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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Merit Pay Follies in TN

One of my great commenters, jcg, clues us in on what's happening with merit pay in Tennessee:
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. [emphasis mine]
If you read Todd Farley's Making the Grades, you'll find the same approach to data: they know the result they want, and they'll game the system to get it. It's the way psychometricians work, and it's completely inappropriate for any employment or compensation decisions.

And jcg makes another great point: there is no research to back up a claim of a standard distribution of teaching effectiveness; mostly, I suspect, because it's nearly impossible to quantify what makes a "good" teacher. There are so many problems with VAMs and SGPs that we clearly shouldn't use them - but that won't deter our "data-driven" overlords.

I keep waiting for the lawsuits. Again, we have many corporatist judges on the bench now, but this stuff goes so far that I can't imagine any of this standing up in court. It's an impeding disaster.

But even if that doesn't happen, I can absolutely guarantee you the teaching profession is going to be damaged so badly that it will literally take decades to repair it. Again, I ask every one who backs this sort of "reform": would you ever consider entering teaching on these premises?

Finally: as this shows, it all comes down to the details. The snappy poll-driven sound bites might work on talk radio, but when these people actually have to put things in practice...

Many, many thanks, jcg, for the post! You're starting your own blog when? ;-)

ADDING: Diane Ravitch makes my point, only better.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear. What drama. Pay people what they are worth rather than when they were born. It's the seventh sign. Come on, Duke, this is all beneath you. You cite NY, and they defiantly divided their school bonuses up among all teachers like good union sheep. Merit pay needs years to work -- the time it takes to motivate the best teachers to stay in the profession rather than march along with the union drones in their bee colony, union-mandated inflation plus one raises until the grave. Why are you afraid of keeping the best educators, the ambitious and motivated ones who want to get ahead in life -- and, as with any profession in the world, the ones with upward mobility options, the "ex-teachers" we all see succeeding in the corporate world and private sector?

jcg said...

Jazzman, Is anonymous a real person or is it a Bill Gates persona that strings together phrases from a data base?

Duke said...

jcg: Hee, hee...

Anon, if you would take a moment to wipe off the condescension towards teachers that's dribbling down your chin, you'd could take the time to consider that perhaps teachers don't want merit pay not because they are "sheep" - maybe they know that it won't work.

Maybe they know better than the so-called "experts" what does and does not work in their schools, and their unions reflect that knowledge. Of course, that would mean treating teachers as professionals capable of critical thought, which we all know is just not acceptable.

As to NY: I see, if we had just clapped LONGER, not louder, then the Merit Pay Fairy would have shown up. Even though she never shows up any time we try this. Sure. Did you wait long for the Great Pumpkin this year?

Yes, I want to keep all the great teachers, and I want more great teachers. I want every kid to have a great teacher. I don't think the model for that is Glengary Glen Ross. Only a small fraction of the workforce uses merit pay as conceived by the corporate reformers: sales, finance, etc. Extending this to teaching has never worked and never will work.

Dan Pink puts it best: take money off of the table as an issue, and let people find their natural love of mastery. If they don't work out, help them; if that doesn't work, fire them.

But wacky schemes based on failed assessments? No thanks.

Anonymous said...

First Anonymous reveals himself to be a knee-jerk anti-unionista zealot. He seems to be saying that teachers should have no right to form unions, that's not very democratic of him. So if we kill off all the unions, no matter what teachers want, prevent teachers from forming unions, make teacher unions illegal, then we will have educational Nirvana? NJ, with its teacher unions, always ranks in the top tier of educational performers in the US. While the states with no teacher unions or weak and gutted teacher unions mostly rank below NJ and the other high performing states like CT and Mass (also heavily unionized). Unions are not the problem, rampant poverty is the problem and the fact that 21% of US kids live in poverty. Where is this merit pay money going to come from with so many governors slashing state aid to schools? Will art, music and PE teachers ever have a shot at merit pay since so much of merit pay is based on standardized tests? What about school nurses? Charter schools ( only a small fraction of charter schools are unionized), school vouchers and eliminating tenure, seniority, collective bargaining rights and strong effective unions is all about ideology and not helping the kids. It's the ideology of school privatization and reducing teachers to servile easily replaceable serfs.

Anonymous said...

