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Chan Lowe: Merit pay for teachers


merit.gifSurely there is some kind of compromise between paying teachers based solely on seniority and level of training, and a pay scale predicated purely on the achievement of their students.

The first position (which is consistent with union philosophy) completely leaves out the possibility that there may be better teachers and worse teachers, regardless of how much time they have put in.

The second, which is to tie raises and job security to how students score on the FCAT, rewards or penalizes teachers based on what is in effect a lottery. If a teacher is fortunate enough to be given a class drawn from a relatively well-off population, where families are involved in their children's learning and have the time to encourage them with their studies and other intellectual pursuits, then it follows that these kids will be better test-takers.

Unfortunately, both positions are politically charged, and neither is completely fair, either to the students or the professionals who instruct them.

And then there's the whole matter of whether teaching to a test makes any sense in the first place.

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Why don't the legislators in Washington and Tallahassee who decide on education funding also get paid based on the achievement of students since they create education policy and decide how to fund it? And how about the U.S. Secretary of Education, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education, the school board members, the superintendents,top administrators and even union heads or are collecting big salaries for doing little to bring out the real issues in education. Why are teachers the one to be held accountable when they do not decide policy, how classrooms will be funded, what materials will be used, what testing will be done, how crowded the classrooms will be, and what supplies, services and support each school will have?

Teachers are doing what they can with limited supplies and overuse of testing, while meeting a variety of needs for the students that in many cases are not being met at home. We are underpaid have little or no support staff to help us and have to buy supplies out of our own money.

When will people realize most teachers are working as hard as they can, putting in hundreds of unpaid hours each year and trying to keep up with the whims of politicians who are creating education policy and funding education based on party philosophies rather than sound education practices.

Blaming teachers is just too easy and too convenient. Someone needs to look at the deeper issues in education.


DONNA
Bravo to you and all teachers.! Yes-everything you say is true...You teachers deserve "Hazard Pay."


Incentives should be offered to students who excel, not to teachers. The teachers are already paid to educate. There's no reason to compensate them twice for the same job.


I debated with a reader yesterday about this bill. He basically said teachers with seniority are threatened by younger teachers. Huh? I get lots of great information from them. He, like the people in Congress, don't get it that kids vary. Their homes vary. Their desires to do well vary. We can and do everything under the sun to motivate, inspire, educate, remediate and even reward but if a students doesn't want to try OR doesn't have the ability our hands are tied.

When parents are REQUIRED AND FORCED to assist with homework, get tutoring when necessary, read to their children, provide a stable and nurturing home, etc... and face financial consequences if they don't then go ahead and base my pay on test scores. Oh wait, the area I teach doesn't have a state test. How will I be assessed then?


Do people realize how many teachers there are who don't teach subjects involved with FCAT scores? Music, art, PE, Driver ed, Vocational classes just to name a few. What happens to those teachers?


Under Obama's, or anyone's, merit pay plan, we are not held accountable for results, but for factors beyond our control-poverty, drug abuse, lack of parental involvement.
Also, we are held hostage to disparity. I have always worked in a struggling school and teachers like me and our students are victims of disparity. Disparity of funding (new buildings, technology, books) compared to affluent schools, but we are on the receiving the lion's share of disparity when it comes to drug abuse, lack of respect, behavior problems, and apathetic kids and parents.
Yes, one may receive incentives to go to a struggling school, but why do so when you will be branded a failure after 3 or 4 years, still lose some of your salary as the gains will not be there due to factors beyond your control, and you can lose your certificate. Unless, you want to end your career under this system and commit professional suicide, go to a struggling school and/or work with special needs students.
Good luck finding teachers Florida! My advice to new teachers,or those thinking of entering the profession, is to go to a closed-shop state like New york or Pennsylvania where this silliness will never see the light of day!


NOT just teachers - EVERYONE'S, salary, job security, social security, and a civil society rests on the outcomes of what teachers do ---- Teachers should be held to performance standards JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

Teachers mess up a kid, we ALL have to deal with the consequences.

pffft - on teachers "security" - get used to being at risk for non-performance.



"Teachers mess up a kid, we ALL have to deal with the consequences." If you believe that, then you should not be for merit pay. If one teacher "messes up" a kid, why should a subsequent teacher's pay be based on that "messed up" student's scores.

This whole merit pay brouhaha it great in theory, but does not translate to reality. Treating education like a business is not effective because children are not products. If one worked in a factory and was paid to produce widgets, then paying based on the number of widgets produced would make sense because the worker would have total control of the amount of widgets produced. Teachers, however, do not have total control over their students' scores. Educational policy, funding, class size, parents, and students themselves, are all part of the equation.

