My View: Teachers deserve real merit pay
"Teachers want to be recognized and rewarded when they do well. Who doesn’t?" teacher Colleen McGurk writes.
August 30th, 2012
04:10 AM ET

My View: Teachers deserve real merit pay

Courtesy Colleen McGurkBy Colleen McGurk, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Colleen McGurk is a special education teacher with seven-years experience in the New York City Public School System. She holds master’s degrees in educational leadership and childhood education, with dual certification in special education and general education. She is a member of Educators 4 Excellence.

(CNN) - After reading Diane Ravitch’s post on this blog, I felt compelled to respond. As a teacher with seven years in a special education and integrated co-teaching classroom in New York City, I have heard a variety of excuses as to why our schools are not performing at a higher, and more consistent level. Poverty is certainly a piece of the puzzle and it must be addressed. But one of the best ways to reverse poverty is through an excellent education. And when it comes to education, no group is better prepared to lead than teachers. It’s time policy makers, elected officials and even pundits help elevate our voices in these critical debates. It’s one of the reasons I’ve joined a teacher-led group called Educators for Excellence, a national organization committed to ensuring teachers’ voices are heard in the policy debates that affect our classrooms and careers.

Most of my fourth-grade students come from homes that are well below the federal poverty line. Living in poverty makes my students’ lives harder, but that doesn’t stop me from challenging them on a daily basis. Whether it is in reading, writing, math or a game of basketball, every time I raise the bar, they step up. My students need to be challenged and engaged more so than other kids who have more solid support systems outside the classroom.

Teachers are a large part of the solution, but we need the same support, and high expectations that we have for our students.

I’ve worked in other industries and I truly have unmatched respect for our profession. Prior to teaching, I lived in Brazil and worked as a technology consultant for international companies. Before that, I was the project manager at Harvard Business School’s Executive Education. Both positions were incredibly competitive in terms of work ethic and salaries. Those environments inspired my colleagues and me to do our best. And that’s where Ravitch’s opinion on merit pay and mine veer off in different directions.

Ravitch argues that, “Merit pay fails because teachers are doing the best they can with or without a bonus. Merit pay destroys teamwork and collaboration in the school. Teachers work together; they are not in an individual sport, trying to be first.” As a current teacher, I can attest that “competition” is not a bad word, and it also doesn’t have to mean a lack of collaboration. Paying teachers more for demonstrated excellence will say loud and clear that teaching is synonymous with quality and high expectations. We need to elevate the profession by encouraging teachers to push themselves and each other. Teachers create a sense of camaraderie among colleagues as we learn from each other. Isn’t that what’s best for our students?

Furthermore, performance-based compensation is crucial to keeping our best teachers. I see teachers working at school from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and throughout the summer, as they slowly inch their way up the standard “step and lane” pay scale with each year of experience. Personally, I have spent many hours outside the “traditional” teaching hours. This past year, like many teachers, I spent several hundred dollars on school supplies ranging from books to erasers to copy paper. It’s no wonder many excellent, committed teachers consider leaving the profession for another that recognizes their contributions financially.

A recent report from the national non-profit, TNTP, called “The Irreplaceables,” estimated that the nation’s 50 largest school districts lose10,000 of their best teachers each year, in part because principals aren’t fighting hard enough to hold on to them. I challenge anyone who says that appropriate financial compensation isn't one critical piece of the solution.

And recognition is more than just financial. Great teachers are constantly looking to grow and develop, yet we find that more and more opportunities for professional growth lie outside the classroom.

Imagine a teaching profession that acknowledged and rewarded excellence, was well respected, attracted the best and the brightest, and gave high-performing teachers opportunities to stay in the classroom yet still enrich, and further, their career. I go to work every day - my office happens to be a classroom - I attend meetings, conferences and professional development seminars, similar to other professions. My colleagues are my students and faculty and we learn from each other to create an atmosphere of positive learning experiences. Now more than ever, teachers need to devote more time outside the classroom to learn the strategies needed to help our students compete and excel in the global marketplace.

That world would at minimum include these three policies that would help determine compensation for those irreplaceable teachers more effectively.

Better evaluation: Teachers want to know how they’re doing in the classroom. Districts and unions in places like New York City and Los Angeles need to come together as promised to craft a meaningful, multi-measured evaluation and support system. These conversations need to include teachers. I would support using student growth data as one component, as long it is paired with other factors like multiple classroom observations and student surveys. Most importantly, the focus of any system should be on providing timely and relevant feedback to help teachers get the tools and skills they need to improve.

Differentiated pay: Teachers want to be recognized and rewarded when they do well. Who doesn’t? Merit pay hasn’t worked in the past because teachers couldn’t be confident it was based on objective measures. With a strong evaluation system, we’d be able to reward with credibility those teachers who are excelling. Even the country’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association agrees - its Commission on Effective Teachers and Training made similar recommendations recently for elevating the teaching profession.

Career ladders: Like in any other profession, teachers want to know that there is room for career advancement. Teachers have the most insight and understanding about what policies affect us. I do consider myself an expert in the field and I embrace the idea of a culture of shared responsibility where principals, teachers and unions work together, support each other, challenge each other and boost each other to higher levels of thinking. I want to be able to stay in my classroom and still develop as a professional.

It’s time we change the education conversation from one focused on excuses to one focused on solutions. Teachers are ready and willing to lead the charge to reimagine what the teaching profession can and should look like. We must raise the bar in order to be the teachers we want to be–the teachers our students deserve.

The opinions expressed are solely those of Colleen McGurk.

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Filed under: Issues • Teachers
soundoff (449 Responses)
  1. John Gleason

    Teacher pay, pensions, much time off, and great fringe benefits, no holiday work, no weekend
    work in general, are sufficient
    as they are. Don't expect more for doing your job.

    August 31, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • Barbra & Jack Donachy

      John, here in America we pretty much get what we pay for. That applies to everything, including teachers. So if you're satisfied that what we're paying is enough to fund an education system you're happy with, great. Endless carping from you and your leaders is not improving things. Or, what, do you think that when Honda wants to build a better car, they whine about their engineers? No, they provide increased incentives for the good ones they already have, and more attractive recruitment packages for the ones they want to recruit. Educate yourself.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • David

      Hey John –

      We aren't paid for that time off, so quit making it sound so cushy. You mean teachers receive a mandatory 8-week furlough per year.

      Many teachers want year round school. Good luck asking them to work 6 weeks more per year with no additional salary. Would you agree to that in your job?

      August 31, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  2. solex

    I am a different kind of teacher in the sense I do NOT teach in public school. I am a technical instructor with over 20 years experience. I do not think that anyone can comment about teachers unless they have taught – any more than a teacher would comment about YOUR job.

    I am fotunate that I teach in a FOR PROFIT environment. I do not need to motivate my students nor do I have to deal with irate parents who sue the school district because a teacher had the audacity to give little Johnny an F.

    Public schools are seen as a bad investment in the USA – the ONLY civilized country to think this way. As a culture, we prove time and time again that we would MUCH rather be entertained than informed. Children are taught this by their parents and have no interest in preparing for adulthood – too much work.

    August 30, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Dan

      I disagree – if my earnings go towards your pay (as they do in public schools) – then yes I do have the right to comment on teachers pay and benefits. Forget merit pay.....teachers should be paid based on how well they educate my children, period. Teachers, as a result of unions, seemed to have forgotten that their sole purpose is to educate and that their true merits ride on the backs of those that succeed as a result of those students receiving – not a decent education – but an exceptional education.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:08 am |
      • John

        Dan,

        Please quit your job and become a teacher - you and stupidity wouldn't last a day son!

