Tag Archives: teacher evaluations

Some Idaho School Districts Making Parental Engagement Part of Teacher Bonuses

Teachers, how would you feel if your ability to earn a performance bonus was, in part, decided upon by the parents of the children you teach? Well, this is exactly what many school districts in the state of Idaho have decided to do. Let’s take a closer look.

Idaho is in the process of implementing broad education reforms which will require schools to award deserving teachers with performance bonuses. And about a third of their school districts will be asking parents to play a key role in the evaluation process.

To be exact, 29 school districts throughout the state are allowing parents to be an integral part of the decision regarding performance bonuses for teachers. For example, in the Challis district in the central Idaho countryside, teachers will be required to be in contact with each of their students’ parents at least twice every three months in order to remain eligible for bonuses.

Let’s explore that requirement for just a moment. My first question is whether this means that teachers who have more than one group of students which they teach would be required to make contact with the  parents of all of the students they teach the same number of times as an elementary teacher with just one class? Let’s just do the math for a moment. I team teach with another teacher, and together we have 57 students. If we each had to call all of those students’ parents two times every three months, that would mean 114 phone calls. If we stretched those phone calls over approximately 90 days, we would have to make 1 to 2 phone calls daily, along with all of our other duties (and there is no way of knowing how long these calls will take). I don’t even want to consider mathematically what this would mean for high school teachers.

My second question is this: When do you think you are most likely to reach the majority of your students’ parents? The evening, right? Most of our parents work and can only be reached in the evening when teachers are home with their own families. Now, these teachers in Idaho are expected to make school-related phone calls from their home on a regular basis? Is that fair to their own families? This would not only cut into their time with their family but would also cut into the time they set aside for grading and planning at home for school. And what about those parents who, for whatever reason, you are never able to reach? You have to keep calling repeatedly in the hopes that you are able to reach them twice in that 3-month period? And what if there are some parents, try as you may, that you just can’t reach? Does that take you out of the running for bonus pay? Seems very unfair to me.

In the farming town of Gooding, Idaho, near the Challis district, some teachers will receive 25 percent of their bonus pay if they can somehow get enough (not sure what is considered enough) of their parents to attend three meetings throughout the course of the academic year. Challis Superintendent Colby Gull told the Associated Press, “We’re a really little town in the middle of nowhere. Parents are pretty involved in what’s going on. But we wanted to get them more involved in the academic side of the school.”

Now, maybe in a small farming town this is a little easier for teachers to accomplish, but is this a fair expectation of teachers everywhere? Should teachers really be placed in a position of coercing their students’ parents to attend school meetings? I think this crosses the line, and I would be very reticent to contact parents to persuade them to do anything other than to ask for their help with an issue I am facing regarding their child.

Jeanne Sager, a parent and writer of The Stir, wrote, “In Idaho, a teacher’s raise could be rated on how many parents show up for conferences or how many parents return paperwork sent home. To me, that’s just bizarre. It’s not her (or his) fault if some parents don’t take an involved role in their kids’ education. As far as I can tell, going to a house to kidnap a parent, then carting them into a school building is still a felony!”

RiShawn Biddle at Dropout Nation says to get used to it. “Accepting families as lead decision-makers in education” is critical to addressing America’s education crisis. Parents aren’t “nuisances and enemies” — they’re a necessary part of any successful school.

I have had some wonderful, highly-involved parents over the years who have helped in the classroom, supported their child’s education, attended every parent-teacher conference and PTA meeting, and been an integral part of their child’s educational experience. On the flip side, I have had parents who have ignored my phone calls, emails, and letters home to come in for a conference, who never look at their child’s assignment book or help in any way with their child’s homework, who don’t even leave a working phone number in the office in order to contact them in case of an emergency, and who have the audacity, given the fact that they have rarely, if ever, even set foot in the school, let alone my classroom, to tear public education down in general and teachers down specifically.

