Friday, November 4, 2011

Hot Topic: Teachers and Salaries

It's been difficult to decide what topic to address next.  After reading a lot of news editorials, it seems the most talked about in education concerns Merit Pay.  I have a few comments about that.

Common sense tells us that if it's increased test scores that is the goal, then those teachers who bring about the highest test scores should be paid more.  There are a number of variables regarding merit pay that must be taken into consideration.  Here are a few:

      1. Teachers have students one year, without any control over prior knowledge when they come into their  classrooms.  And they have one year to turn them around if they are far behind!
      2.  Teachers who prove to increase test scores are often "rewarded" by being given the most academically needy students.  "Needy" students require more strategies, individual assistance, and are most often the ones who require the most discipline.  These students require much more time. Some reward.
      3. Teachers wear many hats.  Teachers who are especially good are asked to share their knowledge and strategies with faculty, districts, and at conferences.  They are placed on committees that, many times, meet until late hours.  There is no monetary compensation.  There is no such thing as "comp time." AND, many times, educators pay their own way to attend conferences, including conference registration, hotel rooms, meals, and gas. (Or plane ticket.)  Another "reward" for wanting to learn new teaching strategies and improve the quality of instruction.
      4.  Education is an environment that fosters collaboration, collegial discussion, and sharing.  Imagine yourself as an educator who has honed your skills to the point that your students show much growth during the course of a year.  Are you going to share those skills?  Probably not if you are receiving Merit Pay , because you are now competing with your fellow teachers.
      5. Merit pay promotes cheating.  It's already happening to keep schools from "failing." and      Think about the expensive resources that will be needed to make sure this doesn't happen!
      6. What would Merit Pay using test score data mean?  Is it based on a percentage of your students meeting the proficient level or above, or is it the based on gains students show?   And, if it's based on the former, how will this affect teachers who have students already meeting proficient or above?

    As a recently retired educator, I received more money by obtaining my Master's degree and then National Board Certification.  My work was important to me and I was passionate about it.  I feel blessed to have worked in a field I loved.  However, I need to be honest and admit that it was physically and emotionally draining to work the long hours and have so many obligations that many of my colleagues did not have.

     Therefore, to avoid early burnout and low morale, I propose that changes be made to the current system of teacher pay.  However, I hope the powers that be keep the above mentioned points in mind.  Remember, schools are not industries and have no control over their raw materials.  Is basing salary on test scores alone fair?  And what about all of the support personnel who contribute to students' success but do not teach an area that is tested, such as elective area teachers?  And what do we do about those who provide instructional support, as well as direct instruction, such as media specialists?

     Perhaps the next topic should be centered around what goals and qualities we want for our graduating students.

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