I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, October 31, 2011

More on Merit Pay = Cutting Teacher Pay

In my earlier post on merit pay, a commenter points out that Gates was adding extra money for the Memphis merit pay plan, which means merit pay wasn't being used to bring down the overall teacher payroll. How, therefore, could I accuse merit pay supporters of advocating for cutting teacher pay?

It's a fair point; allow me to elaborate:

From article I referenced about the program:
"MCS is taking steps now to help ensure the long-term sustainability of their effective teaching work, even in the face of difficult economic times."
Since August, MCS has nixed the 8 percent raises it planned for new teachers and halted retention bonuses, whittling the load it has to carry without Gates to $34 million.
A new compensation plan, Hamer says, would allow the district to pay its most talented teachers what they are worth but save money by weeding out less effective ones at the top of the scale.
"Here's what I know from our analysis. We currently have large numbers of teachers at the highest level of the (union) step salary from whom we are not getting a year's worth of student growth or gain," he said.
"We're paying a lot of money to a lot of people who have been in the system a long time and are not getting student gains."
The new teacher evaluation process will "flag them" he said, "and give us the ability to help them." [emphasis mine]
"Large numbers." How large? Why even ask? Trust me - they don't know, because they don't even have numbers for the vast majority of those teachers. And they want to "help" their senior teachers? More like "help" them find the door.

See what's happened? Gates gave Memphis the money to start the merit pay program, then took it away. Now, to make up the difference, the district is cutting programs that would have lifted the salaries of many, if not all, of the teachers.

And they're shifting the blame on to experienced teachers, who are paid more. By firing senior teachers, and institutionalizing a churn at the entry level of the profession (where half of teachers leave after five years already), the districts are clearly aiming to reduce their overall payroll. The merit pay bonuses they are offering are a small price to pay for the greater savings that come from turning teaching into an entry-level stepping stone to another profession.

This is from the same playbook corporate reformers have used to get rid of pensions: short-term fiscal gains at the expense of long-term savings. Because districts, until now, haven't had to pay teachers much at the start of their careers: the younger teachers knew if they hung in there, they'd be rewarded later. That has saved districts money, but those savings came only if the schools upheld their end of the bargain and paid teachers more at the end of their careers. Like the pensions, that promise is now being broken.

And just like the pensions, this destruction of the current arrangement is only to give the current political class a short-term fix to their fiscal problems. The real price will be paid when young people decide that they really aren't interested in a profession where pay fluctuates wildly based on error-prone measures, and they won't make more than they made starting out. Of course, by then, the billionaires who are funding "reform" and their lackeys who push this nonsense will have moved on to destroying another one of this county's institutions.

Merit pay is the tool the corporate reformers are using to cur teacher pay. They are doing damage that will haunt us for years.

They must be stopped.


Leonie Haimson said...

they also threatened to increase class size, close schools or layoff school aides to find the money; none of these good solutions.

jcg said...

First, understand that the evaluation system is NOT about improving education, it's about the drag on profits from human capital.

The state of TN paid millions to the Milkin family of Wall St fraud for their TAP/TEAM evaluations system that scores teachers on a 5 point rubric. The national trainers indoctrinated, I mean, trained all evaluators that a score of (3) is "rock solid". If there are "too many" high scores the trainer asserted that evaluators were gaming the evaluation tool.

TN Commissioner of Education, TfA grad Kevin Huffman bloviates to media outlets that previous teacher evaluations inflated the scores and that "too many teachers were overrated.

The Milkins have a fix for that problem. Since the scores of TEAM/TAP teachers follow a Bell-shape distribution (according to their non-peer reviewed research), only 15% of teachers will achieve scores above (4) or significantly above (5) expectations and 85% will perform at or below expectations.

What does all of this mean on the ground? First, teachers scored at or below expectations means no tenure for beginning teachers and a loss of tenure for tenured teachers.

Second, mandates are trickling down from Broad Academy superintendent, Jim McIntyre that Knox County Schools supervisors and principals would "be in trouble" if they gave too many 4's or 5's.

Finally, the TEAM evaluations don't recognize differentiated instructional practices, nor does the scoring metric credit teachers for differentiating learning levels. There are a fixed number of behaviors needed to obtain a single score making it difficult evaluate varied levels of instruction needed for children in classes at acquisition, fluency, or advanced learning levels. The assumption from such fixed indicators is that every child learns the same content at the same rate, using one set of standardized procedures. In mixed ability groups there are multiple ways to scaffold learning that fixed data metrics such as TEAM cannot identify.

This is a snapshot of the warped mindset of our education "leaders". These 1%ers think nothing of enriching a convicted felon with tax dollars, and who themselves attended private schools where students came from privileged backgrounds, classes were capped at 12 - 15, and no one with a disability need apply.

Anonymous said...

""""Second, mandates are trickling down from Broad Academy superintendent, Jim McIntyre that Knox County Schools supervisors and principals would "be in trouble" if they gave too many 4's or 5's.""""

What part of "Bell shape curve" don't you understand?

Duke said...

Perhaps you'd care to show us the peer-reviewed research that shows teaching effectiveness follows a standard distribution?