"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, October 16, 2009

Maine State Rep. Challenges Merit-Pay

As President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and the philanthro-capitalists continue pushing education reforms based on standardized test scores, segregated charters, and the "no excuses" rhetoric capable of bring Newt Gingrich and the bought-off Rev. Sharpton together, teachers are left with a Democratic party that has moved - nay, sprinted - to the Right (or "center" if you buy into the right-leaning rhetoric of the corporatized media) while embracing all of the aforementioned reform proposals, which, incidentally, look an awful lot like Bush-era policies. The Democrats have failed us in multiple areas - healthcare, regulating Wall Street, tax cuts for the wealthy, the lack of environmental action, Afghanistan and Iraq, and, of course, education - but there are still a few level-headed apples amongst them.
Take Maine Representative Brian Bolduc (too bad he's not working at the federal level). Back in April, Mr. Bolduc - a certified high school social studies teacher - proposed a bill that would ban merit-pay based on test scores. The bill, sadly, was declared dead after a bit of debate, but Mr. Bolduc deserves credit for presenting a level-headed critique of why merit-pay is entirely inappropriate for the teaching profession. We need more Democrats like this guy; unfortunately, he's exactly the kind vilified by NY Times journalist Nicholas Kristof in today's paper for not adopting the market-based policies preferred by Duncan, Gates, and Broad.
Eli, in case you missed it, funded six pro-merit-pay policy papers in 2008, all conducted by the State Policy Network, a free-market think tank full of rabid anti-public school nutjobs and privatizers. Mr. Bolduc ran up against these Broad-funded market fundamentalists, the Maine Heritage Policy Center, which lobbied strongly against the level-headed proposal against merit-pay.
Send Mr. Bolduc an e-mail (address available here), offer him your support, and congratulate him on presenting one of the few good pieces of education legislation.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:53 PM

    I would have to agree that the profession of teaching is completely subjective and often the question of what makes a good teacher is asked throughout the country. Many people have a completely different answer to that question. Nevertheless many would agree that they would not include linking teacher performance to student standardize test scores in their answer of what makes a good teacher. It is too much to ask a teacher to try to control all the academic as well as outside factors that affect students on a daily bases. It is also important to be mindful that test scores and data do not reflect the real face of students. Test scores do not reflect outside factors that students are faced with for example, living in a shelter, students dealing with a death of a parent, and students who cannot complete assignments because they have to watch younger sibling while their single parent is at work. None of those factors are ever taken into account when analyzing test scores. It will deeply sadden me if the Obama administration’s education proposal “Race for the Top” which some claim insistence upon using student test scores as a means of evaluating teachers for merit pay is viewing all these serious issues as “teacher excuses” and not real problems that our students face. I hope President Obama will stay true to his word that if a merit system is created it will be based on fair criteria rather than student test scores when assessing teacher performance. President Obama has made claims that all teacher should be paid more and that merit pay should be awarded for example to teachers who continue to further their education and teachers who chose to work in rural or inner city schools where it is harder to find good teachers.
    One must take into account how merit pay will effect cooperation among teachers. I have always believed that it is important to share with my colleagues anything I know that will help children. When I was a student teacher my cooperating teacher shared everything with me. Through her dedication, help and mentoring I credit her in allowing me to become the teacher I am today. Merit pay can create a climate of competition among teachers, where teachers once worked as a team and shared solutions cooperatively; Merit pay can make teachers adopt a more “I’m looking out for myself” attitude instead of “what is best for children”.
    Another down side to the merit pay system would be the inevitable use of dishonesty and corruption. Some people now might look to the teaching profession with only monetary gain in mind. These educators might be tempted to lie about testing and results. Also there maybe suspicion of principal favoritism which makes way for complaints, lawsuits and the moral issues that distract from the needs of students. Merit pay simply cannot work in education until there is a way to fairly measure teacher performance and linking it to student test scores is simply not fair. A better solution would be to pay all teachers more. “Rather than design and regulate an unfair Merit Pay program, why not simply pay teachers what they are already worth? “Also if the national government continues to go forward with merit pay legislation I hope that President Obama stays true to his words and not link teacher performance to standardize test but to the peer evaluations like he has proposed. We can only hope as educators that President Obama remains true to his own words that we will not have a merit pay system in this country “without the approval of the teachers and if they are not bought into it, it is not going to work”. Hopefully teachers will not be left out this time when creating federal education policy.