5 Reasons not to use Student Achievement as a driving factor in teacher pay!

The State of Michigan is currently debating if student achievement should be the driving factor in teacher pay. The Detroit Free Press ran an article today discussing both sides of the issue. I feel this debate is worth having at a district level but very hard to have on the state level. State Rep. Peter Lund, needs to think carefully about this bill he has sponsored. Here are 5 reasons to vote against this bill:

1. Local control – Long a tenant of the Republican party, recently seems to be lost when talking about schools. Districts have locally elected school boards. They set policy, rules and regulations. If “pay for performance” is something a district wants, needs or desires, the local school board can set it up as a policy. One size does not fit all. Michigan has over 500 school districts ranging in size from 20- 1,000’s of students. Our state is also very diverse. Let the local district decide if this is an issue they want to tackle. Would corporations allow the government to step in and set pay standards for their employees? NO! School districts are no different and should not have to be subjected to Law Makers who have no understanding of how schools are run.

2. No Set Standard –  The state wants to pass a law saying that teachers will be paid based on performance but not set a performance standard? No this doesn’t make any sense. Teachers need to know the target they are aiming for! How can teachers reach targets that have not been set? Currently MEAP/MME testing has been show to be unreliable, having social economic biases. The state does not even have a standard for teacher evaluations. Again too complex, all needs to be set at a local district level. With all the laws passing there will be no point in local school boards since all policies seem to be set by state.

3. Create bad environment – Education has been working for years to foster an environment where teachers work together to help educate ALL students. IF teachers feel that they will have an advantage over others, the collaboration will end. Think about it, do salesmen tell others about who and how they get their largest sales? NO! The goal of education is to provide an equal free education to all students. We can’t create a school where teachers keep their best techniques secrets.

4. No enough money –  Merit pay systems work well in a sales environment. Why? Salespeople generate revenue to pay for their commissions (extra merit pay). Schools don’t make extra money by performing well (and shouldn’t). How can a district afford teachers if they all desire the top merit pay level? Bottom line is they won’t be able to afford a true merit pay system that will have any value to the teachers.

5. No value for experience or education – Any teacher will tell you that they are a better teacher now than they were the first year. No matter how students score on the test, teachers do get better with time. Sure, some burn-out. administrators can observe this and take actions. The tenure laws have been changed. Student achievement is a factor in all teachers in Michigan evaluations now. Doctors, lawyers, dentists with a more specialized degree get paid more for their expertise why not teachers?

Well that is 5, I could keep going. Poverty is another larger factor that will create unfair results in this equation. There are just too many factors at play that impact student achievement.

What if student has bad day?  Can they re-take like drivers test? NO

All student growth is not equal, learning today might not impact student achievement for years. Current tests only measure students academic performance, what about social, physical, emotional growth?

Legislature stop killing our public education system and start focusing on helping our poor students. The teachers are the least of your problems.

Thanks for reading, hope it helps you reflect.

Forced Malpractice?

When thinking about the education climate today, I feel that teachers are being placed in a situation where they are almost forced into malpractice. Now most people think of malpractice as medical or legal term. Malpractice as defined by the free legal dictionary:  

“The failure to meet a standard of care or standard of conduct that is recognized by a profession reaches the level of malpractice when a client or patient is injured or damaged because of error.”

Teachers are supposed to create learners in their classrooms. Schools should need to create authentic learning environments that are relevant  to young minds. Lessons should allow students to explore open-ended questions and learn should be accomplished at an individual’s own pace. All students learn in their own way on their own time table. All educators know that student learn in many different ways and this learning can be expressed in all forms. These are the standards and conducts that teaching professions need to accomplish.

In our RTTT and NCLB world, legislators have created laws that measure student learning on strict linear growth charts. Teachers are then ranked and judged by the yearly growth. This growth is measured using one single expression of knowledge: answers on a multiple choice test. These test are given frequently to constantly monitor growth.

At this point I hope you see the stark contrast from professional standards/ principals of learning and how we are attempting to measure learning. SO how is it Malpractice?

Teachers are being forced to test, test and test students to measure their learning. When most teachers know every child’s ability level. This testing takes away from the true purpose of school: To teach students how to learn. Instead of teaching how to learn teachers feel the need/pressure to teach how to take tests. This environment removes the relevance from all topics. Teachers often lose sight of the WHY, and resort to “You need to know it because it is on the test” answer to the why question.

Principal, Donald Sternberg, from New York State recently wrote this about the testing environment in a letter home to parents in his district:

“One significant issue as we move into this new school year is that we will, at times, find it difficult if not impossible to teach authentic application of concepts and skills with an eye towards relevancy. What we will be teaching students is to be effective test takers; a skill that does not necessarily translate into critical thinking – a skill set that is necessary at the college level and beyond. This will inevitably conflict with authentic educational practice – true teaching.”

The testing nature of schools today is hurting our students. Teachers are turning to practices that create great test takers but not true thinkers.   This system is falling apart due to over regulation by legislators who champion education in speeches  but not in-laws. It is time to stop the system that damaging our students.

When looking at education in this light, I am surprised nobody has sued for malpractice. As a teacher we can say we were forced to by  the legislature.