Also, FIDS, if "EVERYONE'S, salary, job security, social security, and a civil society rests on the outcomes of what teachers do," shouldn't teachers make a lot more money?!!!


I wonder is it just the teachers,we have everything in ample.....except for the motivation.My education was always my problem and teachers ere always right and i was expected to shut up and learn.I guess it worked perfectly ,at some stage only elders can make perfect decisons for you...........as kids.Let someone take complete responsibilty or please get responsible..........dont throw it around.


Dear Senators, Editors, Educators, and Concerned Citizens,

I am writing this letter as a Solution to Senate Bill 6. As a parent, educator, and registered voter I am writing to inform you that John Thrasher’s Senate Bill 6 is fundamentally wrong, hypocritical, and violates the American Disabilities Act. I urge you to vote NO on John Thrasher’s Senate Bill 6 for the following reasons.
First, Senate Bill 6 is fundamentally wrong because it requires 50% of teachers’ salaries to be measured by test scores. This is an unacceptable way to pay teachers and measure success. Currently, teaching is an altruistic profession. Teachers want to help students learn. If you are a teacher, you generally go into the profession to make the world a better place, to make a difference, to teach. If teachers’ salaries are based on student test scores, then all teachers will do is teach to the test. If teachers’ mortgage payments are dependent on having the top test scores in the school, not only will teachers only teach to the test, but they would be far less willing to collaborate, share best practices, and help others. Instead, it would create a cut throat atmosphere in our schools and in turn, treat children as a commodity. This could be the beginning of the end of “what teaching is all about.” There would be far less teachable moments, no time for the arts, and infighting about who would get the “best students” in the class. This is not what education is all about. This is not what is best for our children. This is not what is best for the future of the United States of America.
Secondly, John Thrasher’s Senate Bill 6 is hypocritical. John Thrasher’s Senate Bill 6 wants to discontinue paying teachers additional stipends for their expertise in their field. This bill wants to strip teachers of additional incentives for their advanced educational degrees, such as master’s degrees and National Board Certification. Prior to Senate Bill 6, teachers were encouraged to get advanced degrees and compensated. This sends a horrible message to students that education is not important. Furthermore, Senate Bill 6 wants to take away all seniority teachers have accrued. This means that a first year teacher will make as much base salary as a 20 year teacher. As a veteran teacher who has ALWAYS received excellent evaluations and who has counted on step raises to pay my bills and support my family, this is completely unacceptable. As a teacher who has worked for the School Board of Broward County for the past 14 years, the steps mean that I can pay my mortgage and not foreclose on my home. If you pass this bill, it will increase foreclosures and economic down turn in the state of Florida.
Finally, John Thrasher’s Senate Bill 6 violates the American Disabilities Act. As an ESE (exceptional student education) Specialist, I coordinate special education services at my school. To ensure the students in our ESE program are successful I personally place each of the students in my program with a teacher that I feel would best meet their needs. This creates a positive and productive learning experience for the student, the teacher, and the family. I place some of our most challenging students with some of our best teachers. These teachers welcome our ESE students into their rooms and best meet their needs to insure learning gains. As I am sure you are aware, ESE students are protected under the American Disabilities Act and are entitled to a free, fair, and appropriate education just as any other non disabled student is. If you pass John Thrasher’s Senate Bill 6 many teachers will be reluctant to have ESE students in their classes. Teachers will no longer want students in their classes who have disabilities because test scores may suggest that these students may not make as many learning gains as general education students. If you are paying teachers based on student performance, then we would no longer be able to place the majority of our ESE students with specific teachers who might best meet their needs. Instead, we would somehow have to divide them up so that each teacher had the same amount of ESE kids. This would in turn, create a negative stigma or prejudice for our ESE students. This is against Federal Law.
John Thrasher’s Senate Bill 6 claims to benefit both teachers and students. I completely disagree. However, I do have some suggestions for a Bill that would benefit teachers, students, and the future of the United States of America. In John Thrasher’s Senate Bill 6 there is no accountability for parents and guardians. As a parent and an educator, this represents a missing link. Students are in school for six hours a day for 180 days a year. That leaves 18 hours with their families when school is in session and an additional 185 days with their families when there is no school. Teachers can no longer be solely held accountable for student learning gains. Some of the responsibility must be put back on their home environments. My recommendations are to introduce a new Senate Bill called GO TO COLLEGE. Senate Bill Go to College proposes the following:

1. Pay families, not teachers for student learning gains. If students made learning gains based on a combination of assessments such as standardized tests scores, academic grades, and/or academic improvement, they would earn bonuses. These bonuses would be put into a college fund for each student. The state of Florida could earn interest on the money in the account until the student is ready to apply the funds to their college tuition. The student would have to use this funding for college tuition only within the ages of 18-23. If the money were not used, it would go back to the state. Schools would assist families in creating their GO TO COLLEGE account using their student ID and the state would deposit the money.
2. Teachers would be paid for teaching students not for standardized test score results. Teachers pay would be based on their evaluations. If teachers receive a satisfactory evaluation, they would receive their yearly Step raise and a cost of living raise. Teachers would increase their pay each year based on a Step system and a cost of living raise not on student performance. If teachers earned an unsatisfactory evaluation, they would not receive their yearly Step raise. Teachers who earn an unsatisfactory evaluation would be placed on a Teacher Improvement Plan (TIP) which would pair them up with a satisfactory teacher and provide them with teaching and behavioral assistance and strategies to improve. This plan would go into effect as soon as the teacher earned an unsatisfactory evaluation. The teacher would be given until the following evaluation to earn a satisfactory evaluation. If a teacher earned two consecutive unsatisfactory evaluations, he/she would be fired. Teachers with advanced degrees would earn additional supplements for advanced degrees held within their specific teaching field.

The above proposed Senate Bill GO TO COLLEGE provides a solution to the education crises. It gives families incentives to help their children learn. Teachers would continue to work together, collaborate, and best meet the needs of the students. More students would increase academic achievement and become college bound. If teachers earned an unsatisfactory evaluation they would not earn a raise and could lose their job if they earn two consecutive unsatisfactory yearly evaluations. Teachers who hold advanced degrees within their field would be compensated for being educated at a higher level and rewarded for being the best of the best. ESE and general education students would continue to be placed with the best teacher to meet their needs. Students would be judged on a variety of academic improvements and not just standardized test scores such as the FCAT. I urge you to take my proposed Bill GO TO COLLEGE into serious consideration. Please feel free to contact me or come visit Nova Blanche Forman Elementary School in Broward County, Florida where ideas become reality.

Sincerely,

Lisa Dalachinsky


Basing teachers' pay on merit presupposes that teachers actually teach. When it comes to the FCAT, at least at the elementary level, there is very little teaching being done. Rather, students are being trained to pass the test, in the same way as people are trained to prepare income tax returns, install a sound system, or mow a lawn. My wife, a third grade teacher, is required to complete the math curriculum for that grade before thhe FCAT, about nine (9) weeks before the end of the school year. Teachers now are forced more and more into the role of parents, when they have to teacher "character eduaction". I won't bother going into all the extra paperwork that goes into a teacher's day.


Bravo Yes!Teach! I couldn't have said it any better! If merit pay is to be involved then ALL students public and private should take a pretest and a post-test to determine the subjective learning gains of that student. However, there are many variables in a child's learning as Yes!Teach pointed out.

Additionally, ALL politicians and Yes teachers should be required to take the test and see how the scores come in then. Plus if a student flunks in my course because of laziness, little or no foundation, or lack of motivation then he should face the consequences and not be allowed to take a test. That would be a motivator right there for the student and their parents to do their best in the classroom.


Get the government and unions out of the classroom. Competition like anything else will bring success.


Yes, get the government and the business model out of education. Schools and teachers are not competing...our goal is the same...to educate students to read, think, and be productive members of society. Schools exist for the common good of our society and cooperation, no competition, has always served students well. We do not make a profit and we shouldn't hope some fail so that others may succeed. This corporate mindset has been put in place to create a want that wasn't there even 10 years ago as most people were very happy with their local schools. Do people really think the teachers of 30, 20 years ago were more educated than today or worked harder?this was a well developed scheme to create an attitude of demeaning public education so that the money could be diverted to private schools. And why do private schools not use this evaluation model? Oh yeah, because it's ridiculous.


And given we all signed contracts concerning our pay and pension, how is it okay to now break that contract? Again, our state government shows how they truly don't value education or teachers and are finding a place to cut even more by slashing our pensions. It's a joke how politicians, who don't know child development, learning theory, curriculum development, differentiated instruction, or learning modalities, feel they can dictate how schools should operate. Personally, I would make each and everyone responsible for a classroom for a month. That won't make the week.


"How would you like your salary and job security to depend on this person?" Do you mean depend on a satisfied customer? That's who's in the picture. I can't think of a better person to be the judge of whether the product being offered (i.e. an education) is satisfactory or not. Can you?


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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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