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

Sunday, March 25, 2012

How To Convince Me the Merit Pay Fairy Is Real:

This is one of the most despicable things I have read in this whole reformy debate, and it stands as evidence as to why billionaires should not be influencing education policy. From Bill Turque of the Washington Post, writing about the D.C. schools:
One of the more striking line items on the operating side is for private grant funds. They averaged about $21 million between 2010 and 2012, as the Broad, Arnold, Walton and Robertson foundations supported the labor contract negotiated by former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, one that eliminated seniority preferences and established big performance bonuses under IMPACT.
But the Rhee Effect is there in bold relief on Page D-2. With Rhee gone and the three-year foundation commitment up, private largess is considerably more scarce. Grant funds are projected at just $3.8 million for FY 2013, an 82 percent drop. Officials have announced that the cost of the IMPACT bonuses has been passed on to the individual schools. [emphasis mine]
So when St. Michele of Arc decided the kids of Washington D.C. weren't worth her time anymore, her wealthy patrons decided to split as well, leaving the district holding the bag. The IMPACT bonuses, by the way, never worked, despite Rhee's continuing insistence that they did; Matt DiCarlo takes her claims down quite nicely.

So now the district is stuck picking up the costs for a merit pay system that never had research to back it up; simply because the Billionaire Boys Club - for which Rhee is the mascot - had a change of heart. What will happen, do you suppose, when they cool on charter schools?

This is just disgusting. These people bought their way into the education debate, but they don't even have the integrity to see their convictions to their logical conclusions. If they really believe the Merit Pay Fairy exists, they should have to pay for upkeep on her magic wands.

The fact is that the politicos who pal around with St. Michelle and who love to tout the benefits of merit pay have not come clean about how they are going to pay for their schemes. They tend to be the same folks who tell us over and over that we "don't have any more money!" (which is bull) If they aren't going to add new revenue to school systems to pay for merit pay, where is the money going to come from?

Simple - and yet never overtly stated: it's going to come from "average" teachers. These people will never admit this directly, but the logical consequence of what they propose is to shift pay away from the bulk of the teaching corps and toward a select few "high performers."

Let's leave aside the very real problem that we simply can't identify these "high performers" with the precision and confidence necessary to make these sorts of high-stakes decisions. I am only prepared to start believing in the Merit Pay Fairy when we see a serious experiment that takes pay away from some teachers, gives it to others, and results in increases in overall student achievement.

Unless and until that happens, don't waste my time with ideological nonsense. The people who pay to push this stuff won't even put a little of their treasuries where their think-tanky mouths are. Why should the rest of us believe in fairies when clearly they don't?

Someone tell da Waltons my wand needs new batteries...

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