        August 31, 2012 at 1:03 am |
      • Former Teacher

        Dan, I taught HS English, Speech Communication, Reading/Study Skills and Composition for over 20 years. I wish my sole purpose was to teach my students. I taught 300 students each year, 150 each semester. I taught in an inclusion setting where students with disabilities were mixed with the rest of their classmates. I team taught at least on class each semester then picked up the slack in the other classes. I was responsible for knowing what I had to do for accommodations for each of the 20+ students with Individual Educational Plans. I also tended to be the Speech teacher who could get just about any kid through so I tended to get the students who didn't get along with the other Speech teacher. I also had to make sure that I accommodated students with 504 plans, or with different educational needs that were not covered under other programs. Then, during my preparation time, I had duties such at tutoring, lunch duty, hall walking duty, etc. When am I supposed to create engaging lessons appropriate to all students, get the materials and notes together and photocopy all the necessary materials? On top of that I had to monitor student attendance, be guidance counselor, tutor, etc. And that's just the classroom stuff. That doesn't include maintaining my certification, getting my Master's Degree, writing curriculum and I could go on. I had a standing offer to any parent or community member who would like to follow me during the day, they were welcome to come in any time. I had an open door policy. Never in those years of teaching did anyone take me up on that because they didn't want to waste a day.

        Media, politicians and lawmakers have done more harm than good to our profession. If you believe all you hear then you really do need to go back to school and spend a day with a teacher. I am so tired of the general public thinking they know what we do because they heard it on TV or radio. I challenge anyone who thinks we have it so easy to sit and talk with a teacher, look at their contract, and spend a day in a classroom. I guarantee you will have a whole new outlook on our career choice.

        August 31, 2012 at 1:23 am |
      • CB

        The current pay system pays all teachers using the same pay scale: based on years of experience and whether or not they have an master/doctorate degree regardless of how well they do in the classroom. Other than the 3rd through about year 8/10 does experience matter but the experience effect tapers off and sometimes has a negative impact on student achievement. Graduate degrees (in education) have no impact on student achievement on average. This being said, merit pay provides a way to pay the teaches and schools that make their students' achievement grow from year to year more. Ultimately, the end goal is to scrape the current pay system so that raises are not based on another year of experience but by whether or not students gained academically from the end of last year to the end of this year. Teachers and administrators are paid for their performance not for clocking hours.

        August 31, 2012 at 5:41 am |
      • Alice in PA

        CB where is that research? I cannot find it.

        August 31, 2012 at 6:50 am |
  3. toobad4u

    hmmmmm i haven't gotten a raise in 5yrs.. and im supposed to swallow a tax increase so they can?
    no.........heck no even.

    August 30, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Barbra & Jack Donachy

      Wait a minute... In the richest country in the history of the world, you haven't been able to increase your earnings in five years? By the logic you and your party apply to teachers, you should be fired.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  4. Gadflie

    I think that the teaching profession is undervalued. We should pay teachers more. Well, admittedly not the teachers we have now, but, hire better ones and pay them more. The ones we have now are pretty much worth what they make.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • dmantx

      Another comment made in ignorance. Lumping an entire profession into an unworthy category for pay yet say you should pay them more.....that makes lots of sense. Get over it. Pay more now to all suck it up and hope that you attract the best and brightest to challenge and educate our society so that our society doesn't fail.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
      • Dan

        Better yet – get unions out of the education system. Children should be treated as the profit, meaning, a school district and its teachers don't get a single dime more if they produce a lemon.

        August 31, 2012 at 12:13 am |
      • David

        Produce a lemon?

        What is this, a factory? You're comparing kids to widgets. Kids aren't all the same. If a factory gets bad raw materials, they send them back and aren't held accountable for them unless they use them anyway. If schools get kids with no parents or parents who don't care, poor families, bad neighborhoods, etc., they are held accountable for each and every one regardless.

        August 31, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  5. JAKE

    all my student are suffering due to their poor education, the majority of them live under the poverty line as well and for that reason they have natural mental barriers for learning, the only way that i know of to fix this problem is that... i should get a raise then will the problem truly be dealt with

    August 30, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • Lucy

      Jake, I hope you do not teach English.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  6. Marty

    You also deserve pay cuts when you do a lousy job.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • Brian

      There you go again. Who are you and how do you even the faintest idea what a teacher goes through on a daily basis? And why do you always assume the worst?

      August 30, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
      • Marty

        I have more respect for our military and police who put their lives on the line on a daily basis so whiners like you can complain like a bunch of Applebees waitresses who demand more tips for mediocre job performance. Grow up.

        August 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
      • David

        These discussions are never started by teachers. It is always someone like you complaining ABOUT teachers because you have no idea what the education field entails.

        Using your military/police/fire example – so THEY are paid well in your estimation? Really?

        Take your ignorance elsewhere.

        August 31, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Juno

      I'd like to see how long you last in a classroom of 35 students, 11 on special Education IEPs, 2 speaking NO English, 4 non attenders(their scores still count)....... you have no clue. I don't know many people who could last a week in the classroom and don't know many people who works harder than most teachers I know.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
      • Marty

        If you can't handle the job....it might be a wise decision to seek a different career path.

        August 30, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  7. Karen

    I have always felt there are teachers that teach only to get summers off. There are teachers that are good at teaching. Then there are those teachers that are passionate about teaching. With that said I would like to know why we still have kids graduating that can't read or do simple math? I like the idea of merit pay but I also agree that children are different and what one may learn at the blink of an eye another child may struggle to understand. So, I too agree that is would be hard to get a merit system in place that would be fair to all teachers.

    I have been hearing for years how hard teachers work and I have always been confused by this. In this day and age with all the computer technology and information available to teachers why is it hard to get lessons prepared? I you have a few years under your belt you should have a good idea in what direction you will teach this year.

    Where I live the median pay for a teacher with five years experience is approximately $35,000.00. I don't understand why teacher feel they are being under paid. You have vacation, health benefits, retirement, special rates for home buying and even a tax credit for being a teacher. If this is not enough, what do you feel you are worth?

    August 30, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • TexTeacher

      1) Most of us work during the summer – and if it's for the schools or our classes, we're not getting paid. In fact, most of us are paying our own money purchasing things for our classes/classrooms.

      2) Technology does make our lesson plans often easier – but so many students have modifications and need diversity that our plans themselves are getting more complicate.d

      3) Yes, we have retirement in the same way that you have social security. But we get no 401k nor do we get district matching on any extra plan we do participate in.

      4) I've been teaching for 8 years and every year I change things – try new things, get rid of things that don't work, and sometimes I get a new prep. I good teacher evolves and doesn't use ALL of the same lesson plans the year before.

      5) Our health insurance is expensive. Districts are paid by tax-payers, and so their contribution isn't as high as one in a private company.

      6) Kids who can't read by the time they graduate high school (or drop out) are such because someone dropped the ball when they were younger – and it could've been the parents. Kids who struggle often refuse to try – so don't tell me those kids to whom you're referring can't read but tried, or can't do simple math but tried.

      Our profession is attacked too much, and by people who have never set foot in a classroom or had never had to work with 160 teenagers a day. And these teenagers are not cookie-cutter, robokids. They all have issues, struggles, strengths, weaknesses – and all are different.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Barbra & Jack Donachy

      Karen, let me turn the question back to you. In you're state, $35,000 is getting you a pretty mediocre public education system. Meanwhile, parents who can afford it – and who want the best money can buy – are spending as much as $40,000 a year in tuition for private schools that graduate virtually ALL their students and send them on to America's top universities. Great education is expensive. Bad education is cheap. We live in a society that attracts people to jobs and rewards them with paychecks. So... you get what you pay for. I can't think of a single example in this country where lowering wages improved a company. So... You're an American. You can identify exactly the type of education you want for your kids, and you can get a great job, earn money, and pay for it. Is that what you're doing? Or are you just carping?

