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“I would like to know who in our country would like their pay to be based on the actions of a group of children.”
Laurie, in response to R. Weingartner, On Point, 1/26/10
Merit pay, also referred to as “performance pay”, is an issue that is closely associated with charter schools and is a reiteration of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Basically, it requires that teachers pay be based on how well their students perform on standardized tests. For our students, it could be the new MAP test.
Per a conversation that three other parents and I had with Brad Bernatek, the person within the Seattle Public School district who is charged with the implementation of the MAP test, Mr. Bernatek said that the MAP test was not designed as an evaluation tool to measure a teacher’s performance. Unfortunately, our superintendent is insistent that this test be used as part of our teachers’ evaluation process.
With the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers and staff were pressured to teach much of the class work to the standardized tests. With so much focus on the test, many other parts of knowledge building, creativity and understanding of subjects and their synthesis with other knowledge had to take a back seat. For many students, teaching to a test meant that they were not able to reach their full potential which would have been far beyond the level of the tests.
No one wins in this situation.
Part of the fallout also is that if a teacher’s pay is based on how well their students test, many teachers will want to teach in a school where they know that the students will perform well. Those schools are, for the most part, not the schools that are predominately minority in population.
Some students do not perform well on standardized tests for many different reasons and yet a teacher’s pay can be tied to that student’s performance. High stakes testing also puts pressure and stress on the students who become burdened with the thought that they need to perform well on one test. The test becomes a focus with little opportunity to explore and have fun learning, creating and synthesizing new thoughts and ideas.
For additional information regarding a study that has been done on the merits of merit pay, see:
and a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute
Update: The Governor of Texas has decided to opt out of the Race to the Top funding because of the ineffectiveness of the merit pay program that was in effect for three years in the state.
Update: March 8, 2010 Principal to be removed from school in Washington State due to low WASL scores.
Excerpt from a letter to Arne Duncan from Herbert Kohl:
We have come far from that time in the ’60s. Now the mantra is high expectations and high standards. Yet, with all that zeal to produce measurable learning outcomes we have lost sight of the essential motivations to learn that moved my students. Recently I asked a number of elementary school students what they were learning about and the reactions were consistently, “We are learning how to do good on the tests.” They did not say they were learning to read.
And from a comment in the Huffington Post by Priscilla Gutierrez:
“I think it high time Congress enact similar mandates for other professions that utilize a single measure to determine success. Dentists should be evaluated on how many teeth they save, doctors should be evaluated on how many patients they save, lawyers should be evaluated on how many cases they win, accountants should be evaluated on much money they save clients, and engineers on how many buildings they’ve designed get built. Congress should also enact national, comprehensive standards for each profession without any input from members of said professions since we know they can’t be trusted to make informed decisions or contribute to the discussion in any meaningful way. Anyone who won’t come on board should be fired and labeled a dissident. Conformity and control are a must, so teachers should be thankful they are first in the firing line.”