Friday, January 23, 2015
Will You Be Gettin' Some of the Governor's Good Merit Pay?
In his State of the State Address, the Governor held out the promise of dividing and conquering teachers through merit pay. He went so far as to exhibit specimens of a super race known as "Master Teachers." But does he actually believe "merit" can legitimately be measured across the State? I guess if he believes that half the worth of teachers can be measured by their students' test scores (and in the case of an art, music or physical ed. teacher, scores in alternate subject areas), I guess he could believe anything.
So, which teachers will have "merit" when you "incentivize" education? Who will receive merit pay? Will you be gettin' yourself some of that good stuff?
Here are some basic questions you can ask yourself to determine the answer in advance:
1. Do you teach to a test? Do you gladly sacrifice much of the richness and complexity of your discipline in the name of "blah"? Do you deal in gross generalities or Common-Core concoctions? Instead of developing thinking skills, do you devote more time to narrowly focus on how to ace a given test? Do you put test prep above kids' emotional and psychological well being? Success Academy proved with its scores on Citywide high-school entrance exams that teaching to one test (one that demands the issuance of standard-issue deodorizing powders to clean up barf) doesn't even transfer over to other tests. Do you not let that bother you a bit?
2. Do you tote the company line, lockstep style? Are you a pollannish mouthpiece for the latest education gobbledygook and pander to a principal or AP? Do you play the game instead of honestly ponder its harmful effects upon children? Do you get pulled out to meet "factory inspectors" when they need someone to manufacture the right answers? If so, given the right supervisor, you may be repaid generously via Danielson's perfectly objective domains.
3. Will you dispense with scruples if something as simple as an eraser could help earn you an additional $20,000? Do you remember the miracle that was Michelle Rhee? Can you just overlook (or, perhaps, encourage) students to rush to the bathroom with hidden phones when necessary?
4. Do you work extra hours at school and volunteer your time and services for free? Are you willing to sacrifice family obligations or do you have none? Do you have no qualms about working outside of your union contract if it could eventually earn you $20,000?
5. Will you turn over the data on kids and find ways to pass more students who cannot pass themselves? Will you be a mole or sycophant, if asked?
If you find yourself saying "yes" to many of the questions above, you are pretty much guaranteed your merit pay. Spend it wisely. It has been earned the hard way!
Let a new Machiavelli write an advice manual entitled "The Teacher." A teacher must be both a weasel and a fox these days. It is better to be prepped than to be taught.
If you want to do your best, given the Governor's vision of a more test-based system, find the best students. Make the best match because without it, despite your best efforts and your generous intentions, your students will drag you down! Watch teachers leave the neediest schools in droves. Pity the students who are a liability to teach. Pity society. Teachers will focus more than ever on test prep. Call us all Stanley Kaplan! Is this the world the Governor wants? It is the world he seeks to create.
Will the ends justify the means? Perhaps it will, if your end is your own personal financial security and not the welfare of your students or of society.