      August 30, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
      • Alice in PA

        If you look at the actual data on the PISA and on the NAEP, private schools do NOT outperform public ones. It is just the private schools have kids who are easier to educate because of their home life. They not only get regular meals other such necessities, they also are exposed to a higher level of vocabulary, travel regularly, are surrounded by people who take it for granted that they will go to college, etc. Look at actual data, not just assumptions

        August 31, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • dmantx

      Really Karen. You have got to be kidding me. Who do you want teaching your children? Not anyone can teach....although you may not be involved in education you should take some time to know a few things about teaching so you aren't ignorant on the subject when you speak. I graduated top of my class in high school and with honors from college. I could have and when I see comments by people such as you should have majored in something else, alas my parents who combined made less than $35000 a year at their peak taught me the value of giving. Yes I am a sucker. I choose to make a difference in this world regardless of my pay. But there is only so much of my life that I am willing to sacrifice for an unappreciative society.
      Health benefits that I contribute to that are nothing like what my collegiate friends have in the corporate world. Thanks so much Karen. Summers off.......well I had 3 weeks off I worked with rest of the summer preparing for my year because I AM one of the top teachers for my subject matter and I expect nothing less than to challenge and push my students to their full potential in growth not only intellectually but as a human being. So that scratches the summers off. My $250 tax break that I spend on supplies on my own thanks so much for that.
      I suggest you volunteer at a school and assist and get to know some people that make a difference in this world and the future generations and then maybe, just maybe your eyes could be opened to the reality of education. I am sure you will find some teachers that you have "heard" about. But I hope you will see that many schools such as the one I am at are filled with passionate teachers that truly care and make a difference in the lives of young people EVERY DAY.
      I have ranted plenty now, but I finish with this. I can't imagine a society that doesn't want its best and brightest citizens teaching the next generation........I suggest you fix the pay for teachers so that they are a valued part of society that is truly respected for the true potential they have in educating our children to make America the best country it can possibly be.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Brian

      Karen, you expose a profound ignorance of what it means to be a teacher. To actually prepare a lesson plan does not mean simply printing out pages off of the computer. We are required to differentiate instruction which means that we prepare a detailed outline for each day's lessons – often for 2 or more subject levels which means more than one lesson plan for each day – and THEN we need to provide varied activities and lessons for the different levels in our class. It's a 12 hour MINUMUM a day job. Many teachers are on site from 5 am to 5 pm. And you say $35 K is enough and we are whiny? How dare you?

      August 30, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • JQP1172

      @Karen:

      "With that said I would like to know why we still have kids graduating that can't read or do simple math?"

      I take issue with this. Whose fault is this? The schools, the teachers. Wrong. No amount of money will fix apathy. Unless you wish people to attend school well into their adulthood, the fault of your premise above is THE STUDENT and THE PARENTS.

      Great well educated adults can come from the worse performing schools and bums can come the the best, most well equiped schools. It all depends on one thing, the student and the parents gotta give a damn, period. If a student and a parent doesn't care then the teacher could make $200,000+ and the the student will still fail. Money is not the answer to fixing the educational system in America, students and parents caring as much about education as they do about reality tv will start to fix the problem.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
      • Dan

        Teachers are a part of that equation – like it or not – with that being said, why are math scores down? Why are reading skills down? Why are graduation rates down? In today's world, the teacher seems to blame the kid or the parent while at the same time asking for more tax payers money.

        August 31, 2012 at 12:23 am |
      • Tammi

        "we still have kids graduating that can't read or do simple math" - it's true that apathy on the part of students and parents are part of the problem, but you're missing the key word here: GRADUATING. It's teachers that pass students that they know shouldn't pass. That's outright fraud to make the school's performance metrics look better. Doing so just puts a greater burden on the next teacher and class in the line. The consequences of failing might put a dent in the apathy.

        Also, in recent years I've seen plenty of news stories about schools and districts that focus on "teaching the test" to get students to pass state tests. Such is not education and is criminally robbing students of it. State mandated tests only measure what has been crammed in the past week(s). The whole system needs overhauled.

        August 31, 2012 at 1:15 am |
      • John

        Karen is not as that smart to figure this out. Accountability includes all parties involved and single out teachers as scapegoats will never accomplish anything.

        August 31, 2012 at 1:25 am |
      • Former Teacher

        I have had classes where the average number of student days absent was 45 of my semester long (90 days) class. That means of the 30 kids in my class each one was gone an 1/2 more or less. Yet, I was the one held accountable for my failure rate. What was I going to do to make the kids want to come to school and to my class. The craziest thing was that our school administrators knew that if a particular kids WAS going to be in school for a few classes before skipping, he/she could be found in MY class. I had a 27% failure rate in that crazy class. Part of that is that guidance counselors would load my classes with the tougher kids knowing full well that if anyone could get them through legitimately I could. So I was thrilled to get so many of those kids through legitimately. All teachers knew full well that they better not post failure rates of more than 10-12% regardless of student absences or anything else for that matter. I taught mostly Public Speaking and Composition, each semester classes that made up the required 10 grade year. I can't grade a speech that a student refuses to give. I can't grade a research paper a student refuses to research, write and turn in. I gave plenty of in-class time to help each one of my students be successful. The old saying you can lead a horse to water but can't make him drink is very true. I can be the best teacher in the world, create the best lessons, but if the student either doesn't come to school or complete the assignment and turn it in, I can't give a passing grade. Yet, my school district actually went to a policy of no 0. Any student at the middle school level who did not turn in an assignment was given a 40%. That way when the kids did turn in an assignment, the missing one did not do as much damage to their grade. I was constantly being called in for my failure rates of around 20%, yet dealing with the toughest kids in the school. Parents would simply tell me, "I don't know what to do any more." Yet, these kids had their driver's license and nice cars. Every electronic device known to man, etc. Well, take some of it away. And yes, it will make it tough for your for a bit, but eventually they will get the message. Do your job and be a parent. I was very impressed by one parent whose daughter was skipping too much. She took a week off of work and followed her daughter from class to class for the entire week. That kid did not skip another day of school for the rest of the semester.

        August 31, 2012 at 2:03 am |
  8. Mike in Texas

    I'm a teacher, 20 years, and I want nothing to do with merit pay. The research shows it doesn't work.

    I've worked where we received bonuses, it did not change how hard I worked or how I did my job.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • CB

      You are an N of 1. It has and can work: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct08/vol66/num02/When-Merit-Pay-Is-Worth-Pursuing.aspx

      August 31, 2012 at 5:54 am |
      • Mike in Texas

        Your "proof" is 2 years in 5 elementary schools?

        August 31, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  9. The_Mick

    "Paying teachers more for demonstrated excellence will say loud and clear that teaching is synonymous with quality and high expectations. We need to elevate the profession by encouraging teachers to push themselves and each other." This is a contradiction. There's only going to be so much merit pay to go around. So if I work hard and develop a new lab in chemistry or better lesson plan for understanding Macbeth do you think I'm going to share it with another teacher and "encourage" them to "push themselves"? Not until I get credit for it. Salesmen essentially get merit pay. Do they go out of their way to share customers? Merit pay will reduce the quality of education. And I say that as a teacher who retired with all "1's" (excellent) in my last evaluation, who taught honors chemistry and honors physics and was "in with the administration." A teacher who didn't get all "1's" was better than me, but he was given the low-level kids and so wasn't recognized for the superb teacher he was.

    August 30, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  10. Patrick Horan

    OMG.. MERIT PAY?? ..SERIOUSLY ??? Like you teachers don't make enough already?? Pass the teaching job onto the parents,tutors, and pile on the homework to the students. Unreal!! Cutting police and fire funding and you "TEACHERS" want MERIT PAY ! Heck, i would bet half of your kids dont even attend public schools!! Save it!!

