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, April 5, 2011

The Definition of Insanity

...is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result:
In 2007, New York City and its teachers union launched an experiment to determine whether rewarding teachers with extra cash would boost student performance.
Four years and $57 million later, the answer appears to be no. Backers of incentive pay are blaming the way New York's program was structured, and school and union officials are pointing fingers at each other.
The hope was that the program would result in improved student test scores. But scores didn't budge, according to two studies, and the city recently suspended the program. The Department of Education is awaiting results of a RAND Corp. analysis of the program while still calling teacher incentives "critical."
I'm just shocked - I mean, aside from the fact that we've tried this before and it didn't work then. Or then. Or then. Or then.

Of course, the details of the program may provide a clue:
More than 8,000 United Federation of Teachers members, most of them teachers, received bonuses through the program, some more than once. The average bonus was $3,000.
I keep hearing all this stuff from the corporate reformers about how teachers can't be treated like interchangeable widgets. Well, even if you buy into that premise: is $3,000 enough of a pay differential to acknowledge differences between teachers?

Corporate reformers keep talking about raising the pay of outstanding teachers, but the real numbers aren't very impressive. And, of course, the scheme begs one of my favorite recurring questions:

If these magical plans of yours come to fruition, and every child has a "great" teacher in the classroom...

... and all "great" teachers deserve to be paid much more...

... won't that raise the overall payroll for the schools? How will you pay for that?

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