Do I want parents to be a factor in determining my pay? The good ones, yes, the uninvolved ones, no way! Unfortunately, teachers will not be able to pick and choose which parents will be questioned. And if you don’t think that will influence how teachers teach and how they discipline the children in their classrooms, you are sorely mistaken. To please parents, teachers will have to please their children, and that is not always possible, especially when dealing with children who have behavior or academic issues.

As Jeanne Sager writes:”… some parents are more than happy to go on the attack because they don’t get what they want: flawless teachers who have personal time for every student and their parents. Now add in the parents who are always convinced their kid is right 100 percent of the time (we all know at least one). Plus the parents who start out every year convinced teachers have it easy because they have summers off. Oh, and we might as well throw in the parents who heard from a friend of a friend that this teacher did X, but have no real idea.”

“If these parents all get a say, what does that do to a teacher? More importantly, what does it do to a classroom? Suddenly the teacher has to decide whether or not she disciplines the class brat because she has to worry that his parents are determining her paycheck! And she’s spending more time on the phone trying to coerce parents to show up than actually teaching your kid 3 + 3.”

And the last piece of bad news for teachers in Idaho is this: One hundred five school districts and charter schools have written their own merit-pay plans so far, which use an assortment of benchmarks. Some of these include graduation rates, student attendance, and writing assessments. Fifty districts and charter schools in the state decided to comply with the state’s plan, which attaches bonuses to standardized test scores. And since teachers across the state will have to meet Idaho’s goals, test scores will be the one common factor upon which all teachers will be judged for performance bonuses.

Department of Education’s New “Report Card” for Teachers

For the first time a pilot program by the Ohio Department of Education is ranking the abilities of individual teachers in what is being called “a landmark measure in the school reform battle.” This new “grade card” which was recently issued for some of Ohio’s public school teachers supposedly shows which educators made a measurable difference in the classroom last year. 

Currently, the reports are only for about 30% of Ohio’s reading and math teachers who teach fourth through eighth grade, which means that about 7,500 teachers received a report with details as to what effect they had on their students’ learning last year. Thirteen Ohio districts and two charter schools were participants in this first round of effectiveness reporting. Using the “value-added measure,” these reports link data regarding student growth to the teachers who worked with these students.

The value-added system, which has been rejected by many analysts who have studied it, determines how much growth students have shown within a school year after first determining where they started. It is considered to be an “equalizer” because it assumes teachers will make progress with each student no matter what their ability level might be. 

In spite of the fact that unions have opposed using student data to judge teacher effectiveness, Ohio is required, under the federal Race to the Top initiative, to change the way principals and teachers are evaluated. Additionally, the state budget bill now requires Ohio’s Education Department to devise an evaluation tool that would base half of a teacher’s job evaluation on data regarding student growth.

The Columbus Dispatch pointed out the following implications of this new evaluation system:
* Students could be assigned to classrooms based on teachers’ abilities — by placing low-, middle- or high-performing students with the educators best able to help them learn. Data showing the effect that teachers had with different types of students are included in each report.
* It will distinguish good teachers from great ones, and mediocre ones from good ones.
* Over time, schools will use the effectiveness ratings to weed out teachers who aren’t making the grade.

Matt Cohen, who oversees policy and accountability at the Ohio Department of Education, said, “This will help confirm good teaching. It will help identify in an objective way some of the issues that people are very uncomfortable about in terms of trying to characterize poor teaching from average teaching.”

Interestingly, officials who helped produce the new ratings said that they shouldn’t be used as a way of labeling teachers either good or bad. Mary Peters, senior director of research and innovation at Battell for Kids, a Columbus-based nonprofit organization helping the Department of Education to develop the evaluation system, said that this year’s rating is nothing more than a statement of a teacher’s effectiveness with their students for last year.  

“We need to be careful about making judgments about one year of data. These measures were intended for diagnostic purposes, to provide information to help teachers reflect on their practice and determine with whom they are being successful,” Peters explained.

And while officials agree that the data should primarily be used to improve schools, as more years of data becomes available, they admit that teachers consistently earning “least effective” ratings will be scrutinized closely by their administrators.

