One reason why I oppose merit pay plans
Last week I received my final evaluation of the year. My administrator saw me juggle a class with various learning disabilities, conduct a class discussion that encouraged participation-- even the young lady with social anxiety disorder spoke up once-- deal with two interruptions, and if I do say so, it all went very well.
This AP was very complementary as we discussed his visit. He highlighted specific strategies I used, noted the help I have given colleagues, committees upon which I have served and activities I have done with my students on my own time. It was really very nice, and I appreciated the fact that he had been paying attention and was very nice and collegial.
When the written record was handed to me, it did not reflect any of those specifics of which he was aware and about which he had been so complementary. First of all, the highest level of evaluation for each specific behavior on our evaluation forms is "meets expectations." And I am fine with that, under our current system.
But the administrators have been warned to only use a canned list of comments for the individual comment section, and they are so bland they make pureed baby food seem as exotic Thai cuisine. "Ms. Cornelius helps her colleagues when it is needed...." "Ms. Cornelius has an orderly classroom...." "Ms. Cornelius engages her students using a variety of strategies...." Administrators are not supposed to put praise in writing, in case, at some later point, the administration should wish to fire me. Because, at least here in the Land Between the Coasts, the teacher unions are not that powerful.
And this is another reason why I oppose merit pay being implemented. Administrators would have even more pressure put on them not to put praiseworthy-- and raise-worthy-- evaluations in writing, because it would cost the district money. Meanwhile, I would be expected to give up my annual adjustments, and after reading some of my friends' blogs from California and New York, I am grateful that I even get those. Don't sit there and tell me because my principal acknowledges my hard work verbally that that would translate into any cold hard cash, especially in this tight and uncertain economic climate.
Now I'm not complaining about my evaluation-- at least not under this system. I get why it is the way it is. But I also understand that these evaluations do not literally reflect my efforts as a teacher. And given that I am not a snivelling sycophant to the higher ups, merit pay would be a big fat zero for me. I think I like my bird in the hand, thanks just the same.