Monday, May 7, 2012

Still More Reasons Merit Pay Is Flawed

John T Spenser lists 10 of them here.  The most troubling and accurate include the unintended consequences.
6. Subject and Grade Differences: Core curriculum classes are different from CTE / vocational, arts, physical education and music classes.  Similarly, teaching five year olds is nothing like teaching seniors in high school.  (Now freshmen, yes, but seniors, no.) How will merit pay deal with these differences?  How will they deal with tested versus non-tested subjects?  How will they evaluate teachers whose roles are so different from one another and still claim to represent a uniform, equitable standard?
8. Innovation Suffers: Merit pay rewards teachers who use "best practices" and produce higher test scores.  As teachers feel the pressure to earn a living wage, they'll be less likely to try new practices that could potentially transform learning.
9. Merit Pay Encourages Cheating: What does Wall Street have in common with Major League Baseball?  When high-stakes extrinsic rewards were offered for short-term gains, people began to cheat.  My hope is that teachers are more ethical than that, but a merit pay system sets up an unnecessary temptation that didn't exist before.
I would add three more. First, merit pay keeps the focus on teachers not students.  At the high school level, students need to take more responsibility for their educations.  Merit pay presumes that teachers bear most, if not all, of the responsibility.

Second, merit pay will promote unrealistic expectations.  Teachers are not going to teach better after states or districts impose merit pay, but the true believers have promised that merit pay will drastically improve students' ability to learn.

Finally, merit pay will postpone effective reforms.  Schools will try this experiment for another four or five years before concluding that it has failed to reduce any reforms.  While the doomed experiment is working toward it's logical conclusion, effective reforms will not be implemented.

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