Cohen admitted as much when he said, “Our hope, anyway, is that what you end up with is a better work force. And when you do have teachers who are really consistently doing poorly with results for kids, that they might not belong there.”

Rhonda Johnson, president of the Columbus teachers union, one of the districts that were included in this first wave of evaluations, said that teachers in Columbus already use data to help determine how much they are accomplishing with their students, (as I think most school systems do) but she stated that valued-added data should not be the only tool in judging teacher effectiveness.

“It doesn’t tell the whole picture. This is only a fraction,” Johnson said.

I am not necessarily opposed to long-term analyzing of a teacher’s ability to get most students to show a year’s progress each year, with all students starting at a variety of different levels. I see some inherent problems however, that will most definitely need to be addressed along the way to avoid misusing this effectiveness system.

First, I do not feel that the same criterion should be used to judge progress for students on IEPs, as they tend to progress at a slower rate. If that is not taken into consideration with this new evaluation system, very few brave souls will volunteer to work with these students, which would be a travesty.

Second, administrators must be open to looking at mitigating circumstances which may have affected student growth on a class-by-class basis in a given year. Anyone who has been a teacher for any length of time knows that there are some years that you remember with a shudder, when your classroom seemed to be the dumping ground for so many behavior and/or academic issues that instruction was a constant battle. In situations such as these, administrators must look beyond data to see the reality that teacher faced in his or her classroom.

Third, I fear that some administrators will misuse these reports to condone the firing of teachers who may have had one bad year, or who could have become more effective with proper mentoring and guidance.

Finally, I worry that this information, in the hands of the media, will be used to vilify teachers and hold them up to public scrutiny and ridicule. We all remember what happened when the L.A. Times published their article ranking teachers and 39-year old Rigoberto Ruelas, Jr. committed suicide shortly after receiving a less effective ranking based on his students’ English and math scores.

So, what do you think? Are these “report cards” a good idea, or do you predict problems?

Six Percent of D.C. Public School Employees Receive Separation Notices

Yes, you heard right! This Friday, slightly more than 6% of District of Columbia Public School employees received separation notices based on either performance or noncompliance with licensing requirements for this next school year.

The 413 employees who received separation notices have the chance to resign, to appeal, or to retire if they are eligible to do so. Of those receiving separation notices, 309 were due to low performance ratings received through IMPACT, while 104 were employees who hadn’t complied with licensing requirements.

IMPACT is the evaluation tool which was introduced at the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year by DC’s former chancellor, Michelle Rhee. This tool evaluates teacher performance based on four criteria: student achievement, instructional expertise, collaboration, and professionalism. It assessed other employees based on criteria related to their particular jobs. Employees receive one of the following IMPACT ratings based on their evaluation in each criterion for the year: highly effective, effective, minimally effective, or ineffective.

Of the 6,500 employees of DCPS who are evaluated by IMPACT, 4,100 are members of the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) and about 3,400 of those are teachers. WTU members earning top rating qualify for performance bonuses of as much as $25,000, and those who were top-rated two years in a row, which included 290 WTU members, were eligible for base salary increases of up to $20,000 as well as the annual performance bonus. That’s a whole lot of motivation!

And almost 60% of those WTU members who received the lowest rating last year and stayed, improved their rating this year. DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who replaced Michelle Rhee when she resigned in October, stated in the announcement made Friday regarding the issuing of separation notices, “Great teachers are critical to our success.”

However, WTU President Nathan Saunders told Reuters that he was concerned over one of the subgroups that included 21 teachers who were being “moved out” of the district, “who were deemed effective or highly effective under the system and terminated because they could not find a placement within their public school system, while DCPS goes out and hires new teachers.”

Saunders wonders if IMPACT is the key to the success Henderson spoke of in light of the 21 effective to highly effective teachers who are being let go. “The ultimate potential effect of this system might be to drive effective teachers out of the system as opposed to bring them in,” he said. “In the second year of IMPACT we now can see that you can be effective or highly effective and be terminated.”