@Duke...the NY merit pay situation you have now cited threee times was simply NOT a merit pay structure as for what I can find....they divided up all the money the school recieved, evenly. See def "merit".

@Duke "....let people find their natural love of mastery. If they don't work out, help them; if that doesn't work, fire them."

Ok. Who is figuring out which teachers aren't "working out", what is being done to "help them", and who is "firing" the ones that don't respond?

Most of my family are teachers, nad most are conservative Republicans. I know from past experience, Thanksgiving is going to hear things like:

*I am so sick of looking at my paycheck and seeing union dues taken from me without my agreement, like it was a government tax."

*Ms./Mr./ LousyTeacher in the classroom next door let's her kids run wild, is the one that experienced parents beg each August to get their kids transferred way from, walks out the door at 2:45, does nothing but b*tch and gossip about staff and administrators --- and her job is not only not in jeopardy but her job performance hasn't even been criticized, and she makes more money than me and always will."

*Our union dues are being spent on millions of dollars of juvenile, personal attack TV ads against politicians I like and voted for. My students see these and they know I had a role in paying for them. I was asked this. What was I supposed to answer, Jazzman? Spout some unionista garbage I do NOT believe? It is an ethical embarrassment in front of my class."

*Who keeps the books for these 100s of millions in dues, what are they spent on, why aren't they published and available like government entities and public corporations?"

*(this from someon very close so I know it is true) "I go in 90 minutes early and stay at school working with kids who need extra help until 6, bring home work every night and through the weekends, constantly expand and update and change my lesson plans, bring in newsworthy and other cool hands-on projects to catch their interest and, rather than work 56-60 hours a week,I might as well work 34 hours like half the socialists in the teachers lounge who do nothing but sit and b@tch about their benefits and the school supervisors. (Oh, and that 34 hours is BEFORE they max out every sick and personal day every year, so take 18 days off that 180.)

Anonymous said...

NJ does great on NAEP tests, nj.com:

"Fourth- and eighth-graders in New Jersey ranked near the top in the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests in math and reading, posting the second-highest reading scores in both grade levels, according to data released today.

The state’s fourth-graders ranked fourth nationally in math — up from fifth in 2009 — while eighth-graders got the third-highest scores, up from fifth two years ago.

Massachusetts students posted the highest scores in all four areas."

NJ and Mass have a unionized teacher force. Gee, according to the anti-unionista zealots, unions are the MAIN problem, unions are the cause of all our educational ills in this country. Blame the unions, blame the unions and then blame the unions some more.

Anonymous said...

Anti-unionista anonymous: thanks for all the worthless propaganda. For all I know, you are making up all these anecdotes, which are just unverified anecdotes. Even if they are true, do 3 or 4 anti-union comments amount to a movement? If most of the teachers hated unions so much, there would be no unions. Amazing how the anti-unionista folks you quoted happily take all the raises and benefits that their local unions fought for. So only GOP anti-union teachers are the good teachers? Seriously? Utter garbage. You are just a union HATER, pure and simple. NJEA accounting is open, transparent, is governed by law and has to abide by the rules set down by the federal and state governments.

Anonymous said...

@Duke: " If most of the teachers hated unions so much, there would be no unions."

There would be little or no unions if dues weren't extracted at gunpoint through threat of dismissal. Funny how it seems the easiest way to get fired as a NJ teacher is dues payment !!!!!!

Excerpted from a published column in the Washington Post last week:

"After Colorado in 2001 required public employees unions to have annual votes reauthorizing collection of dues, membership in the Colorado Association of Public Employees declined 70 percent. In 2005, Indiana stopped collecting dues from unionized public employees; in 2011, there are 90 percent fewer dues-paying members. In Utah, the end of automatic dues deductions for political activities in 2001 caused teachers’ payments to fall 90 percent. After a similar law passed in 1992 in Washington state, the percentage of teachers making such contributions declined from 82 to 11."

So, if the union is such a no-brainer force for good, why don't they simply have their NJEA membership vote on whether dues should be compulsory and deducted by the government, or whether they should be optional for each teacher to decide? Can't someone raise their hand and make a motion and ask for a vote at this wonderful representative NJEA body?

I'm waiting with bated breath on that answer from you.

Anonymous said...

