Merit Pay For Teachers Does Not Work

By Dr. John Trotter

[This article first appeared on the Atlanta Journal’s Get Schooled blog. Dr. Trotter wrote this is response to a California teacher who wrote a book advocating, among other things, merit pay for teachers.]

NOTE: I will try (note that I said "try") not to call these callous and insensitive (and might I say "evil"?) administrators by the phrase that offends the sensibilities of the AJC Blog Filter. Perhaps the Good Master would call them "a brood of vipers." I was talking to a teacher tonight who was crying and severely stressed out by some lying and conniving administrators who appear to delight in making people's (yes, teachers are real people) lives miserable. Our mission at MACE is to devour administrators (metaphorically, of course; this is not a terroristic threat) who abuse teachers. We don't do spelling bees and give out tote bags nor do we try to act like we are important by aimlessly walking the halls of the Georgia Capitol. We don't have time for such silliness. Now to the post that now may post. O que? Tudo bem, amigos e amigas!

What does Brother Crosby propose to do with the kiss-up, weasling, and booger-eatin' administrators who immediately label any teacher a "trouble-maker" when ANYTHING is questioned? (Maureen, you ably pointed out the notion that questioning teachers are labeled "trouble-makers" in your "Endangered [T]eachers" article of July 6, 2009 on the "Opinion" page of the AJC.) These are the same administrators who would sell their own mothers "down the river" to ensure that they can hold on to their high-paying jobs and lifestyles. They use the evaluative process in a manipulative, punitive, and retributive manner. They do not tolerate anyone who deigns (1) to point out that some students are acting like hellions and that the teachers need administrative support in order to deal with these miscreant "students" (yes, "miscreant" because their behaviors often cross the line into criminality) or (2) to refuse to simply "go along to get along," especially when issues of conscience are involved (like lying about student attendance in order to cook the books for No Child Left Behind or changing answers on students' test sheets so that the Pharoah-Superintendents won't terminate, demote, or transfer them). Merit pay has never worked in public education because students are not inanimate objects floating down a conveyor belt in a factory. Students have various IQ levels, have different motivational levels, and definitely come from different home environments which make all the difference in the world. I worked in a public school system in Georgia which was the only school system in the State which actually practiced differentiated pay for teachers. This same school system was hailed in Time Magazine and Reader's Digest as a forward-looking and progressive school system in Georgia because of “merit pay.” I was allowed to look at the teachers' salaries at the school, and I can assure you that the salaries did NOT correlate to a teacher's skill or dedication as a teacher but to the number of b­_tts that his or her lips had puckered up to or whose spouse this teacher was attached to. It was all about politico-familial connections and/or b_tt-kissing. These factors determined who got the "best" group of kids and who got the "merit" pay. When you can control the input variables, then, and only then, perhaps will some form of "merit" pay work. Until then, it is just a sham and a farce. Teachers start rat-holing everything from teaching materials, lesson plans, and insightful ideas. Teachers become suspicious of each other and very uncooperative. In fact, they begin to act like 2nd and 3rd year law students who are competitively angling to be hired (or, "enslaved") by the silk stocking law firms. (c) MACE, August 14, 2009.

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