    August 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Bob

      Can you be any more ill-informed? Pushing off exactly what on parents. I have been teaching for 12 years and 80% of the parents do absolutely nothing to help their kids. I have two children of my own and I sit and work with them every night and, shockingly, they are amazing students. Try finding out what teachers really do instead of listening to mainstream media who love to warp everything.

      August 30, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
      • obamaliar

        hey Bob, want more money???? Do a better job

        August 30, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • TL

      As a teacher...I'm not shocked by your post. However, I did much of what the article stated today...bought supplies with my own $(why? i'm not given any $ from the state.) I work on times when I don't have to. I may not deserve merit pay by your standards, but teachers deserve respect. I challenge anyone to sub one day in a school for two days...

      August 30, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  11. Jon W

    Well, I'm a teacher and a union member and I know that most of my fellow educators look at this issue as a non-starter. If they bring in merit pay, we'll just teach to the test. People underestimate the adaptability of most teachers. I shudder to think what our schools would look like if we simply taught to the test, but that's the reality of merit pay. I definitely laugh when I think about where things would be five years down the line when too many teachers get strong results on tests and they come up with another reason to not pay us anything.

    And to the people who say that the job is so easy, I invite you to join our easy profession. We'd be more than happy to have you, especially if you can teach in critical needs areas. From what I've read, you love our compensation package and our hours and seem to think you'd be the smartest person in the building. I don't hear a lot about the actual work of you know, interacting with kids, but it seems like you've got everything else figured out. The door is open!

    The general rule of thumb: kids are great and most parents are great. The more a parent feels the need to tell you their qualifications in a meeting, the less likely they are to tell their kids to do their homework. The really accomplished don't feel the need to bash educators because they don't need the ego boost.

    August 30, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • obamaliar

      hey Jon, how about if the company that supplies the text book for the class mails unit tests to asst principal anh he/she gives to teacher the day before the the test is to be given. Logistics may be problem

      August 30, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
      • TL

        it doesn't work that way....honestly.

        August 30, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  12. Jay

    She's taught 7 years? That's nothing. She needs to learn a little more.

    August 30, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  13. TrueGrissel

    If you want merit pay GET OUT OF THE UNION, as they are costing you your chance to excel and the dues that keeps the just filling the void teachers employed as they know their jobs are protected by the union.

    August 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • jackdonachy

      TrueGrissel, it would be helpful to the dialogue if you would educate yourself before commenting. Do this: look at teacher salaries – entry level, median, and for experienced teachers – in states that have strong teachers' unions and compare them with salaries in states with weak unions. You will see a pattern, and you'll see that your basic premise is wrong. The issues here are complex, and the more you appreciate that the harder it is to fall in line with some of your conservative leaders and simply hate teachers, or unions, or both.

      It's easy to bash unions, but here's something else you and others who see black and white only can fact check: ALL of the democratic countries that routinely produce higher math and reading scores than the U.S. have strong teachers' unions. So, it's not the unions, per se, that are the problem. It's far more complex than that.

      I know, I know, you won't check the above. You "still think..." whatever it is you think, facts notwithstanding.

      August 30, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  14. Harsh Truth

    ...and according to the data kindly made available by the NYC school system (http://www.schoolbook.org/school/2-ps-019-asher-levy/teachers) we can see that Colleen McGurk merits below average pay.

    August 30, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  15. fred

    Gee, this situation requires alot of thought. Its a good thing that teachers have all summer off to think about it, as well as 2 weeks at Christmas, 1 week in the spring and a week in the fall. And don't forget about the numerous teacher work days.

    August 30, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • donna

      Uh- what do you think teachers do on teacher work days? Do you think that all there is to teaching is being in the classroom with the students? Do you have any idea how much prep is required for most classes? How about required professional development?

      August 30, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Mousemincer

      Can't begin to tell you how many late nights, weekends, Holidays and summers I have spent going to workshops (not getting paid) and making sure I had challenging lessons that worked for all my students (meaning 2 or more versions for different levels), grading work, analyzing data, contacting parents, taking classes so I would be better........teaching is not a 9-5 job. Yes you get summers off, but when push comes to shove you have already worked those hours and then some during the 10 months prior. How many of you have a Masters Degree?

      August 30, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
      • Rrj

        Please... I'm so tired of hearing you teachers complain about everything. You have amazing benefits and 3 months off a year. You get guaranteed pay raises at a high percentage for doing the same job year after year. I know gym teachers in rich districts that make close to 100,000 a year. Someone please tell me how that is warranted? You all live in a fantasy world and have the nerve to complain about it. Oh, and to the teacher who asked if any of us have masters degrees.. I have an MBA in Finance. What is yours in? English? Bet that was tough.

        August 30, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Bob

      Try teaching for a few years Fred. Anyone who thinks teaching is a 9 month a year job is just an idiot who knows nothing about education. I could go on and on about the hours I work and the furthering of my education, but why bother to tell it to someone who makes judgements based on ignorance.

      August 30, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
      • Former Teacher

        First, I work a second job during those summer months in order to pay for the 10 hours a day my children are in day care during the school year. Second, I have often gone head to head with my similarly educated counter parts in private industry about the whole days off thing. I generally come up with about 7 working days difference when you start looking at paid holiday, paid vacation, personal leave, etc. So while our full time year may be crammed into 10 months, we really don't work that many fewer days. And yes, the person I do this with is quite surprised. A full time year is 2,080 hours. I have done time cards for myself every year to help me keep track of my hours so that I try to maintain some balance of family and work even more so once I had kids. I found I often surpassed that 2,080 hours by the beginning to mid April when going August 1 to August 1 because teacher generally started before students in order to get ready for the start of the year. So within 9 months with Christmas and Spring Breaks I have already put in my full time year. Tell me how many other professions would even accept that kind of work schedule?

        August 31, 2012 at 2:14 am |
  16. Alice in PA

    If you are in favor of merit pay, EXACTLY how should a teacher be evaluated?

    August 30, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Sarcastro

      It's simple- The same ways that almost every other professional is rated! Peer reviews, observation, objective metrics (test score improvements, etc...), feedback from clients (students), contributions to intangibles (e.g. ability to provide constructive feedback on policy decisions, contribute to meetings, etc...), commitment to skillet improvement (what continuing education above and beyond the required, did they do this year), how well did they execute on their mid-year review suggestions, how constructive was their feedback on others, did they mentor newer employees and what did those employees have to say, parental feedback, etc etc etc.

      The list goes on and on and on.

      August 30, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
      • Ludwig

        In other words, the same way teachers are evaluated now?

        August 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
      • Alice in PA

        I agree that a lot of this is currently in place. However, I have a few problems. First of all, students are not clients or customers. Teachers spend all of their day helping students who really don't want to be there and that message is constantly reinforced by the media and society. How many popular movies/TV/books portray school as a great place to go? How many regularly portray kids who cut class, do mediocre, disrupt class, etc. without consequences? Students are not clients who come willingly to us for services. They, unfortunately, are not mature enough to critically evaluate their education, although they may later in life. What about the demanding teacher who is unpopular, but gets the kids ready for that college level history class? Could their student evaluations possibly be skewed? As far as parents, I would love parents to be involved enough to evaluate me. But it is not a real evaluation unless they have been in my classroom multiple times, have had a deep discussion with me about my classroom and has gone to a few board meetings to know how the district operates. That would be fantastic. And about those intangibles? You want to measure something that by its very nature cannot be objectively measured.

        August 31, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • TrueGrissel

      Sounds like Alice in PA is one of those below average teachers that the union is protecting or she has a relative that is a sub par teacher.

      August 30, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
      • Alice in PA

        Wow you made a lot of assumptions based on a short question that I posted. I am a 20 year veteran and a national board certified teacher. I have advanced degrees in science. So no I am not afraid of a real evaluation. I have been meaningfully evaluated through the national board program. A real evaluation cost thousands of dollars and a hundred hours of work. It is simply not feasible with the pool of money with which we have to work. I am not saying pour more money into education. I am saying be realistic about what we want. If you want high stakes evaluation, it is going to cost us a lot of money, just like the hundred of millions of dollars poured into high stakes ( and ineffective) standardized testing.