“And that is problematic, not for 6 percent of the D.C. public school workforce, but 100 percent of the D.C. public schools workforce,” Saunders concluded.

Tulsa Public School’s New Evaluation Has Some Teachers Resigning

The Tulsa Public School System has implemented a new evaluation tool to critique teachers. While teachers were evaluated in the past utilizing a simple checklist, this new questionnaire is far more thorough and has many teachers leaving the district rather than to go through what has been categorized as the toughest year-end evaluation ever used in this school system.

Apparently, the newer evaluation is based on a 1 to 5 rubric system and teachers are rated on how they teach, how their students have performed, and how the teachers communicate with their students.

Kim, a kindergarten teacher for the past four years from Barnard Elementary School, told FOX23, “I love working with the kids. I loved the people who I worked with.”

But she was so fearful of this new evaluation, which she said gives the evaluator all of the power, that she resigned rather than face the consequences of a poor evaluation. And what is that consequence?  Termination! 

Kim is not the only one choosing to leave. FOX23 reports that dozens of teachers turned in their resignations rather than face potential termination.

So what was Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Keith Ballard’s response to the resignations? He admitted that he realized this tougher evaluation might force some teachers to quit, but he said it was worth it in order to get the best teachers working in the classroom. 
“I believe, in the absence of having an effective evaluation system for years, there were ineffective teachers who might possibly be not able to make that grade,” he told FOX23. “(The new tests) are much more involved, they’re much more detailed they’re really centered on what is good teaching.”

Dr. Ballard claims that the new system was discussed with both the TPS Teacher’s Association and outside consultants.

Okay, those are the facts. Now let’s break it down. First, I find it interesting that Dr. Ballard says that this new evaluation was discussed with the teachers union, but he doesn’t say they were in favor of it. I am curious to know what their real reaction was to the “discussion.”

Second, I have always stated that any form of evaluation which is completed by only one person, is potentially unfair, and it sounds like this is such an evaluation. Strictly based on human nature, when an evaluation involves only one individual it is a flawed system because the evaluator’s personal feelings for the one being evaluated, whether good or bad, will almost certainly affect the outcome of that evaluation. So, unless this evaluation is being completed by a team of impartial evaluators, it is simply not credible.

Third, what criteria are being used to evaluate how they teach, how their students have performed, and how the teachers communicate with their students? Are multiple observations occurring throughout the year by a team of  individuals including the principal? Is student performance being monitored throughout the year to show progress, or is student performance being judged by state test scores? And how, for Pete’s sake, are teachers being evaluated on how they communicate with their students? Who, the heck is in the classroom enough to put a 1 to 5 judgment on that?

The whole thing is so subjective, which is always the problem with teacher evaluations. But, in this case, the subjective score could cost you your job! No wonder some teachers fled in order to try to get another job without the stigma of being fired from their last teaching position.

Oh, I can just hear some of you out there saying, “Well, if they were really good teachers, they wouldn’t have to worry about their evaluation.” But, what if they happen to be great teachers who just happen to have personal problems with the one evaluating them? Or, what if they have had the misfortune of being assigned a group of students one year, and believe me, it happens, who are difficult to teach due to behavioral and/or academic challenges? Should they lose their job after that year because their children didn’t show enough academic progress?

Which leads me to my last point. Where is there any mention of working with teachers who receive a poor evaluation during the next year in order to try to improve those areas considered weak on the evaluation? Provide them with a mentor teacher and give them opportunities for professional development. Schools are in the business of teaching and improving individual’s skills. Shouldn’t that pertain to struggling teachers as well? What if, with a little mentoring, that borderline teacher, who they would have fired, could become a great teacher? Sounds to me like that isn’t an option in Tulsa Public Schools.

Heavy Hearted

I am writing tonight with a very heavy heart; a heart that is fearful of the future of education, fearful of the future of my job, and frankly, fearful that my salary could be reduced if I am able to keep my job.

