42034Re: [nyceducationnews] NYT w/ puff piece on teacher merit pay
- Jan 1, 2012Story omits to mention that DC test scores have been flat since this program started.
On Jan 1, 2012, at 11:17 AM, Leonie Haimson <leonie@...> wrote:Welcome to 2012; NYT starts out the new year w/ p. 1 puff piece on merit pay; only critic quoted is from the DC teacher union and implies that the union is the only thing standing in the way.
Meanwhile, it omits any mention of the fact that nearly all controlled studies show null or neg results & in surveys, vast majority of teacher dislike the idea & say it won't work. Doesn't even mention that NYC gave up its merit pay system because of lousy results.
This story is as research-ignorant & biased as Oct pg 1 story on student incentive pay:
It makes me want to take back everything nice I said about them in my year end summary of best and worst 2011 education events.
In Washington, Large Rewards in Teacher PayShannon Jensen for The New York Times
By SAM DILLON
Published: December 31, 2011
Shannon Jensen for The New York Times
That latest 38 percent jump, unheard of in public education, came after Ms. Johnson was rated “highly effective” two years in a row under Washington’s new teacher evaluation system. Those ratings also netted her back-to-back bonuses totaling $30,000.
“Lots of teachers leave the profession, but this has kept me invested to stay,” said Ms. Johnson, 29, who is a special-education teacher at the Ron H. Brown Middle School in Northeast Washington. “I know they value me.”
That is exactly the idea behind what admirers consider the nation’s most advanced merit pay system for public school teachers. This fall, the District of Columbia Public Schools gave sizable bonuses to 476 of its 3,600 educators, with 235 of them getting unusually large pay raises.
“We want to make great teachers rich,” said Jason Kamras, the district’s chief of human capital.
The profession is notorious for losing thousands of its brightest young teachers within a few years, which many experts attribute to low starting salaries and a traditional step-raise structure that rewards years of service and academic degrees rather than success in the classroom.
Many districts have tried over the last decade to experiment with performance pay systems but have frequently been thwarted by powerful teachers’ unions that negotiated the traditional pay structures. Those that have implemented merit pay have generally offered bonuses of a few thousand dollars, often as an incentive to work in hard-to-staff schools or to work extra hours to improve students’ scores. Several respected studies have found that such payments have scant effect on student achievement; since most good teachers already work hard, before and after class, there are limits to how much more can be coaxed out of them with financial incentives.
But Washington is the leader among a handful of large cities that are seeking a more fundamental overhaul of teacher pay. Alongside the aggressive new evaluation system that has made the city famous for firing poor-performing teachers — more than 400 over the past two years — is a bonus-and-raise structure aimed at luring talented people to the profession and persuading the most effective to stick with it.
“The most important role for incentives is in shaping who enters the teaching profession and who stays,” said Eric A. Hanushek, a professor of economics at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. “Washington’s incentive system will attract talented teachers, and it’ll help keep the best ones.”
Under the system, known as Impact Plus, teachers rated “highly effective” earn bonuses ranging from $2,400 to $25,000. Teachers who get that rating two years in a row are eligible for a large permanent pay increase to make their salary equivalent to that of a colleague with five more years of experience and a more advanced degree.
Those rewards come with risk: to receive the bonuses and raises, teachers must sign away some job security provisions outlined in their union contract. About 20 percent of the teachers eligible for the raises this year and 30 percent of those eligible for bonuses turned them down rather than give up those protections.
One persistent critic of the system is Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers Union, who argues that the evaluations do not adequately take into account the difficulties of working in poor neighborhoods. He also says that performance pay inappropriately singles out stars.
“This boutique program discourages teachers from working together,” Mr. Saunders said.
Several other big-city school systems have recently tried to break out of the mold of paying all teachers according to a single salary schedule.
In 2007, Denver enacted a merit pay system, which President Obama has praised but experts see as flawed. It gives larger monetary awards to teachers who earn advanced degrees than to those who significantly improve student achievement, though there is little evidence that students learn more when taught by teachers with advanced degrees.
The system in Houston, also adopted in 2007, defines classroom success so broadly that it rewards more than half of all teachers with bonuses. The amounts are smaller than those in Washington; the maximum possible bonus last year was $11,330.
This fall, the Miami-Dade County School District gave one-time bonuses, financed with $14 million in federal grant money, to 120 teachers. Eighty-four of them received $4,000 each, and 12 got the top payout of $25,000.
Karen Sutton, who teaches honors English at a Miami high school, was one of the 12.
“To have somebody say you’ve done a great job, that feels wonderful,” said Ms. Sutton, 56, who is in her 23rd year of teaching in Miami and has a salary of about $55,000. “But does it affect how I teach or whether I keep teaching? No. I’ve never thought, ‘If I get a bonus, I’ll stick this out.’ ”
Marta Maria Arrocha, who is 47 and teaches reading to fourth graders, was another $25,000 winner, which she described as exhilarating. Still, Ms. Arrocha, who has been teaching nine years, said she “would tend to discourage students who say they want to go into teaching.”
“I try to nitpick — is this really what you want to do?” she said. “A lot of people look down on this profession.”
Washington, like several other cities that have rolled out merit pay programs, first promoted the plan mainly by emphasizing the top compensation that someone could earn in a single year: about $130,000 annually in salary and performance bonuses. But earning that much is rare if not impossible — it requires the most experienced teachers, with the most advanced degrees, to have the best possible performance, something yet to be achieved.
Mr. Kamras, who helped design the Washington system, said he considered the most important aspect of Impact Plus to be the permanent increases awarded to outstanding teachers early in their careers, many of whom might otherwise leave the profession.
Take Mark LaLonde. At 32, he is in his seventh year as a social studies teacher at a high school in Washington. But he lives in Baltimore, where his wife works, and had considered working in the Baltimore schools to avoid the tiresome commute. But he gave up that flirtation after receiving the “highly effective” rating twice and having his salary increase to $87,000 from about $58,000 last year. He also earned a bonus of $10,000 for two consecutive years. In Baltimore, the union pay scale suggests that he would be making in the low $50,000s.
Jimmie Roberts, who is 28 and tutors slow readers, saw his salary increase to about $75,000 in 2011-12, from about $52,000 last year, in addition to receiving $30,000 in bonuses over two years. The money and recognition, he said, helped dispel the discouragement he had felt having to work a second job, as a greeter in a wine bar on nights and weekends, to pay off college loans.
Ms. Johnson, the seventh-grade special-education teacher, received her highly effective rating — and all the extra money — because her students’ test scores had improved significantly, and because administrators who had visited her classroom came away impressed.
“She’ll get a class full of kids who are below basic, who can’t read, and by the time they leave, they’ll be scoring well above basic or proficient,” said Remidene Diakite, the assistant principal at Ms. Johnson’s school. “A big part of her success is she puts so much effort into figuring out her students and teaching to their weaknesses.”
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