        August 31, 2012 at 6:42 am |
  17. TheTruth

    Having put 4 children through the public school system (including college), I would LOVE to pay the teachers what they're worth! Unfortunately, we have minimum wage laws.

    August 30, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Not the truth

      @TheThruth. If you think so poorly of the estimated over 200 teachers your 4 children had over the 12 years of public education, why did you not home-school them? The truth is you were neither willing, nor capable of doing their jobs. Instead, you sent them to public school and complain about their education. Perhaps it is the other students and their parents that drag down public education, not the teachers.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  18. Kimo

    The concept that a teacher is a professional; in the same vein as a doctor or lawyer provides me pause about merit pay. Do we reward superior doctors or lawyers with a greater salary? Not necessarily, but superior professionals are sought out by customers and may demand higher fees. Unionization lumps all teachers into one performance level, and does not separate superior from average or below average performers. Maybe what is needed is a free agent system that we see in professional sports. Superior teachers are offered better contracts, average not so much. Let the administrators do their jobs and evaulate perforamance and offer contracts to who they want in the classroom. Granted the union won't like it; but if you want to be called a professional, it's a hard fact.

    August 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Westsacvoice

      The problem really is in the measurement to derive the merit. A child has too many variables from parent participation to resources at home to home environment that either supports or hinders learning. That doesn't include the child's natural abilities. Combine that with a room full of children and you really are challenged as to how you can succeed.

      That said – the problem is teachers are now disciplinarians and not teachers. Students lack respect for teachers..maybe it is because of the parents talking badly about teachers at home or because their parents failed to teach them about respect and manners. Children who are well behaved are then disadvantaged by the few children who take a majority of the teacher's time.

      August 30, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  19. sane

    There is an undeniable correlation between poverty/low achievement in education and one thing. It is the 500 pound gorilla in the room. It is intellect. The less intelligent will continue to do poorly in our society at every level. Better teachers, even if highly paid, will not change this.

    August 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Penny

      And the other gorilla in the room is teachers with poor intellect. That's right - poor intellect. My son is in one of the best public school systems in NJ, and he has teachers who use the double negative when they speak. And teachers who spend their vacations going on Carnival Cruises with their husbands; who would never dream of spending part of their discretionary time in the library, reading a challenging book such as Kafka or Camus, without an electronic device in their hand. Stupid teachers beget stupid pupils.

      August 30, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
      • just me

        Penny, as a teacher I wouldn't read those books on a bet. Yes I get 3 months off in the summer, and I read. I just finished "The Story of the Number e" and I'm in the middle of reading "How Math Explains the World". Please do not assume that everyone must read the so called "classics". About going on a cruise, you mean I can't take a vacation at all? Why not?

        August 30, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • joe

      Great. So that extra money teachers think they should get should really go to food for the poor and training to improve poor parenting skills.

      August 31, 2012 at 7:55 am |
  20. Tom

    Reading Colleen McGurk's blog reminded me just how greedy public school teachers have become. Colleen states that public school teachers deserve merit pay based on performance. Unfortunately for Colleen, public school teachers forfeited merit pay when they decide to uionize and demand collective bargaining. Additilonally, public school teachers have become so use to tenur that it is doubtful that many public school teachers would be capable of improving their performance. It has been proven that the longer a public school teacher is on tenur the poorer their performace becomes. Once a public school teacher has achieved tenur they no longer see a need to perform well. This very fact is why I switched from public schools to private schools. The difference in teacher performnce between public and private schools was startling. I found teacher performace to be vastly different betweenr public universities and private universities. Never again will I attend a public school, nor will my children.

    August 30, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Alice in PA

      so what the reference for the "proof"?

      August 30, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Melinda

      It is tenure, not "tenur". Even public schools teach spelling .

      August 30, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • TexTeacher

      And unfortunately, people generalize that all teachers are in unions and all teachers can acquire tenure. In Texas, we have no tenure. In Texas, we have unions that don't have collective bargaining – all they do is help us get support if an irrationally angry parent takes things beyond the school, or if a student decides to create a fake Facebook teacher profile that spews profanity and damages the reputation of a teacher, or if a district decides to sidestep the law.

      We are also, for the record for others, NOT PAID DURING THE SUMMER. We are not "off" during the summer in that it's not a paid vacation. Our other holidays are not paid holidays – in Texas we are on contract for a certain number of days and we are paid for only those days (although our districts tend to spread our paychecks out to help our budgeting during non-working months).

      So please, before you complain about teachers, put yourself in our shoes. Either that or get educated on our terms of employment.

      Oh, and I teach English and I love it – even though I have 160 essays to grade twice a grading cycle, in addition to other grades. I bring them home and work from my couch, from my bed, from my dining table. I arrive to work at 6:30am and I don't leave until 4 or 5. And again, I love my job.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
      • joe

        Can't tell if you are bragging or complaining.

        August 31, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  21. John Zoeckler

    In California, merit pay has been a code phrase for cutting salaries of most employees while keeping the salaries of a few favored teachers stable. It's touted as a guaranteed cost cutting move for school boards. As an officer in the California Teachers Association, a teacher's union, I would never advocate such an unworthy recompence for my colleagues or myself.

    In a properly administered district, merit pay would require evaluation of every employee on an ongoing basis. No district that I know of after 39 years in the classroom, is financially capable of funding that much administrative time. The shortcut of using standardized exams might work if the exams were meaningful to the kids who take them. As it is now, there is no benefit to the kid to do well and no penalty if he/she does poorly. In order to make these exams a reasonable eveluative tool, there would have to be significant outcomes to the student. If the student's advancement to the next grade, or his/her graduation fron high school depended on his score, that might give a more realistic picture of how the kids are progressing.

    In another instance, what shall we do for the teacher who heroically teaches educationally disadvantaged kids, who in spite of heartbreaking effort on their part and the teacher's part do poorly on standardized exams. Who would judge whether that teacher is worthy of merit pay? We already lose most new teachers after only 2 or 3 years in the classroom. Merit pay would certainly make their stay even shorter.

    August 30, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • sane

      "As an officer in the California Teachers Association, a teacher's union..." After that, you didn't have to say anymore.

      August 30, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Sarcastro

      Of course you wouldn't support it. It might mean actually having to focus on quality and remaining at the absolute top of your game in order to receive the highest pay. You know, like the rest of us.

      When resources are finite you don't simply hand them out to everyone regardless of effort and results, you make sure the top performers, the ones working longer, harder, more effectively receive a bit more in appreciation for their dedication.

      And I absolutely don't buy into the nonsense that teachers are so incapable of being evaluated. Almost every other workplace does it. Teaching, while an admirable profession, does not bestow upon thee a superhuman level of complexity that mere moral minds can't comprehend, evaluate, and critique. Given that most merit systems place heavy emphasis on peer reviews (*gasp* even college professors have their research peer reviewed), it's not necessary to have an administrator looking over your shoulders at all times. Thinking so shows a lack of knowledge of best practices in the isolated teaching world.

      August 30, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
      • David

        And once again, S, you miss the point.

        IF teaching were a profession where it was that easy to implement a "one size fits all" evaluation system for all teachers in all parts of the country, all subject areas and all demographics and income levels, it would have been done already.

        Fine. If it is so easy and you are so smart – let's hear how you would evaluate a 3rd grade special ed. classroom vs. a high school tech. ed course on the same scale. Put that next to an AP college prep writing course and then an entry level middle school social studies course where half the class doesn't speak English.

        We'll wait for your reply. Apparently it is easy to do so this shouldn't take you much time.

