I have just realized that I never posted in January--a month missed is a month not earned. What?
In all seriousness, I did have some pretty strong feelings about some of the things that I read over at a good friend of mine's blog regarding the concept of 'merit pay' for teachers. I responded to his blog post regarding it and basically agreed with what the blog's author said about the concept, as I feel similarly, in most respects, to how the remainder of the teaching population feels--it's a bad idea without some serious consideration.
First, as we really going to judge a teacher by how each year's crop of students does each year when they take their large standardized test in 10th grade? Isn't that like comparing apples to oranges to grapes to pineapples? Aren't we going to find years where the students surpass our expectations, work well together and are generally very positive and willing to work or at least listen in our classes? And aren't there going to be years and crops of students who fight tooth and nail about everything and are so intent on just dropping out of high school and earning their GED that they purposefully try to flunk the test? (It happens). Yes, absolutely. We cannot compare year to year. If we want this concept to work from this standpoint, we need to begin in third grade and compare the same group of students year after year for progress and work backwards determining which of their teachers should have taught a particular concept which obviously they did not grasp, and so forth...
Second, do we really want to make it a teacher vs. teacher incentive program, where the most successful teachers either earn more for themselves or for their school while those less successful risk either layoffs, or no pay increase depending on their performance? No, I doubt that's the intention. The intention is to make teachers work harder for student success, right? The simplest solution is to not pit teachers against others, but to force teachers to really broaden how they teach and with what resources. I'm not talking about professional development, per say, but more of a just a weekly meeting where teachers from each department come up with creative ways for everyone else in the department to teach a lesson coming up in the months ahead. That's a totally unassuming, calm, collaborative, and good-natured gesture, which will require all teachers to think outside of their own confines and search on the glorious tool known as the internet, where I highly doubt there is any lack of radical or ingenious lesson plans. If we make it a teacher vs. teacher thing, those who are more creative will obviously keep their know-how and creativity a secret, shutting down entire departments because no one wants to communicate and risk losing extra money they can put in their pockets (because they would then be sharing it with other members of the department as everyone would rise instead of just one teacher...). No, that's another awful idea.
And finally, isn't the whole incentive pay thing just designed for teachers who 'someone' deems to be tiring or regimented or very set-in-their-ways and dull now? Aren't those the teachers who are ultimately the focus? These teachers already make the most money, and many wouldn't care much for the merit pay money increase, but newer teachers (such as myself), who are already thinking of as many of these types of lessons as possible, the ones who really need the money but are already doing this?
The whole idea needs some work. If I could, I would file this under January.