Auld Lang Syne

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merit Pay, or let's belittle teachers AGAIN

I am a teacher, by profession and nature. My husband too, and our eldest daughter and our daughter-in-law. But this post is not about us. It is about what is happening to teachers across this nation and this state. There is a piece of legislation up for consideration in Maine and other states (being rammed through?) that would tie as much as 25% of teachers' pay to high-stakes testing (called "student outcome" by our DOE commissioner and others).  It is at times like this when I begin to wonder if there is any logic left. By the way, I see no "bonuses" in the proposed rule, like so many dollars extra if students get so many points on these hideous tests that drive everyone crazy other than bureaucrats.

I would begin here by asking a simple series of questions:

Do doctors get paid based on "patient outcomes"? READ: lab test results for example. (If a patient gets sick do they get their pay docked?)
Do firefighters get paid based upon the numbers of fires they stop before any loss is incurred? (Do they have pay docked when a building or field burns?)
Do cops get paid based upon the numbers of criminals who do not commit crimes? (Are they docked pay when a criminal commits a crime?)

I could go on.

NO. All these people who are professionals get paid based upon negotiated salaries or costs or prices.  We are their fellow citizens and we pay for their services with our taxes and our moneys. We expect them to do their best, but do not expect them to be monetarily evaluated. Why then would we even CONSIDER merit pay for teachers? Parents send their precious children to these hard-wrking professionals for 8 hours a day — to care for them, instruct them, mold their characters, inspire them, assist them in developing thinking and reasoning skills, prepare them for the working world, and would take a bullet for each and every one of them (lest you forget, think of Newtown CT). But we are going to get punitive with their paychecks because of test scores?  No student or family is a consumer of education. Education is a process: of learning to think and learning to improve the mind and society. We don't have a business here, we have a system of education.

The "what is wrong" is not at all the "fault" of teachers. Teachers have to teach in an antiquated system,  a system that was developed and has persisted since the 1890s. Admittedly it has become quite the bureaucracy. That is a problem. But the problem lies within the system itself. Docking teachers' paychecks will not fix the systemic problem, the ingrained foolishness of not updating the system itself. Inserting punitive "merit" pay into this system that is so filled with error already would be the height of error. And unless every teacher has the right to expect bonuses equal to or higher than CEOs of companies, we must stop this ridiculous plan for "de-merit" pay. And unless we put education back into its rightful place of honor and respect, we are going to stay foolish and stay in the blame game.

Yes, there are teachers who are not living up to the title of "teacher" by being stuck in an old groove, not moving forward with the latest and greatest techniques or technologies. There are teachers who are burned out and ready to stop teaching. There is a way for that to get solved. But punishing teachers everywhere for the few who are deficient is a mistake. Would any of us wish to be punished for the shortcomings of others? Would we want to be disparaged for the faults of others? I think not. So why are we so willing to lay the blame and levy punishment on teachers who have done nothing to deserve it? Truly this baffles me. This kind of thing exists nowhere else in our society.

STOP the madness. Oppose any and all efforts to put into place any sort of meritocracy in our school systems.

Education ought to be our top priority in this country and in this state. We ought to pay teachers what Wall Street gets paid, with all the perks they get. But we choose instead to vilify and punish them. Wrong, just wrong.

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