        August 31, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • freedomfromfear

      You need to look outside the teachers union to understand how an evaluation system for California teachers could work. Consider the evaluation system that is widely used in California's Silicon Valley. Known as a "360", feedback is provided by the employee's stakeholders including manager, peers, and direct reports. Imagine this applied to teachers, with evaluations performed by the schools administration, other teachers and parents. The tool would be on-line with easy access. Results would be consolidated by existing school and district administrators. Merit based raises would be awarded based on a forced stack ranking system with the top 10% earning a significant increase, the next 10% above average, the next 50% a COLA. The next 20% nothing and the bottom 10% an opportunity to pursue employment elsewhere. It is that easy, it is done everyday in the best companies and it would work in the CA education system.

      August 30, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  22. Pam Arterburn

    I think it depends on who makes the decision about which teachers are "worthy." Teachers are often awarded for what they do outside the classroom, while great classroom teachers toil out of the spotlight that comes with serving on campus-wide committees. Thus, merit pay would have to be largely based on-gasp!–student evaluations and testimony. However, teachers by and large do not think a whole lot of student evaluations.

    August 30, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • eroteme

      Some teachers may not care much for student evaluations because this sort of shows how little they are learning.

      August 30, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • TexTeacher

      While I'm all for merit pay (as a teacher), I think that student reviews are dangerous to use in that they are not full capable of understanding how their actions could affect teachers, and also that their reviews might be biased. I know of a teacher that kids loved because all she did was show movies. That's not teaching. I also know of students who dislike some teachers because they always turn them in for dress code or cell phone violation. I know of students who harbor resentment for teachers who don't "give" them A's. I'm also in grad school and I've seen first hand adults write horrible, nasty things about college professors who criticized them and wouldn't accept crap work – and those are grown adults who are also teachers.

      Think about it -these are young people who are in their "I hate my parent" stage. Imagine what they'd say about another authority figure – a teacher.

      And before anyone judges, I'm a darn good honors teacher, and I have students and teachers telling me every year how happy they were in my class, and upper class teachers saying that they can always pick out the students who had me previous years because they knew advanced terms and analysis skills.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
      • joe

        Heard the same argument in the private sector years ago about rating your manager/superior (in this case instructor). I suggested it and a senior person said, "That wouldn't work. Nobody likes their manager." If that's the truth then you (the manager/instructor) have to look in the mirror for the problem.

        August 31, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  23. eroteme

    Would cheating teachers be eligible for this merit pay? I wonder if instead of merit pay the winning teachers might be given four month vacations instead of three.

    August 30, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  24. kls817

    There should be no merit pay for teachers until there is a process for getting rid of bad teachers. Private sector employees are subject to termination for bad performance, but not teachers due to their self-serving union affilliation.

    August 30, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Sarcastro

      In my mind I lump the ability to get rid of poor performers in with merit pay. Once you're allowed to pay for performance, you can effectively fire someone. Even if you can't fire someone, setting their pay is the next best thing and forces them out anyways. "Ok Bob, I notice that you've been phoning it in for the last 3 years now. Although I can't fire you, I'm pleased to announce your compensation for the coming year will be 2 dollars. Enjoy and welcome back, I hope your summer off was nice."

      August 30, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
      • David

        There is an effective way to fire most teachers. Go to your local public school and ask for a copy of their master contract. It is public knowledge and it is in there. If you think the procedure outlined in that contract is too difficult, then come here and tell us why and we can have a discussion.

        Until then, you are speaking from ignorance.

        August 31, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  25. Bob

    On merit pay, most of today's teachers would go hungry

    August 30, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Jim Herr

      Cynical teachers, unfortunate. Cynical lawyers, business as usual.

      August 30, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Mousemincer

      Bob I suggest you go spend a week in a school and see what it is really like. The disrespect that comes from students and parents alike might just be eye opening. Don't forget the money you will need to spend to be able to do your lessons because the schools don't have the money and your students will laugh you out of the classroom if you tell them to just read the book and answer the questions.

      Stop pointing fingers and step it up.

      August 30, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  26. carol

    I can't support raises when the very people paying your salary are on a Freeze. Get your face out of the book and look around. There has been no raises for many of hard working people. It is sad but it is what it is.

    August 30, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • donna

      Carol, the issue here isn't necessarily about getting a raise, it's about improving the quality of education. There are a lot of crappy teachers out their who make the same amount of money as teachers who are talented and go above and beyond investing their time and energy. I'd be happy to see good teachers keep the pay they're getting and bad teachers taking cuts. Because with the system we have now, it's too easy for teachers who don't care to skate by.

      August 30, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  27. Gord

    Merit pay for teachers is an excellent idea. I live in Ontario, Canada (The big cold country north of you) where our teachers are earning an average of $84,000 a year plus the worlds greatest benefits. Now, I do agree that teachers should be paid well, I think it should be more on merit than salary. We have some wonderful teachers who love to teach and would probably do so at half the price, but we also have many who shouldn't teach. In fact, I would hesitate the leavemy dog in their control. The problem is, nothing can be done. They are in the job, they are protected for life, and the children suffer. A properly administered merit pay where top performers could be the way to go.

    August 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Jim Herr

      The trade-off is that you live in Canada. Most Americans have no desire to live in Canada.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Bobby Gee Smithfield

      The number quoted for ontario salaries isnt an average but rather the maximum a teacher can earn after ten years and special trainning. There is also different salary grids. A new teacher can earn anywhere from 38 -45 000 area.

      August 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  28. old golfer

    Hard to have merit raises, what with the involvement of the NEA.

    August 30, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  29. ArchieDeBunker

    Merit pay for teachers is a great idea – as long as it is administered in the proper way. Which means that teachers who don't merit ANY pay get thrown out, and those who perform poorly get a pay cut. Of course, this is not what the NEA will allow – the most corrupt union ever (and the biggest one) will try to see to it that NO ONE is cut, or takes a pay cut – only that more money is thrown at those who (maybe?) do a good job. My guess is that after merit pay has been in effect for a few years, it will come to light that political favoritism and cronyism dictates who gets the merit pay – not the actual teachers who deserve it most. One thing you can be sure of, if the NEA is involved, there will be only more LIberal Left-Leaning nonsense, and not a truly fair merit pay system.

    August 30, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Jim Herr

      As a former paratrooper I understand making do with what you have. If that means an umbrella, so be it. Yes, being a former paratrooper taught me to be resourceful, determined, no complaining, and never quit. College educaton courses are not preparing future teachers for the reality of tough classrooms. Anyone can teach an advanced class with model students, but most teachers do not, or will ever have model students and parents' support.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  30. JOH

    If you respect the educators and teachers and professors, they will try not to disappoint. In Korea, the education system is far more rigorous than America and the profession of teaching is a respected one as well.

    But let's get real; the education system is not entirely at fault. I would say it is 25% to blame. The other majority 75% comes from various reasons from parents, students themselves, and their community. And by community, I mean how kids look up to people from Jersey Shore or strive to be resident DJ's at night clubs rather than doing something that actually benefits the community other than binging on exstacy.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • JOH

      I was not born here but I went through the exact same education system as anyone else. Same as the "nerds" in school that were constantly berated on because they strived for intelligence/greatness. The truth is that America does not encourage OR respect intelligence; they berate it. If someone is more intelligent, others criticize. If the one with intelligence seek to give advice, people do not listen they criticize back.

      Like I said, I went through the exact same education system as everyone else and I learned a lot while my peers learned "nothing useful." American education system is always bragging about how even though their academics are falling, they still have innovation and creativity. Yeah right. Give me a break. Half the kids when I was in high school (a prestigious one at that) could not write an essay for their life; let alone a resume. English is my 3rd language and I had a significantly higher grade at literature and writing than most of my peers. Mathematics, I don't even need to explain myself. I'm Korean. There were few Americans that were better than me (VERY few and they weren't really American). I encouraged them but they were the losers of the school and no one gave them a chance. Looking at it now, these very same mathematicians are now working at a great job and getting paid A LOT. Whereas the kids that graduated and got into college via sports recruitment are going nowhere. Science, it's practically math and I was a lot better than anyone else in my school. Arts/Electives; I took various types of arts and electives and I excelled at every single one of them.