Schools everywhere are facing drastic cuts which will affect our staff and our students in significant ways and will make it harder to achieve the goals which will continue to be expected of us. Our school system is one of many hoping to stop the financial bleeding by passing a levy, which is unlikely to pass. We have been warned of impending cuts that will have to be made in the likelihood that the levy fails, but the warnings have been pretty sketchy until recently.

Information is trickling in which tells us that we would probably lose a teacher at basically every grade level in our building. With SB5 hanging out there and loss of collective bargaining, there is palpable panic as to how these cuts in staff will be made. I find myself wondering tonight if, in spite of all of my years of dedicated service to this school system, I might find myself on the chopping block.

Those of us at the top of the pay scale have much to fear, as our cuts would save the district more in the long run. Will this be the determining factor? Will service and evaluations be considered? Will our test scores make or break us? Or, at least for now, will seniority be the basis for next year’s decisions?

And what will this do to our class sizes? One less teacher adds at least 4-5 students to each classroom. Increased class size makes it more challenging to meet the individual needs of students. It makes it harder to intervene with those who are struggling, and it will make it more difficult to adequately prepare students for their standardized tests.

Just when the news seemed as bleak as it could get, we are hearing about the current language in the budget bill, HB 153, which would completely eliminate local associations’ ability to bargain salary. Instead, local school boards would have the authority to adopt a teacher’s salary schedule with a minimum and maximum salary for each category of licensure annually, and they would be able to designate salary placement for each teacher. At this point, there is no indication of what criteria would be used in making these decisions; what will evaluations be based on, will “highly qualified” status, class size, hard-to-staff districts, or subjects or at-risk students be relevant factors?

We simply don’t know, and it is a very precarious position to be in. So, I am stressed out tonight, as teachers all over this nation are; frightened that I might someday lose a job I love and equally frightened as to what my job will look like if I am able to keep it.

Troubled times, with no idea what troubles lay ahead, and a very heavy heart.

Value Added Model for Evaluating Teachers is “Junk Science”

Let’s talk about the Value Added Model or VAM, the newest method being pushed to evaluate teachers. It is based on the theory that a teacher’s effectiveness can be judged by measuring the progress that teacher’s students make on standardized tests over the course of the year. It is being suggested that this be the measure with which teachers are retained or let go. It’s the same method of evaluating teachers which was printed in Los Angeles by the L.A. Times, and we all know how that worked out.

Here’s the problem with VAM, according to neatoday’s January/February magazine: “Every respected, independent testing expert in the country agrees that VAM is not a valid or reliable measure for making high-stakes decisions about teacher effectiveness. It is junk science.” And it gives these examples to support their findings:

* The Board on Testing Assessment wrote an open letter to Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan in October, 2009, stating that not enough research had been done on VAM’s validity to use it as a basis for determining teacher effectiveness. It also concluded that a student’s scores can be affected by various factors other than their teacher.
* The Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences published a 36-page analysis of VAM in July, 2010, in which it stated that “more than 90 percent of the variation in student gain scores is due to the variation in student-level factors that are not under the control of the teacher.”
* The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) assembled a panel of experts in August, 2010, who warned against giving substantial weight to VAM scores as a tool for measuring teacher effectiveness.
* Researchers for the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis, concluded, “The research base is currently insufficient to support the use of VAM for high-stakes decisions about individual teachers.”
* And in the wake of the L.A. Times debacle, Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker concluded, after an analysis of the study, that its ratings of teachers are racially biased. He cited that the lowest VAM scores were earned by black teachers while the highest were earned by Asian teachers.

Additionally, a policy letter drafted by ten prominent education scholars, including Eva L. Baker, a UCLA professor and co-director of the National Center for Evaluation Standards and Student Testing, and Paul Barton, former director of the Policy Information Center of the Educational Testing Service; Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond; education historian and New York University Professor Diane Ravitch; and several other prominent figures, warns of the danger of linking teacher evaluations to standardized tests. In this letter, they state: “Too many policymakers have recently adopted the misguided belief that improvements in students’ scores on standardized tests in mathematics and reading can be heavily relied upon to evaluate, reward, and remove the teachers of these tested students. However, even the most sophisticated use of test scores, value added modeling (VAM), is a flawed and inaccurate way to judge whether teachers are effective or ineffective.” They go on to cite evidence from recent research that concluded that VAM was too inaccurate to be used as the primary means of evaluating teachers.

