Merit Pay Melee

I’ve been waiting for something worthy to blog about for a couple days and I just found it. I didn’t read the news that inspired today’s DNT’s editorial but the editorial tells the story.

As someone who has never been very motivated by money I’ve always been extremely skeptical of the GOP’s insistence that financial incentives are the best way to make our schools better. Its not just that there is a long tradition of teacher collegiality that is threatened by paying teachers for performance. Its also that performance is a very tricky thing to measure making such pay potentially arbitrary. Teachers recognize this and resent being paid differential amounts based on faulty cause and affect associations.

Should an inner city teacher who takes emotionally abandoned kids from a dropout status to D’s be paid more or less than a suburban teacher who raises his students from B’s to A’s? 

The teachers that students remember fondly for years after they’ve graduated are not the ones who followed the Republican prescription of constant testing. Rather they are the teachers who lifted kids minds. Unfortunately, inspiration is a very hard quality to measure. The civil war in Waseca’s schools after merit pay was put in place doesn’t surprise me. Sometimes Republicans sound and act like the pointy haired boss in the cubiclized world of Dilbert.

I don’t oppose the idea of merit pay in principal. One of these days we may be able to implant silicon chips surgically in teacher’s brains. Of course, when that happens we may be able to program them to be so content that they won’t even require pay raises.

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