Sunday, February 19, 2012

Not the answer . . .

Daniel Pink, author of Drive, a book about motivation, posted on the problems with  merit pay for teachers.  Basically, he says it won't work providing eight reasons why.  I follow Pink 's blog and have read his books Drive, A whole New Mind, and Johnny Bunko.  He has studied the research and is someone with credibility in the field and someone that should be influential in the merit pay debate. 

Why are there so many that continue to pursue this approach when the research suggest that it will not succeed?  Below are two of Pink's eight reasons that particularly stand out for me, but I encourage you to read all of them on his post.

1. Some rewards backfire. Fifty years of social science tells us that “if-then” rewards – that is, “If you do this, then you get that” – are great for simple, routine tasks and not so great for complicated, creative tasks. Since teaching is creative and complex rather than simple and algorithmic, tying teacher pay to student performance (especially on standardized tests) flies in the face of the broad evidence.

7. Teaching isn’t investment banking. I find it peculiar that we single out teachers for “if-then” pay when we wouldn’t consider it for other public servants. Should we pay police officers based on how many tickets they write or whether the crime rate in their district drops? How about compensating soldiers based on whether our borders have been attacked or how many of their colleagues have been injured or killed? Would legislators, who are behind much of the bonuses-for-test-scores push, ever agree to hinge their own pay on whether budget deficits rose or fell?

So, what does Pink see as the answer?

4. There’s a simpler solution. My own solution for the teacher pay issue, which I’ve voiced many times both in writing and in speeches, is to strike a bargain: Raise the base pay of teachers – and make it easier to get rid of underperforming teachers. Not only is this approach more consistent with the evidence, it’s easier to implement and doesn’t require a new bureaucracy to administer. (To her credit, Michelle Rhee launched some efforts to move in this direction.)

Sounds like a simple idea that I can support.  Speaking of underperforming teachers you might want to see a summary of the evaluation bill passed last week in the state Senate intended to support teacher growth.  It can be found on the LEV site here.  A couple of the points are below.

- Prevents unsatisfactory new teachers from receiving tenure. New teachers rated unsatisfactory in their third year would be ineligible to obtain tenure, remaining on provisional, year-to-year status.

-Removes unsatisfactory veteran teachers from the classroom. Teachers with more than five years of experience who are rated unsatisfactory for two consecutive years must be issued a notice of nonrenewal.

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