A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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.

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At 4/14/10, 11:57 PM, Anonymous Kari said...

Not to be a pain in the ass, but I had to give a counterpoint. I work at a public charter school in California that's geared toward at-risk kids (I'm not talking about KIPP kids, I'm talking about kids who've been expelled from their home schools, teen parents, kids with gang issues, etc) where we're paid on a merit pay system. We are not only given comprehensive, personalized written evaluations annually that clearly talk about our strengths and weaknesses, but our admin (from the site admin all the way through the district admin) is fantastic about giving written feedback praising us when we do something they feel is notable or exceptional. I probably get an email from one of my site admins at least twice a month thanking/praising me, and periodically they'll CC one of the district admins on it if it's something they really want to draw attention to.

We also don't have a union, and we can be fired at any time.

As far as merit, our pay isn't tied to our own students' test scores--it's tied to formal and informal evaluations of our teaching as well as for meeting overall site goals such as attendance and test score goals. Additionally, we get bonuses for things like being bilingual, being a highly-qualified teacher, how long we've worked there, etc.

It works really, really well for our school, and I love where I work.

At 4/15/10, 9:23 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I am really glad that works for you. I mean it.

At 4/16/10, 9:50 AM, Blogger anonymous educator said...

This debate is very similar to the one that associates have about big law firms abandoning their lockstep salaries.

At 4/18/10, 12:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't work for a school (I work for a corporation of 140,000 nationwide) but I wanted to share that this year the average raise at my company was 0.85%. At my review time, my supervisor sat me down and told me that even though I "exceeded expectations" in every area for the company-driven objectives *and* for my own personal objectives, I was only going to get a 0.5% raise because I didn't address the "additional objectives" that were added to the requirements...two weeks AFTER our review paperwork had to be submitted to Corporate HQ.

I thought it was personal until I asked around and everyone in my office got the same story.

At 4/19/10, 5:26 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Oh, I believe you completely. My husband's in the same situation.

At 6/1/10, 1:19 AM, Blogger Nancy said...

I could relate with your post with all my soul. You are a good writer.

Keep it up!!

This is Nancy from Israeli Uncensored News


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