A study being billed as the most rigorous of its kind has just determined that merit pay does practically squat when it comes to elevating student achievement.
And to that I say, “No Duh.”
I say, “No Duh,” because I am familiar with the work of Daniel Pink. His book Drive speaks to an aspect of the merit pay issue.
I say, “No Duh,” because student achievement is being assessed by bubble tests, a means of gaining insight into the work of real teachers and real students that is so flawed I’d find less holes in a brick of Swiss cheese.
I say, “No Duh,” because I can’t ever remember once being in a classroom and thinking to myself, I am going to work harder at the job of educating these kids right now because it is connected to my own personal bottom line.
People do not become teachers for the pay. Sure, they need the pay. Sure, they like the pay. And yes, they do leave the job because the pay doesn’t prove to be enough to meet their own fiscal needs. But if the pay was the driving force behind the choice of which profession to enter, a job candidate would be a fool not to look at a score of different careers first. After all, the ceiling on how much a teacher can make tops out at middle class.
That’s the max. For a CPA, MD, PhD, lawyer, architect, investment banker, software engineer – I could name a boatload of other professions – there is no “topping out.”
But for a teacher who does not take a second job (and how many teachers do I know with second jobs… plus working spouses… who are still living very much non-extravagent – at least as far as being an American goes; internationally a whole different story – lives?) you know the score before you ever sign up for the gig.
Teachers go from struggling to make ends meet when they enter the profession to maxing out at middle class. Never “flush” without a secondary stream of income. Therefore, merit pay becomes crumbs on the table instead of some sort of life-altering financial feast.
Which is the way people are trying to sell it to the American public.
I bring all this up because it leads to an, “Eh, I could live without it” mentality for the teacher being tossed the carrot of merit pay. It’s not really all that big a carrot… and the hoops through which one is already being asked to jump are already so plentiful in the world of teaching that at some point, enough is enough.
Merit pay presumes people becomes teachers for the paycheck. They don’t. (See above.)
Merit pay presumes our own personal finances as educators trump the well-being of the people we are trying to serve. It doesn’t. (To wit, look at all the cash teachers spend out of their own pockets each and every year on classroom supplies.)
Merit pay presumes that if you simply throw money at a problem the problem will go away. BZZZP! Wrong again.
And merit pay forgets that good teachers work hard regardless of whether or not they are being paid for their work. Doubt me, think of all those unpaid, lunch hours, before school, after school, give-a-bit-more-of-my-time moments over the course of a teacher’s life.
A work-for-hire construction worker doesn’t hammer one nail without there being compensation for his labor. A teacher? Heck, they’ll give up Saturdays for a month without even blinking. (I know, I’ve done it.) And yes, I know salaried employees are supposed to above and beyond the 40 hour work week. Did you read my post about student to teacher class ratios?
Schools are complex, teaching is multi-layered and there is no one-size-fits all magic pill that can be applied to raising student achievement.
Merit pay? Teachers would rather have elevated professional resources and more intelligently functioning school environments than personal checks.
BTW… these thoughts on merit pay were provided free of charge. However, if you paid me for this blog post, would it really be any better? More passionate? OK, I wouldda proffed it betterly for misuses of the eNglish lengauge.
Merit pay… theoretically it might make sense but in practicality… yet another screen door on a submarine.