Everyone’s ‘highly effective’ — but the students

In Michigan’s Hazel Park School District, every principal and teacher is “highly effective,” but  student achievement earns an F in 10 of 16 categories, reports Michigan Capitol Confidential. Four elementary schools and the high school earned D’s and F’s. The junior high got the top grade, a C in reading.

The district’s proficiency numbers nosedived when Michigan raised cut scores on state exams. The district is 60 percent white, 36 percent black; 59 percent of students qualify for a subsidized lunch.

A state law in 2011 ordered schools to rate teachers and administrators by using one of four ratings: highly effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective. Statewide, 97 percent of teachers were rated in the top two categories.

 Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the district would hurt morale among truly highly effective teachers.

“It does a disservice to the teachers themselves if the district is not going to differentiate and define what good teaching is,” Van Beek said. “It doesn’t help anyone. Think how insulting it is for a good teacher in that district. They know they are putting in the extra time but are getting the exact same rating as one who may not be good at all. That’s not treating teachers as professionals.”

It’s possible for a highly effective teacher to be unable to raise students to proficiency, especially if they’re years behind at the start of the school year. But when everyone’s highly effective, except for the students, there may be a problem defining “highly effective.”

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.