I wrote a blog on the topic of education reform proposed in my state of Iowa. One of the ideas called for teacher wages based on student performance. I want to comment on this idea in this blog.
Performance-based pay for teachers presents some concerns. In my twenty years of experience as an educator, I know some teachers benefit if the evaluator likes and respects them while others suffer at the hand of prejudice – not due to race, but due to teaching style. Some principals taught before, and if an educator’s teaching style differs from the principal’s, the evaluation reflects that. Criteria is subjective no matter how specific the standard reads. Some decisions still depend on the evaluator’s opinion on whether the person evaluated meets the criteria.
Another reason is the end result. In business all materials meet certain dimensions, style, shape, etc. In education, the student does not come standardized. Instead, each student brings different strengths and areas of need. In a classroom, students’ reading levels vary 4-6 or more levels. Some students perform at the top of the grade level, or even exceed it while others read below, and far below their current grade level.
In many classrooms, there are students who receive Title I support for reading or math, and others attend special education classroom instruction. Some students bring abuse issues, hunger and shelter concerns, negligent parenting experiences, and various behavior problems to each classroom setting. Since the students’ abilities carry such disparities for a plethora of reasons in each classroom, what standard of student achievement might be used to determine if the teacher reached the goal for each student in the classroom?
For example, must they all read at grade level by the end of the nine months? If a third grade student begins the year reading at the primer (below 1st grade level), should we penalize the teacher through her wages if this student improves to 2nd grade reading level, but not third grade level? That’s three grade level increase. Some students increase from 2nd grade reading level to 3rd grade reading level in their nine months of school. This is the expected increase. What might be fair to expect from a teacher with a class full of students to receive a pay raise?
Teachers now must give interventions to those students not performing at grade level through 15-20 minute specialized lessons daily, or at least several times weekly in addition to the regular grade level required instruction through whole class and small group instruction. Imagine the time this requires and the in-depth knowledge of each students’ abilities in each subject taught.
Some classes include 5-8 special education students while others contain 1-2, or none at all. How fair is it to compare teacher performance on student achievement projections with disparity between classroom sections within the same grade level? Should each grade level have the same achievement level expectation?
There are teachers with 15, 20, 30 years experience as well as new first and second and third year teachers. Students are not “products” all built with the same materials with the same specifications, processed through an assembly line with each student receiving the same level of expertise and skill instruction. Performance-based compensation is not so cut and dried in education as it might be in business production.
I do agree teachers need to graduate with higher grade point levels. I worked with many who could not spell, compute math at sixth grade level, or read well. The college from which I graduated required at least a B grade point level in all subjects, and really pushed for ‘A’s.” The required teacher competency test included reading, writing, and math competency assessments. I had to pass all three at a high standard, or I could not receive my teaching degree. When I taught in Arizona, I had to take their competency test. It was easy compared to my Iowa test.
In graduate school for a master’s degree, I had to earn all A’s for the certification as a Specialist in Reading, K-12, and to earn the Iowa Specialist certification, it required two additional courses to have this on my Iowa teaching license.
I taught weekend courses for a university and frankly, some teachers complained about their assignments, yet I had to modify the content a lot to fit in three weekends instead of a full semester. Compared to what learned in a semester for course credits, I felt the grades and degrees earned from these weekend courses fell short. Yet, these graduate students received the same degrees and credits as those who took a course throughout a semester. Not all classes are equal. Therefore, not all educators are equal, and there are some teaching only because the unions protect them from being fired. How do the students benefit from this?
What are your thoughts about performance pay for teachers? Are there other factors to consider on this topic? I hope you comment below. Thank you for stopping by my site.