Which brings us full-circle in asking whether VAM scores can be used as a reason for firing teachers. First neatoday states that tenured teachers cannot be fired without “just cause”, and using VAM as that “just cause” is not appropriate when its value has not been proven. Secondly, it explains that if Professor Bruce Baker is correct that VAM is racially disparate, a study would have to exist that proves the validity of using VAM as an accurate measure of teacher effectiveness, and again, no such proof exists.

As part of its report, EPI experts cited these two concerns about the use of VAM:

* It will likely lead to “expensive…litigation in which experts will be called to testify, making the district unlikely to prevail.”
* And it is also likely to “demoralize teachers.”

Shortly after the L.A. Times published its list of the most effective to least effective teachers in local schools in Los Angeles, Rigoberto Ruelas Jr., a fifth grade-teacher who was rated less effective according to the Value Added Model, in spite of his “great performance rating” at his school, jumped off a bridge to his death.

The awful tragedy is that a performance measure was used publicly here to demoralize teachers; a measure which has never been proven to be an accurate gauge of a teacher’s effectiveness, a measure which has actually been discounted by reliable sources, including one directly affiliated with the Education Department.  Which can’t help but leave teachers fearful of the future since proposed House Bill 21 is asking for Value-Added Data to be a requirement for renewing licensure which means using VAM as an evaluation tool.

Teachers need to get vocal with their legislators and demand that they vote this bill down, or we all will be held to a standard that has not even been proven to be a fair or accurate evaluative tool. Go to this site and sign a letter against VAM, but speak up now, before it is too late!

A Second Look at Round Two of RttT

Now that school is over for the year and I have more time to contemplate what to look forward to in educational reform, here it is, as promised, but with a slight twist. I was going to write about what I thought was a more positive approach to Ohio’s round two RttT application, but upon deeper reading and rereading of the first application, I am feeling  some trepidation. Let me see if I can explain myself better.

When our school system was in the decision-making stage for round two trying to determine whether we wanted to jump on board, our union sent us a list of reasons to support or oppose the participation of local schools in round two. When I read the first statement of support, I was initially enthusiastic. Here it is: “Each participating LEA will develop its own (teacher) evaluation model. Districts, in partnership with their local unions, will develop evaluation systems that meet the criteria outlined in the preliminary scope of work. The Educator Standards Board is developing a model evaluation framework that districts may choose to use…(RTTT – Phase II Information and Clarifying Points, 2010)”

Yes, I thought! They are going to let local school systems work with their unions to come up with a fair way to evaluate teachers. Then I read a little closer, and got snagged on these tiny little words: “that meet the criteria outlined in the preliminary scope of work”. Hum…What does that mean? So I went back to the original RttT summary, and then I got really concerned. Here is what I read: “ODE will collaborate with LEAs and teachers unions to develop a teacher evaluation model that includes annual evaluations, provides timely and constructive feedback, includes student growth as a significant factor-”. And that’s where I stop. Now, let me be clear. I totally agree that we should be responsible as teachers to show student growth, that is, after all, why we are there, but if that growth is going to be solely or even partially measured by state achievement tests, I have a problem with RttT.

Don’t get me wrong! Measure student progress, by all means! That should be part of a teacher’s evaluation. But do it in a variety of ways. Make common formative assessments which can be administered regularly. Use these to chart student progress, and use these results for grade level collaboration, mentoring, and planning. Establish grade level teams where teachers work together to study those assessment results in order to better facilitate student progress, and let teachers’ willingness to work together on these teams be another important aspect of teacher evaluation. And there are so many other worthy factors in determining teacher effectiveness. But never, never base my effectiveness as a teacher on one test for which students have no ownership. And without the new summary for Ohio’s RttT round two in front of me, I have no idea what criterion will be proposed to determine student progress. Hence, I have legitimate misgivings and concerns.