A quote cited by the union hater:
"*I am so sick of looking at my paycheck and seeing union dues taken from me without my agreement, like it was a government tax."
If this teacher hates unions so much, why didn't he get a job at a private school, parochial school or a charter school? He knew what he was getting into. How did Colorado, Washington state, Indiana and Utah score on the NAEP tests? Forcing teachers to vote every year on union memberships is a union busting method. Again, if they hate unions so much, then try private, charter or religious schools. Oh wait, they pay less and have fewer benefits and if you have a nasty principal, he can fire you for any trumped up reason. I am not Duke. Am I feeding an anti-unionista troll?

Duke said...

Nice to see people being honest: this is all about breaking the unions.

Anonymous said...

I did not say you were Duke, but the unprompted denial is interesting.

If the NAEP tests are so smoothly infallible a source for the unionistas to cite, then teacher evaluation testing should be a breeze to engineer.

The testing reluctance by the NJEA really is just the height of absurdity. I guess they are finally giving up on that and participating a bit. But in an industry whose ENTIRE BASIS is individual testing, how can testing suddenly be so outrageous for the adults? We hear all about teacher certifications and Masters degrees...must be some tests behind all those validations, right?

So, back to the subject, you say the NJEA shouldn't have to have union votes on dues every year. Okay, maybe, whatever. When was the last time they did? Remember, the precedent numbers in other states are close to 80 percent against. When is the vote? How about you cap Babs salary at $450 k, and maybe she'll become less driven to hold on to her job so badly, and let her subjects breathe some free democratic air with a vote.

Anonymous said...

Barbara Keshishian serves a term of 2 years and she is in her second term. Her 2nd term will be up in 2013. She was elected to office, she will not be there forever. She earns about $250K. Vincent Giordano does not earn anywhere near $550K, it's more like $300K. It's private money not tax payer money. You know how it works, once the teachers get paid, it becomes their own private money to spend as they please, to fund the unions, whatever. By the way, by law, union dues are not allowed to be used for PAC funds or political campaigns. Donation to NJEA PAC is VOLUNTARY, it's the law. If a teacher does want to donate to the NJEA PAC then they check the yes box. If they don't want to participate in the PAC, then they should damn well check the no box, meaning they will not donate to any political campaigns of NJEA. Just wondering if the union hater troll is also against firefighter unions and police unions? I don't remember Christie going after the firefighter, police and state police unions the way he did the NJEA. I guess he didn't want to make too many enemies all at once. Did he complain about the pay of the presidents of the police and firefighter unions?

Anonymous said...

That is some interesting semantic gymantics. Taxpayers pay teacher's salaries....the government MANDATES dues be taken from those salaries (a position that @80+ percent of teachers statistically oppose in many real life tests around the country) so that is "not" taxpayer money. It is taxpayer moneyt shunted directly to the NJEA with no teacher approval. I'll bet 80 percent of teachers think it ISN'T their money, or their will, or their choice.

Why no NJEA vote on this? I would be SO much more impressd with the integrity of the unionistas here on Jazzman's blog if they agreed that their teacher colleagues should have a voice in their own paycheck !!!! Outrageous !!!!

How can the NJEA claim to speak for teachers when the teachers have had no say in the very existence of the NJEA they fund? I'd type that all in caps, but I would at least ask you to re-red it.

How about a vote of confidence on the NJEA on funding from their own members? Is that unreasonable?

Has ANY state's teachers been given the chance to vote on their lost income from paychecks and APPROVED it? Anyone chime in here...

Duke said...

Locals can always vote to decertify unions. Newark and several other locals are part of AFT, not NEA. A local can leave NJEA if they want.

Members can also opt our of part of their dues and forgo union protections. This is hardly a secret, yet very few take advantage. Sounds like voting with your wallet to me.

Any member can run on any platform for an NJEA officer. They could run on a decertification platform. The fact is unions are some of the most democratic institutions we have in this country - certainly much more democratic than the charter schools reformers push so hard.

I vote for the head of my local, my county leaders, and my state leader. If they wanted to run on a platform of cutting union dues, I'd listen. But they don't. Maybe there's a reason.

Anon, you have this idea in your head that teachers are a bunch of mindless sheep, blindly following orders without thinking for themselves. I find your attitude condescending and dismissive. Do you feel the same way about police and firefighter unions?

Maybe they're different to you because of the composition of the workforce. You know... (cough)... (more men)... cough, cough...