While it may not be a popular notion for me to suggest elementary and secondary teachers should NOT be paid merit pay on the basis of student success, I am going to do so anyway because the subject comes up every couple of years.
Today was no exception. Ken Moore, who operates a blog called Metanoodle, seems to think establishing teacher excellence would be a relatively easy process. As he wrote in a post this morning: “Why aren’t tests of student learning the track to better pay? There are good teachers everywhere but what evidence that college and promotion produced them?”
Well, for one thing, in terms of evidence, teacher graduates receive their licencing certification from their professional college just as is the case with other professional bodies.
In other words, they passed the requirements leading to that certification which, contrary to the opinion of some, can be quite rigorous (e.g., in some cases, a four year university degree that included a final year studying all aspects of teaching and learning and 8 – 12 weeks of practice under the supervision of a practicing teacher.)
Apparently Moore’s comments were related to the latest Fraser Review of the Literature Report — which “recommends new policies that will potentially enhance the impact that teachers and school administrators have on the academic achievement of public school students.”
Now let’s look at that final statement again — the impact teachers and administrators have on student achievement. No where does it question what the impact student ability and attitude might have on their academic achievement. Teaching is an act between two human beings. Each has a duty to the end result. I mean, teachers cannot simply open a child’s head and pour in knowledge and skills.
Yes, I know I will be accused of being part of the “education-blob” and therefore biased because I am both a former teacher and teacher educator. Yet, I have also done research on teacher behaviour and student success when I was in private practice operating a reading and learning disabilities clinic. My results suggested that a variety of methods of student evaluation should be used.
So, the very idea that the Fraser Institute’s review of the literature indicates that (according to the Globe and Mail’s analysis) school principals should be able to fire teachers based on student outcomes in order to establish winning teams, is absolutely abhorrent.
What an absolutely cut throat idea for everyone. Schools would become a very nasty place to be that is for sure because an individual principal would have too much power over everyone. And, I have taught in schools where that kind of scenario existed and it was not pleasant.
I mean, we are dealing with human beings here and not processes or products. Is success an extra 2% on standardized test results in reading, having 2 completed science projects or having done better in everyday work than last year?
Will such variables be considered such as a child having after-school tutoring or an older sibling who helped them with their school projects?
Well, to my mind, they are completely separate issues. We cannot expect teachers to teach to the needs and talents of each student, while at the same time, to a specific generalized “standardized” test result.
In fact, in my opinion, the two notions are incompatible. Rather, what should happen is that each child’s outcomes be based on a comparison of what they did last semester or last year compared to the present.
Merit pay, on the other hand, or value added compensation as the Fraser Report refers to it, based on standardized test results or GPA scores will have teacher’s teaching to the test and not to the needs of each student.
Plus, there is the issue of compensation equality. While I may be critical of teachers’ unions from time to time, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that when it comes to the establishment of a gender neutral pay scale, they got it right. Opening up that criteria by adding in merit pay based on a principal’s interpretation of student outcomes could adversely affect the gains women in education have made.
In my opinion, then, the crux of the matter is that no matter how many times think tanks like the Fraser Institute recommend teachers be paid based on student success, it is simply not a realistic possibility for some of the reasons I have given.
Cross-posted at Jack’s Newswatch.