So I appreciate the OEA who clearly stated: “Although student outcomes can be considered as one of several criteria for assessing the practice of teachers and principals, OEA believes as most researchers do that the use of student outcomes as the primary indicator of success is inappropriate to achieve the desired result of a valid, fair and robust educator evaluation system.” Now this is language I can agree with! What about you?

Do Teacher Evaluations for Merit Pay Have Merit?

I find it difficult to the point of ridiculous to pinpoint any one surefire way to evaluate a teacher’s excellence in order to decide who receives or does not receive merit pay, and I am a teacher. How then, do we leave this colossal decision in the hands of government officials who are distinctly removed from the classroom and have little or no firsthand knowledge of the many qualities involved in being an excellent teacher? It is frightening!

It seems to me that any reliable evaluation designed to fairly determine who receives merit pay would require following every teacher around throughout their day, both at school  and at home. If you are not a teacher or have never lived with a teacher, you have no concept of the number of hours that are dedicated outside of the school day to planning, preparing, and grading. Who will evaluate that?

Who will evaluate what kind of relationship you have with your children, the counseling you do with your students in your classroom and with parents at conference time, the hours you spend on committees, the modifications you make to your curriculum to accommodate children on IEPs, the phone calls you make to parents to praise their child or try to solve a problem their child is having in school, the children’s assignment books you check and initial daily, and the ones whose book bags you help pack at the end of the day? Who is going to see and evaluate these things? Who is going to evaluate the love you give each child in your classroom, even the ones who are hard to love, and how does that factor into an evaluation? Who will take note of the countless times you worked through your prep time at recess to intervene with students who were struggling with a concept you taught that day, or your reward system you utilize to encourage them to do their best? And who is going to observe your lessons frequently enough to evaluate the strategies you teach your children to be successful, the mnemonics you teach them to remember concepts, how you engage and motivate them, your knowledge of the subject matter and the variety of  techniques you use to pass that knowledge on to them?

It boggles my mind how this evaluation nightmare can be resolved! But the bottom line is this: I did not get into teaching because of the big salary (clearly), and I couldn’t work any harder than I already do for a bigger pay out. My reward is more intrinsic, and I’m okay with that. So I guess I just don’t place much value in merit pay, but I sure would take umbrage with someone who tried to tell me I don’t deserve it.

Second in a Series: The Merit Pay Conundrum

One of the issues I struggle with concerning merit pay for teachers is who is going to evaluate teachers to determine their potential eligibility for bonus pay. I have read a variety of suggestions from the school’s principal to a panel of teachers from another district. Allow me to explore the first option with you and then I would love to hear your opinions on this topic or other viable plans for successful evaluation.


I abhor the idea of any one person determining my merit as a teacher, let alone someone who visits my classroom only occasionally and, aside from what they see on those visits or what I tell them about what I am doing, know little to nothing about what transpires in my classroom on a regular basis.


I teach in a city whose population has mushroomed over the last few years. We are literally bursting at the seams. Therefore, our principal’s duties have proportionally mushroomed as well. A larger student population drastically increases the scheduling, managing, and disciplinary nightmares. Coupled with all of the district meetings our principal must attend as well as continuing improvement meetings outside of the district, it is fairly common to go days without even seeing our principal. Where would an already overworked principal find the time to engage in the consistent evaluations required to determine bonus pay recipients?


And, let’s get real here! Have you ever had a principal who you fundamentally differed with or didn’t get along with? Have you ever witnessed favoritism by a principal you have worked for? Is it possible that a principal would be more inclined to enthusiastically reward those he/she had a friendship with over those he/she does not? Isn’t it just as likely that some teachers might intentionally build a relationship with their principal in order to improve their chances of monetary gain? Would teachers be more reticent to disagree with their principal for fear of monetary retaliation?


Human nature being what it is, can we not all see the inherent problems which would be created if our principals or any one person was the sole determiner of who would receive teacher bonuses? Call me crazy, but I don’t want any part of this! Do you? Tell me what you think.