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, September 17, 2012

Merit Pay Fairy Sighted in Newark!

The Merit Pay Fairy has landed in Jersey!
New Jersey and the Newark Teachers Union are negotiating a form of merit pay in the state-run district that would block poorly rated teachers from receiving automatic annual salary bumps that are now based solely on years of experience, union officials said.
Only teachers evaluated as "effective" or "highly effective" on a new four-tier scale would be eligible for pay increases that are now tied to how many years they have worked, union President Joe Del Grosso said. Teachers rated "partially effective" and "ineffective" would still receive raises unrelated to their rating or experience level.
If approved, the new pay scale would be groundbreaking in New Jersey, where teachers unions are among the strongest in the country. The state's largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, is opposed to merit pay.
See, this is a new kind of merit pay. It's totally different from the old merit pay, which has never worked. Even though there's no evidence that this will work either, we just have to believe it will work. Everyone, clap harder, or the Merit Pay Fairy will die! Come on, keep clapping...
It is unclear whether any of the new merit-pay systems are better than what they replace, said Jim Wyckoff, a professor at the University of Virginia. Teachers enticed by merit pay could have a larger incentive to cheat or ignore non-tested subjects, Mr. Wyckoff said.
"We know so little about what seems to work," he said.
You know, you're a real buzz kill, professor, what with your "evidence" and "research" and "burden of proof" and all that other fairy-killing noise...

Seriously: this is absurd. We waste our time contemplating pay schemes that have no evidence to support them, and then pat ourselves on the rump for "standing up for children." Meanwhile...

But we tell ourselves we can solve this by withholding pay raises from some teachers. Are we all high? Is that it?

Let's be clear: no one is saying bad teachers should stay in the classroom. No one is saying we shouldn't work to create a better teaching corps. In fact, no one is saying we can't even consider changing compensation methods - hell, even the president of the Newark teachers union is open to the idea!

But there are two problems with this train of thought that continue to that astonish me:

1) There isn't any real evidence that this will work, yet we're going to do it anyway.

2) How we pay teachers is clearly not the problem!

Believing in merit pay is like believing in fairies: it's the act of a child-like mind that refuses to face reality. Someday, maybe, we will really decide to put the deserving children of Newark first and act like grownups. I only hope it won't be too late.

This don't mean a gotta root for da Devils, do it?

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