November 30, 2008

Rhee Rocks!

Accountability? Being responsible for one's actions?

Being good, not just being there, gets a pay raise?

I have a new hero, and she's kickin' ass without wasting time to take names in Washington DC schools!

This week's TIME magazine has an article on Michelle Rhee* firing bad teachers and offering huge pay increases to eliminate tenure -- tenure?!? -- who else has a job that's extremely safe, no matter how bad you are or how little you care to put into it, solely based on the fact that you survived the first few years? We don't even let our Presidents hang around warm and secure just because they've received a paycheck for a specific amount of time...

Now I don't want to talk too much out of my place, not even being a rookie teacher yet (plus I should read the article again -- I may have missed a few key points amidst my "amens!" and "git 'em girl!" shout outs) but why do people have a problem with getting paid based on performance? If you are good at what you do, what are you worried about? And if you're a bad teacher, as a citizen and parent and colleague I don't have one single minute to waste by allowing you to continue working with my children. If you're a bad teacher, retail is always hiring....




*not to confused with Michelle Yeoh, Goddess of the Silver Screen

4 comments:

Bonnie said...

I enjoy your blog. We have something in common: old(ish) people going back to school to become teachers. (what were we thinking?)
So, I stumbled on your post today—and then I read this one, Why Michelle Rhee gets it wrong
I'm trying to wrap my head around ed reform, but the more I read the more I think my head will explode! Glad I got to read the Time article though.

Tasses said...

Have to be honest and start by saying that I haven't read the article yet, but I wanted to tell you how I feel about merit pay after a few years in the trenches:

The problem I have with merit pay is that it is really difficult to MEASURE. Class X may be filled with average IQ-ranged/ready to learn students whose parents are supportive while Class Z might be filled with non-supportive parents and lower than average IQ'd kids. This is a VERY quick example of the almost INFINITE number of factors that influence learning. So how do you measure a teacher's worth? It can't be through student achievement because no two students are the same. Apples to oranges.

In the six years that I was teaching reading to a standardized tested group, I had a 3 - 22 percentage point gain (and never a loss) for each class (14 classes total) for each year, but what if I was saddled with only the low achievers each year? Sometimes keeping them even or just gaining 2 percentage points is amazing (I was so thrilled when my group of 12 EH/ESOL students gained 3 points one year - as was my principal).

How do we measure who is teaching well? A GOOD administration is the best judge. They observe the daily interactions and the classroom practices. They see the TREND of scores over time. The meet in student conferences with parents and see how the teacher responds. This might be the only way to ever implement merit pay and even then there are factors of objectivity (one of my best friends is a principal now and I know she'd favor me ;-) and how to measure ability.

The bit about tenure is dead on. There shouldn't be such a thing in education, but the unions are too powerful (did you know that almost all school systems don't require drug testing because the unions are powerful enough to block it - yet almost all other professions - save the ones dealing with our children - have to be drug tested). Now I'm getting on a soapbox.

I hope you understand my point about merit pay, which is what I came here to say. I've yet to see a model of fair assessment in order to award merit pay. Teaching is as much of an art as a science and how do you measure art?

JK said...

Bonnie, I'll check out that link next...
Tasses, I couldn't agree more with the complexity (and probably inescapable subjectivity) involved in merit pay -- but if Education doesn't warrant a method to keep and reward only the best, what does? The problem is the administration/bureaucracy would turn it into such a bloated, time-consuming ordeal...

Lorin said...

I don't know where I land on the debate, but I offer this up for you to ponder:
http://elscob.blogspot.com/2008/12/stuck-in-my-craw.html