      I learned A LOT and met many great teachers. Even from problematic teachers that I did not like. Even from teachers who did not teach. And I used to smoke weed on a daily basis during high school.

      It's not the system itself. It's the American mentality/behaviorism of the modern world. No one cares about striving for intelligence/greatness. People just want to have fun and binge and own the next trendy thing just because it's new.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  31. Mark

    How about this. When the teachers unions releases their stranglehold on school boards, preventing them from firing bad (and child molesting) teachers, that's when we'll give you merit pay.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • donna

      Do you have any idea how little input most teachers have in what their unions do?

      August 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
      • Stacy

        Why is that? Don't you pay them to represent your interests? If the union is making decisions, putting forth policies, and negotiating in ways that its members don't like, why do you continue to let it do that? That says to me that you really aren't part of a union but a forced collective.

        August 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
      • Bob

        Donna, isn't that the purpose of a Union, "a voice for it"s members". You elect your union leads if you disagree with them, the throw them out.

        August 30, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
      • donna

        Sure, and I'll go ahead and make sure that my interests are upheld by every elected leader. If we would all vote the way I want, it would help a lot. In a big district, your voice is small. And on the flip side, a "good ol boy" system in a small district can serve select group.

        Are you folks really trying to say that because there is a democrat process involved at some point in electing union leaders, that that will ensure that your personal opinion will be represented simply because you vote? Very funny....

        August 30, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  32. 1ofTheFallen

    Teachers only work 8 months of of the year. Given the number of long holidays and time off for summer teachers are making an excellent wage given the pay for hours works. Teachers are doing much better than the private sector when pay for hours work is calculated. Merit should be awarded but so should demotions based on performance. The good teachers should be kep and the poor teachers forced to look elsewhere. Teacher Unions have destroyed our educational system. The US pays far more than per student than any large country and yet we are ranked last behind even some 2nd world countries. How long will we wait to change?

    August 30, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • pinetarjunky

      We work for 8-9 months and we GET PAID FOR 8-9 months of work not 12 months. Secondly, if our pay is so much greater than the private sector how come my last paycheck was only a hundred dollars more than my first paycheck from 7 YEARS AGO? So explain to me how we are the pariahs.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
      • Al

        Here in Chicago, that 8 – 9 months average out to $71K+ salaries. They are threatening to strike because they want 19% pay raise the first year and another 4% pay raise on a 2 year contract. Lovely isn't it?

        August 30, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • amacmeekin

      Actually, as a teacher I have done the math and with grading, class prep, etc... I work the same number of hours in 9 months that a person working 40 hours a week does in 12 months. Also, please stop thinking that teachers are only part time simply because of the vacation time that we have, most of us have to work summer jobs.

      August 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • TexTeacher

      For the contract hours we work, we are underpaid. We are paid for 190 or so days, working 8 hours a day. What we really do is work 10+ hours a day (at least, high school English teachers do, and I'm assuming other teachers do as well), and probably closer to 230 days. How would you feel if you didn't get paid for a month of work?

      Plus, I teach 6 classes a day and have 1 50-minute conference period a day. 50 minutes is NOT enough time to go to meetings, write lesson plans, mentor troubled students, grade, collaborate with other teachers, etc. That's why we work so much – because we do so much more than teach.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  33. StephenB

    As long as sports and electives are the emphasis, there will not be any serious discussion about education. Cut out the politically motivated "No Child Left Behind" rubbish as well as 90% of the electives, de-emphasize sports programs, and demand results from teachers, administrators, AND students.

    We've thrown good money after bad trying to pay for a better education for our children, and how is that money spent? More teachers teaching electives, football fields, and fighting lawsuits from teachers unions. Rubbish...

    August 30, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • donna

      The emphasis? Lucky you, those programs are being shut down in a lot of areas because of budget cuts. Be careful what you wish for.

      It's funny that you want to cut electives and bash NCLB in the same breath. NCLB seems like it would be right up your alley what with the cutting of non-tested subjects in underperforming schools.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • ddrm

      I agree – towns/districuts think nothing of spending tax money on state of the art gyms and elaborate electives instead of focusing on the core academics which many Americans fail. I find it sad that both my parents only went as far as the 8th grade in Italy a long time ago and were able to do advanced mathematics in their head (and no – they are not geniuses) – the instruction was rigorous and students were expected to participate fully. I believe merit pay is the way to go. I don't understand why employees are expected to pay into a union – they should be able to opt out. It really is a bullying mechanism. Unions were great in the day when all these discriminatory laws and child-protective laws did not exist – they were much needed – but that has changed.

      August 30, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  34. Victoria

    I think there are so many obvious opportunities we refuse to implement to improve our educational system. Why is the school year still only 9 months – that is a leftover schedule from times past when farming was prevalent and the children were needed in the fields for harvesting the crops. This is no longer the case, so we no longer need that schedule. Currently, the first month of the school year is spent reviewing and the last month is spent winding down, so we really only have active learning going on for 7 months. Take out holiday breaks and our children only participate in being educated half of the year. If we had year round schooling broken down into quarters with 2 week breaks in between – just imagine how much further we could go, no momentum lost and we gain an incredible continuity of learning. Many of the courses that are not being offered currently due to time constraints can be added back, such as the arts and music and other special interests.

    Secondly – everyone learns differently. Some people are visual learners, some are auditory, and some are kinesthetic learners. We need to test the students at the beginning of the year to see what kind of learning style they are most successful with. Classes for each grade should be split up by learning style and taught in each of the various methods and students should be placed in those classes accordingly. Otherwise it's like teaching someone Economics in German when they speak English – you are not teaching or speaking to them in their own language. Children who are one learning style are being taught in another style which makes it much more difficult for them to learn. This not only causes much more work on their end but leads to frustration, boredom and lack of interest in learning. Teaching children in the learning style they are most successful with will increase their interest, understanding and retention and in turn their success.

    In my opinion, just these two changes would make a huge difference in the success of our educational system. Children would be more engaged and interested and as a result they would enjoy learning and therefore excel. These solutions seem so logical and obvious to me. Other countries have completely revamped their educational system and had great success – why are we so unwilling to do so? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We need a major design change, not little tweaks. We are falling further and further behind other countries who are willing to make major shifts to invest in their future through education. I don't understand why we won't.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • CosmicC

      I agree with both of these, but would suggest that better teachers and districts are already doing # 2, at least in the lower grades.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  35. norm

    A master’s degree in educational leadership? Is that a joke? Do any teachers these days have REAL college degrees?

    August 30, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • donna

      Depends on the subject, the credential, and the state. The educational leadership degree is for administrators.

      Why are you opposed to their having a specialized education? There are lots of professional degrees- do you think a master's in business administration is any more valid?

      August 30, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • CosmicC

      The joke is that so many people think they are qualified to comment on educational practices because they went to school at one point in time.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
      • Nelba

        Conversely, could we say that anyone who spent all their life in school is not qualified to judge or comment on things outside of school??

        August 30, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • John

      In my local school district, teachers are placed on the masters pay scale with a "master equivalency".....what is that? Why is it that as a science or engineering major in college I couldn't get credit for taking math or science courses that qualified teachers to teach those subjects? Let's start demanding that teachers take the same courses as our engineers and scientists do for their degrees in order to become certified to teach math and science courses in high schools. I heard many struggling STEM course college students say...well if I can't make it in engineering...I can always become a teacher....that is a quote! It is also pathetic!

