Merit pay and 'Bad Teacher'

To balance the state budget, Texas cut 90 percent of funding for the nation’s largest merit pay program, reports the Dallas Morning News.

A Texas Education Agency study of the merit-pay program found slightly increased test scores at participating schools and higher teacher retention rates.

Some districts spread out the bonus money to most teachers, cutting the average payment to $1,361. Other districts gave bonuses to teachers at select schools; the average payment was $3,344. “Generally, larger bonuses produced better test scores and teacher retention,” notes the Morning News.

The movie Bad Teacher, which is getting mixed or negative reviews, features a gold-digging, booze-swilling bimbo who becomes a middle-school teacher (not sure how) in hopes of making enough money for breast implants to attract a wealthy substitute teacher. She stops showing movies in class and tries to teach when she learns of a bonus for high test scores. Not credible, points out the National Council on Teacher Quality.

We must point out that such incentives don’t exist in Chicago, where the film is based. In fact, of the 100 largest school districts in the country, according to our TR3 database, only six offer bonuses on the basis of performance to individual teachers that would be substantial enough to cover the average cost of breast augmentation surgery — around $3,800.

In order for performance pay to make a substantial impact on teacher recruitment and retention, the incentives have to be significant enough to make a real impact in teachers’ lives. Bad Teachers unquestioned premise is more anecdotal evidence that the public, inside and out, overestimates the true role of performance pay in schools today.
Also, middle school is not a great place to find a wealthy husband.
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Comments

  1. Movies like this shouldn’t even be given the time of day by the “National Council on Teacher Quality.” Please tell me they have other things to do with their time… this is akin to the CIA responding to those dopey Spy Kid movies. I can’t imagine anyone takes such trash seriously. :)

  2. I’d love to know who the financial backers for this movie are. It’s all a little too convenient, bad teacher who becomes a good teacher when merit pay and state tests scores are dangled in her face.

  3. The National Council on Teacher Quality needs to chill out. This is not supposed to be a political movie. http://www.edskeptic.com/2011/06/good-thinking-bad-teacher.html

  4. Yeah, there’s got to be a deep, dark conspiracy involved. I mean, basing a movie on the notion that people might be motivated when there’s something in it for them?

    Well OK, not people but teachers.

    Still, who’s going to believe that teachers would be motivated by the same mundane considerations as ordinary people? Don’t you see Mike, that’s the comedic aspect of the idea! Its simple outrageousness is what makes it so achingly funny!

  5. Stacy in NJ says:

    I had this teacher. 6th grade – Ms. Sorensen.

  6. Ahh, Allen I’m guessing you’ll love the movie.

    Let’s see, a teacher who is only in it for the paycheck and the time off, motivated only by a merit pay for scores on the states standardized tests. Sounds EXACTLY like your view of teachers.

    BTW, I’ve worked in a school that had merit pay one year. The next year we were not. What did I do differently? I worked MUCH harder the next year without any chance of getting a bonus because the students in my class needed it.

  7. I expect I will like the movie. I like Cameron Diaz. Besides being beautiful she’s quite a good comedic actress.

    Of course the premise of the movie’s pretty ridiculous. Imagine a public school in which teaching skill is valued. The jokes practically write themselves, don’t they?

    Oh and thanks for that unverifiable and patently silly anecdote.

    Naturally, you’re at the center of it but that’s hardly a surprise. There’s hardly a posting you make in which you aren’t the center of some homespun yarn which illustrates your magnanimity and compassion and by extension the compassion and magnanimity of all teachers.

    By the way, you ought to nip over to Jay Greene’s blog. He’s got a couple of postings about the number of states that’ve passed voucher bills this year. Getting to be quite the little landslide. Then there are the number of states are thinking of emulating California’s “parental trigger” law. Fourteen, I believe.

    You know, I don’t think I’ll have to see that movie to walk around with a great, big smile on my face.

  8. Allen,

    Only you would equate a teacher hitting kids with a ball, or being so drunk she passes out at her desk, as a school that values good teaching.

    As for the parent trigger laws and vouchers, let’s see how well they hold up to the inevitable court challenges.

  9. Equate? Don’t you think the idea of a school in which teaching skill is valued is a sufficiently ridiculous premise to be the basis for comedy?

    Most comedies set in schools aren’t daring enough to explore the possibilities of such an unlikely scenario settling for the one, good uber-teacher whose world-class skills so upset the slack-jawed clock-watchers that they run to every authority figure they can find from the school janitor to the school board to be rid of this bedeviling contrast. Of course that’s the basis for most dramas set in schools as well so there’d have to be some means of signaling that this is a comedy. Possibly a laugh track.

    Still, the idea of a school in which teaching skill is professionally valued and rewarded is an idea worth exploring as all the reform activity makes quite clear.

    I’ll bet Jerry Seinfeld could do something with the idea.

  10. Most comedies set in schools aren’t daring enough to explore the possibilities of such an unlikely scenario settling for the one, good uber-teacher whose world-class skills so upset the slack-jawed clock-watchers that they run to every authority figure they can find from the school janitor to the school board to be rid of this bedeviling contrast

    What an interesting fantasy world you must live in.

  11. Har! Hey, you’re the guy whose sufficiently detached from reality that you think anyone’ll bite on the notion that when your skills are being measured, and rewarded, you do a lousy job but when no one’s looking and it doesn’t matter you do a simply scrumptious job.

  12. Spoken like someone who has set foot inside a school in years, but considers himself an education expert.

  13. Spoken? You really ought to get out of the hot, Texas sun, son. It’s baking your brain.

    And if you’re the “education expert” you’re not bolstering your image by insisting that teachers get better the less anyone cares about the results.

    You may have an interest in feverishly believing the ridiculous but all you’ll ultimately get from the exercise is an increasing isolation from society’s mainstream.

  14. I have never suggested the things you credit to me, but I do remember that making up “facts” is one of your fortes.

    As for being an expert, the 2nd year teacher down the hall has more expertise than yourself, Joanne Jacobs, the last 3 Secretaries of Education and the majority of the “reform” crowd.

  15. A Hollywood movie that’s not credible?!?!?!?! Unheard of – it’s blasphemy against the holy calling of middle school teaching.

  16. Must be a little frustrating then to realize that no matter how good you are the lousiest teacher with the same amount of time on the job makes exactly the same amount as the best teacher.

    Oh, sorry. That wouldn’t bother you at all, would it? You reflexively flinch away from the idea that some teachers are better at teaching then other teachers.

    Hmm, I wonder what the implication of that response might be?