people wanting to teach now that the economy has tanked. Note the swelling of the TFA ranks. When the money ships are steaming right along, there’s a teacher shortage. The current salary seems to be set at “better than nothing” and society as a whole is pleased with that.

    When the economy recovers, there will be a double whammy of people leaving the field for more lucrative professions and the baby boomers, who are currently holding off, retiring. Then we may see salaries rise a bit again as districts start to compete.

    How about wampum? It’s pretty.

    It’ll be nice to get back into the classroom again next week with the kids. I’m starting to miss the little boogers.

  42. PS. The double whammy will be a good thing for those in favor of merit pay, etc. as younger teachers are generally more open to such innovations. They are also making very little while trying to start families, etc. and any additional income looks (it takes years around here before one hits $40K) good. It may also be the case that merit pay cannot happen now because districts just can’t swing it.

  43. Malcolm,

    I don’t care what the point Boudreaux is trying to make, its a foolish point. Plus the fact he states “their replacements are likely to perform no worse than them. shows little regard for teachers, and a total lack of understanding what teaching is about.

    Why not say the same thing for EVERY profession?

  44. Plus, all the talk in the world about blaming the teachers’ unions for the seniority based pay system or off base, as in most states teachers salary scales are determined by the state.

  45. I love teaching, but I wouldn’t mind being motivated by money. In fact, show me the money! I’ll put my skills up against the rest and take what the results offer.

  46. Richard Nieporent says:

    Mike, you really do you not know that the teacher unions include seniority rules as part of their contracts with the school systems? Unbelievable!

    The report is certain to face resistance. IPS teachers union President Ann Wilkins made that clear when I asked her about the report.

    “We’re not going to change going by seniority,” she said Tuesday. “That’s not going to change. That’s not going to change.”

    http://tinyurl.com/merugw

    Under a provision of the city’s contract with the United Federation of Teachers — one that the Board of Education wants to change in the current contract negotiations — classroom assignments do not go to the most qualified teacher, but rather to the teacher with the most seniority who meets the job qualifications.

    http://tinyurl.com/mf4ydm

    We created seniority rules that protect teachers from arbitrary and capricious management—and that’s a good goal. But sometimes those rules place teachers in schools and communities where they won’t succeed—and that’s wrong.

    http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/2009/07/07022009.html

  47. Richard,

    Here in Texas that is not the case, the state sets a minimun payscale, based on seniority.

    If you read my previous post you’d see teachers’ unions in Texas are different, no collective bargaining and no strikes.

  48. (Malcolm): “Bordeaux’s point remains: if, as union opponents of merit pay insist, pay (at any rate of inflation) does not matter to performance, why do we pay teachers more than the minimum wage?”
    (Seasoned): “Why, indeed, does anybody make more than minimum wage? Because there’s a certain demand for people to teach.”
    (Mike): “Malcolm, I don’t care what the point Boudreaux is trying to make, its a foolish point. Plus the fact he states ‘their replacements are likely to perform no worse than them’, shows little regard for teachers, and a total lack of understanding what teaching is about.
    Why not say the same thing for EVERY profession?”

    Other professions don’t make such silly arguments against performance-based compensation.

    In normal auctions, people will pay no more than necessary for the goods and services they purchase. Paying more than necessary means haveing less for other goods and services which the overage could buy. When the NEA insists that teachers would not be motivated by perfomance-based pay differentials, it implies that districts could lower teacher pay to the minimum wage without impact on student performance.

    Bordeaux is not (here) making an argument for merit pay or for lowering teacher pay, he’s calling the union’s argument against merit pay internally inconsistent, which it is.

    Contracts for teacher pay which use seniority make sense if one assumes that experience makes a difference and that districts cannot reliably measure the performance of individual teachers.

    Contracts for teacher pay which use credentials make sense if one assumes that credentials make a difference and that districts cannot reliably measure the performance of individual teachers.

    “What works?” is an empirical question which only an experiment (numerous small, independent school districts or a competitive market in education services) can answer. A single, State-wide school district (as in Hawaii) or mandatory State-wide collective bargaining is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls, a retarded experimental design. State-level mandates for district-level collective bargaining reduce the information which craft-union style bargaining (i.e., separate Math teacher unions and Art teacher unions) might generate.

  49. Malcolm,

    What studies or proof do you have that performance pay works? How would you implement it in schools, where children come in all sizes, shapes, abilities, backgrounds, and family backgrounds?

    Merit pay proponents don’t understand that if you try to make it all about the money, who’s going to teach the kids that really need it the most? Why should I do so when testing, reformers and merit pay all conspire to label me a bad teacher?

  50. Roger Sweeny says:

    Mike,

    Any decent merit pay system would have to be based on some sort of “value added.” If you had the top ten percent of the class and they only did “above average,” you wouldn’t get any extra pay. If you had the bottom ten percent and they did “low average,” you’d be handsomely rewarded.

    Of course, determining how well students “did” is difficult. But if we can’t do that, what right do we have to give them grades?

  51. (Mike): “Malcolm, What studies or proof do you have that performance pay works?”

    None. I oppose performance-based pay in the education industry as the legal environment currently structures it, for reasons I stated earlier in this discussion.

    (Mike): “How would you implement it in schools, where children come in all sizes, shapes, abilities, backgrounds, and family backgrounds?”

    Let a hundred flowers bloom. Let a hundred schools of thought contend. Create a competitive market in ducation services and let profit-motivated entrepreneurs experiment. As I wrote above: “‘What works?’ is an empirical question which only an experiment (numerous small, independent school districts or a competitive market in education services) can answer.” Students, parents, real classroom teachers and taxpayers would benefit from a policy which gives to individual parents the power to determine which institution (if any) shall receive the State’s K-PhD education subsidy. I support school vouchers, charter schools, subsidized homeschooling and (my preference) Parent Performance Contracting.

    (Mike): “Merit pay proponents don’t understand that if you try to make it all about the money, who’s going to teach the kids that really need it the most? Why should I do so when testing, reformers and merit pay all conspire to label me a bad teacher?”

    In the current State-monopoly system, this objection has some weight, althouh I don’t see how altruistic teachers are any worse off. under a merit-pay system. If it’s not about money, they can ignore a merit pay system.

    I suggest that legislators and school districts implement a policy based on “I cut; you choose”. Let schools determine how much they intend to spend on each sp-ed or alienated pupil, and offer to independent contractors the option to assume the task for any smaller amount. Alternatively, put the contract out to bid. Or compensate sp-ed teachers with smaller classes. They will get base pay for working with only a few difficult students.

  52. Special ed teachers usually do get the same pay for working with only a few difficult studensts