Bloomberg’s $20,000 teacher bonus

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposes a $20,000 salary increase for teachers rated highly effective two years in a row, reports the New York Post.

If they ever get to vote, city teachers would approve merit pay even if their union opposes it, Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday.

“Will the teachers union stand in the way of their most effective members being rewarded for all of their work?” Bloomberg asked during his speech before the US Conference of Mayors in Washington.

Washington, D.C. teachers rated “highly effective” are eligible for annual bonuses of $2,400 to $25,000 a year.

Merit pay doesn’t work, responded Mike Mulgrew, president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers.

Arthur Goldstein, who teaches English to immigrant students at Francis Lewis High School, says no to Bloomberg’s bonus in the New York Daily News.

The bonuses will reward teachers who teach to the test and never challenge their principals, Goldstein argues.

Whatever happens, teachers like me — who advocate for kids, who have no qualms about making the odd phone call to an education reporter, who care about honest education more than test prep — are never going to get merit pay.

. . . We are role models. We inspire kids. We teach them to speak out, stand up, to express themselves. That will be particularly tough if we’re all placing knives in one another’s backs chasing bonuses.

We are not wait staff, and I know of not one teacher who got into this to work for tips. More importantly, I refuse to believe that teachers who don’t get merit pay are without merit. If, in fact, we do not have merit, we should never have been hired in the first place.

Margaret Coppolo, a middle school teacher in Manhattan, thinks the $20,000 offer is “worth seriously considering,” if the city can work out a fair way to evaluate teachers’ effectiveness.

We need to keep our best teachers in our most struggling schools and compensate them for their dedication.

The merit pay “efforts that have failed either didn’t offer a compelling enough incentive or linked bonuses to school-wide results and not individual performance,” writes Coppolo.

In Washington, on the other hand, where significant raises are tied to an individual teacher’s effectiveness, early results show improvement in teacher retention and achievement.

In my newspaper days, I was a member of the union, the Newspaper Guild. We received higher pay for up to six year of experience. After that, experience didn’t matter. We got small bonuses for working a swing or night shift and for certain jobs, such as copy editing or editorial writing. Beyond that, an individual could try to negotiate merit pay, known as overscale, with his or her boss. I never thought of merit pay as a tip. It was a recognition of the value I added to the newspaper.

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  1. The DC and NY plans are not “merit pay”. They’re “bonus pay”, and the difference is much more than semantic.

    • Exactly, D. And the most pertinent comment is from the teacher who said, “If they can figure out a fair way to evaluate teacher effectiveness.” Well, the Gates Foundation has spent tens of millions trying to figure that out, and they don’t have conclusion yet.

      Certainly, the test scores “evaluate” a narrow set of skills in a snapshot format. And we all know students can be taught to test well. If they couldn’t then ACT/SAT prep would be out of business.

      However, evaluating teacher “effectiveness” over the long haul? Doubtful. That said, we know we can walk into classrooms and almost immediately identify effective teachers/classrooms. Especially if if goes over a period of days. But isn’t that what administrators are already supposed to be doing.

      I’d take bonus pay for my 94% pass rate on the AP exam with 3/4 receiving 4s and 5s. But I also have a great population and students who self-select schedules. With any population, I’d love a bonus. But with some, I’d balk at a single test score being part of my base pay.

      • Mmazenko, check out what’s going on in Harrison District 2 in Colorado Springs. Supt. Mike Miles has performed a miracle there. And it’s completely scalable and replicable, if anyone has the courage to try.

        • Interesting program … but a lot of criticism on Miles. Do you know he makes $194K/yr? For Harrison? Hell, the Cherry Creek SD Super tops out at $125, and it’s far superior district with 55K students.

          And apparently, the average teacher in Harrison makes $47K with a turnover rate approaching 30%. It seems teachers have been leaving since Miles came, and many accuse him of seeking to lower costs by seeking younger teachers.

          I couldn’t find much on any miracles down there. But the salary thing is quite unseemly in my opinion.

  2. wahoofive says:

    So the question is: did the potential for “overscale” encourage you to stay in your job, as opposed to dropping out to write a book? Did the “overscale” opportunity give you more incentive to become a reporter in the first place rather than enter some more lucrative profession?

    The only value in merit pay is if it gives an incentive for smart people to choose the teaching profession instead of going to law school or becoming a hedge-fund trader. It’s only a success if it improves the composition of the teaching corps over time. What you call it, or how you award it, isn’t so much the issue as whether it can accomplish this at all. $2,400 definitely won’t make a difference.

    Even $20K might not be enough. People go into commodities trading (or basketball, or music, or start their own businesses) because they have starry-eyed dreams of being the big millionaire stars. Even though most of them don’t accomplish that, the dream draws in a big talent pool. Where are the millionaire celebrity teachers who will cause millions of teenagers to dream of making it big in the teaching profession? How about if the “teacher of the year” in a district gets $20K, teacher-of-the-year in the state gets $200K, and national teacher of the year, chosen at a high-profile media event (“the teachies”?), gets $2 million?

    • Wahoofive,

      The issue is that most of the items you picked, such as district or state teacher of the year, are picked more based on politics than talent or performance.

  3. I’ll be getting a rather large incentive pay bonus from my last district at the end of the week. It is awesome and I will cash the check, but I didn’t work harder because of the incentive. Maybe others are inspired by the incentives.

    “The bonuses will reward teachers who teach to the test and never challenge their principals, Goldstein argues.”

    Why can’t people give up this line. I think I’m going to start giving my students tests over things I have not taught them to make sure I’m no longer teaching to the test. See how long I survive before parents beat down the doors. Teaching to the test is only bad if the test is bad. Students developing strategies to figure out the answer on the SATs is so bad I hear. Sounds like critical thinking (yikes) development to me.

  4. Richard Nieporent says:

    I wonder how the Teacher’s Union gets most teachers to drink this Kool-Aid. I can understand why poor teachers would be against bonuses, but I can’t understand why good teachers are willing to give up the chance to earn bonuses. Why do you not think that you should be rewarded for your better performance? The idea that, unlike any other profession, it is not possible to determine who are the good teachers is risible. Yes, there will be some bad choices made, but on the whole the vast majority of better teachers will be rewarded. Everyone benefits when good performances are rewarded.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      If you expect management (the administration) to make mostly personal/petty/political decisions, then you wnt them making as few decisions as possible. And hopefully none about your pay or employment status. I get the impression that many/most teachers don’t trust their management folks (at all levels).

  5. It’s possible that Arthur Goldstein’s students, who apparently don’t do well on uniform tests, have learned quite a lot. But how could we possibly know?

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      How can we ever know how much students have learned? Seriously. And if we can’t, what does that say about how schools work?