See that soap box? I'm 'bout to get on it.

Teacher performance based pay.

Touchy subject right now. Recently a friend posted on her blog about this idea and how she disagreed with the idea, and for good reason. After reading an "anonymous" comment someone posted, I decided it required a response. They said, and I quote:

"If teachers aren't performing better without incentives, then they need something to push them into gear. If it's pay raises and the likes- then I'm all for it, if you can't do your job someone else will. The U.S may be #1 in confidence, but when we don't have the knowledge to back it up, we just look like ignorant backwood hicks."

Retort number one. Here's the problem with pushing teachers into gear: tenure. Most teachers develop a "tenure" status after teaching for 3 years, after their initial 'probationary' state, where they then enter a 'professional' state. What does this mean? At least in Utah, it means it is significantly more difficult to get fired (aka you can be a crappy crap crap teacher and you can't be fired only on that basis- for not performing). Aren't most jobs like that? If you don't perform then you're out? That's right anonymous, if you aren't willing to do your job, somebody else will. So let's start with the idea that after this three year period, you don't just magically become "untouchable", I think evaluations should be a LOT more common, even for teachers teaching 10-15-20 years. Why? Because some people get to stuck in their ways and are very resistant to change- which isn't always the best way. So what happens if you don't perform? You get "x" amount of time to improve, and if you don't, see-ya. Some people think that idea is too harsh. Who probably thinks that? People who probably are scared to death of an evaluation because they don't think they would do so hot. If I need to improve, I wanna know about it. Because EVERY teacher I know wants to be better just to be better.

Teachers don't teach for the money, because trust me, it isn't there. They teach because they want to help young mind develop, learn, and grow to help students reach their full potential (in a nut shell). Now, should teachers be paid more? Absolutely. My husband is currently an assistant manager at a credit union and actually makes more money than I do, and even though he has a degree, only a high school diploma is required for the position. And I have a degree in my field, and not only that but I have to keep a current license, and continue to earn professional development credits. So underpaid? Yes. Some people have a problem with "good" teachers and "bad" teachers earning the same paycheck. Well, see the above paragraph to deal with that problem.

Retort number 2. Performance based pay would increase competition between teachers instead of fostering a collaborative learning environment. When it comes to your child, you want the most minds involved and the best resources/tools/technologies available to help them- would you not? This is the way most schools currently are- at least mine is. We work together and discuss lessons, how we want to teach certain things, what's working and what isn't, and even switching classes because sometimes it just clicks with some students to hear things presented a different way. However, if teachers were paid based on performance (aka test scores), I would want to look the very best I could and I'd want to stand out to my principle and other people over me--not to mention that bonus check. So would I be more willing to share an awesome lesson plan I have, or be as concerned with making sure EVERY student I teach in 2nd grade understands something, and not just the ones in my own class? Not really. Because when it comes down to it, if they're not in my class and won't show up on my test scores- why would I be concerned with how they do? I might try to a certain extent and go out of my way a little, but I definitely wouldn't bend over backward like I would for a student in my own class......now what kind of teaching attitude is that? It creates an "I'm out for myself" attitude, which in teaching, is anything BUT good.

Retort number 3. School boundaries. If I'm a teacher getting performance based pay, I want to look for the best schools in the district and try to become part of those schools. Why? Because the parent support will be higher, income of families is higher, families are more stable, parents are more literate, and all of those things are proven to contribute to a students overall performance in school. So teachers should only shop for the good schools? Or richer school districts? Anyone else see that can of worms?

Thing number 4 but not necessarily a retort to anonymous: I was reading the other day about this and one of the "pros" of performance based pay, which said that it would recruit and retain the brightest minds of America. "It's the odd teacher who hasn't considered leaving the classroom and entering the corporate workplace for the twin benefits of less hassle and more money potential." Really? Some of the smartest and brightest teachers I know teach for that very reason, because of their intelligence. To toot my own horn for a minute, I graduated as Valedictorian from my high school and as magna cum laude (top 5% of my class) from a private university- let's not talk level of intelligence. Am I odd for not WANTING to work in the corporate world? I have no desire, whatsoever. Is everything really THAT much about money? Because although hundreds of thousands of dollars a year is very appealing, I'd give it away if I wanted to kill myself everyday at a corporate job I hated.

So instead, I'll take the 35,000 or however much it is that I'm actually making, to teach. Because it matters. What I do matters.

And last, thing 5. How would we measure "performance" from the students to merit the pay anyway? Test scores? Right now it is up to the states to determine the score that is "passing" on the end of year tests. So this means that scores would have to be nationalized, giving more control over to the national government--and when has THAT ever turned out to be successful? (Welfare? Social security?...yeah THAT'S doing great...). Which means that if it were nationalized, budgets would have to be nationalized to make it fair as well. It would then just turn into a whole huge political mess. And right now, do we really need more of that?

Are their plenty of teachers who could use some improvement? Absolutely. Am I for improving teachers and quality of education? Absolutely- a thousand times over. Do some teachers need a kick in the pants? Definitely. But there is a BETTER way to do it than performance based pay.

Whew. The end.

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