      August 30, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
      • Mousemincer

        The master equivalency is when teachers take graduate classes in specific field of study, such as engineering. They may not have a masters, but have completed 20-30+ units in that field giving specific content knowledge that should benefit themselves and their students.

        August 30, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
      • ch

        John, I agree with you. What you have described is tragic.

        August 30, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • just me

      Norm: I've got a B.S. degree in Mathematics and Physics, and a Master's Degree in Mathematics and Education.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  36. Todd W. Byars

    As a former Florida Educator and current Education Advocate working in the Florida Capitol I can tell you that Merit Pay is a big conjob. The Merit Pay bills are passed and unfunded. Here in Florida not only did they not fund the Merit Pay but they also stopped paying more for Advanced Degrees, National Certification and many specialty teaching assignments that require extra certification.

    I am not aware of any State in the US that has Merit Pay that funds it. If you can find a working model where all the teachers can get merit pay for excellent performance please share the link or source with me so I can go check it out.

    Regards,
    Todd W. Byars
    Tallahassee, Florida

    August 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Sarcastro

      That is an excellent point! As much as I'm in favor of rewarding excellence in teaching, it would make me quite the hypocrite to not be willing to actually fork over the rewards!

      I would imagine having a differentiated pay scale based off performance (as opposed to the silly formulas based off years work coupled with degrees) could help come up with some of the cash. Example: Bob Smith, a 10 year tenured teacher phoning it in skipping his raise so that Sally Jones a 5 year enthusiastic teacher spending 40 EXTRA hour a week with her kids can get a double-raise this year.

      But yes, that is likely not enough to actually come up with meaningful merit, so society being willing to actually pony up and fund the idea that we want implemented (assuming people actually like the idea of merit pay) would be key.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Nelba

      In corporations the manager gets a raise fund and distrbutes to each employee as judged worthy. For a 3% allocation, some workers get 2.5 %, some get 3.5%. As long as it adds up. Why is any additional funding need beyond the existing raise pool?

      August 30, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
      • Mousemincer

        can't have different raises like that because of the Union.....

        August 30, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  37. The Joker

    If the idea of merit increases will spark excellence for some, great I'm all for the idea. I think the reality will become something different though and maybe detrimental in the long run. In the corporate world, those that work the hardest or have the best ideas don't usually get the increase they deserve. It's the employee that works the "game" the best that gets the rewards.

    Case 1:
    "Geez, Bob is always coming in at all hours and saving the day and Steve never steps up to do that". Bosses are usually so tied up in managing up that don't realize Bob is always setting the fires he's putting out and Steve has his act together and doesn't cause panic. Bob gets the raise.

    Case 2:
    Manager has a really bad idea that is doomed for failure. Bob, the suckball he is, is afraid to speak out so he marches forward with the bad idea. Steve, having some confidence, tells manager A as to why his plan will not work. Steve is not a team player and Bob is. Give Bob the raise.

    Case 3:
    Bob sits around all day and never really gets his dirty. Never goes beyond his minimal tasks. Does 10 items a month without incident. Steve help everyone. Does 150 items a month and every now and then has one cause problems. Bob gets a raise because manager A never hears about Bob having a problem, while Steve is on the hot seat at times.

    My point being. Merit increases are not foolproof. You need the level above to be paying attention and unfortunately the US does not work that was as our leaders mindsets are "How do I get to the next level" and not "How can I do my job to the best of my ability".

    August 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Zebula

      Merit pay is ludicrous. Most of us get paid because we are doing our jobs. Teachers want extra pay just because they are not doing their jobs poorly.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  38. James

    As an administrator in a public school, I can agree with much of what Colleen is saying, however she and others need to be prepared for the worst. If I didn't care of Colleen, then my evaluations wouldn't be glowing and she would not be in line for a "merit raise." Then what? The union gets involved with the district and things muddy worse. If I like "Joe" yet he's mediocre and gets very good evaluations, then he gets his "merit raise" without merit. It then pits district officials against principals and in turn trickles down. Believe, I've been there as a former teacher now knowing the administrative side.
    Schools need to be properly funded without a lot of unfunded federal mandates and the unions need to help administrators weed out poor teachers instead of sticking up for them.
    It's a great topic for discussion though and in an ideal world can work.

    August 30, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Stacy

      Then why not take the bias out of the equation? Hire outside objective evaluators using objective criteria. Why keep doing things they way they've always done them?

      August 30, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
      • Nelba

        Or let teachers themselves do the ranking. ??

        August 30, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  39. jackdonachy

    No doubt this article will elicit lots of empty-headed braying from anti-education conservatives. That being said, there is a real problem with merit pay, and it’s not a philosophical problem but one of fiscal reality.

    Unlike private sector employees, teachers generally do not generate income for their employees. It’s easy to financially reward a sales rep who brings in additional contracts, or an engineer who enhances sales through better product design.

    But in education, there is a set pool of money in the pot, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. So, merit pay means cutting the budget elsewhere. Does this mean schools sacrifice updating their computer labs? Reducing wages for entry-level teachers? Cutting support staff?

    Perhaps educators could look to another model where public sector employees are rewarded based on progressive levels of competence: the military. The pay of soldiers and sailors is directly tied to a combination of time in service, competency as demonstrated on written tests, and direct observation and evaluation by supervisors – all of which influence rank.

    I believe a system such as this could work in our schools.

    However, one caveat is in order. Ms. McGurk seems to imply that pay is the leading reason teachers leave the profession. It is not. Survey after survey has shown that incompetent administrators drive far more great teachers out of the profession than do pay issues. The single most critical need in our public schools is better leadership – from superintendents to building principals.

    August 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • McFartney

      I agree schools as a whole need better leadership, but if you have these skills you'll most likely take them to the private sector where the money is. This is why you'll see few managers leaving the private sector to manage schools.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jeff R

      "anti-education' is different than 'anti-union' just like 'anti-illegal immigration' is different than 'anti-immigrant'.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • ddrm

      It doesn't make sense for teachers (one great and other not-so-great) making the same pay. At work, each year my peers are judged by our performance and based on the pool of economics my manager has been given, it is destributed based on our performance (like it or not) – but it works.

      August 30, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  40. McFartney

    I think what Ravitch is trying to say, and what McGurk fail's to grasp, is for most teaching is a calling. That's why most teachers work hard, and that's why bonuses will not inspire teachers. They are already inspired. Schools are not failing. Society is failing. Schools are the canaries in the coal mine. Our businesses, communities, schools, churches, and local/state/federal governments needs to attack poverty. They can start with providing children with early education opportunities and providing parents/communities with decent paying jobs/training.

    August 30, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • McFartney

      "fail's" Ha!

      August 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • aggiemara

      Or, teachers are not inspired because they have no incentive to work hard if they are guaranteed jobs via tenure. Get rid of tenure or make it a lot harder to get and you will see lots of changes. I've come across inspired teachers and uninspired teachers; caring teachers and uncaring teachers. The problem its really hard to get rid of the uninspired and uncaring teachers.

      August 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Nelba

      The truly dedicated teacher may feel it is a calling. But the merit raise would provide a feeling of appreciation and recognition of that dedication.

      August 30, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  41. James

    I say just privatize the entire system and use standardized tests to ensure basic education standards are being met. Those not interested in higher education will then be able to get affordable education aimed at gaining them meaningful jobs in the trades, while more ambitious people will pursue higher quality education - with the higher quality teachers providing it. At better pay, one expects.

    August 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Katina

      It is not that simple James. Any teacher will tell you that standardized testing does not determine what a child knows but rather how well a child is prepared to test. Privatization is not necessarily a good thing. Teachers become teachers and are good teachers because they are called to that particular job. Each child is different, and most people elect to go on for a higher education these days, schools are geared to just that. Public education does need some upgrading and updating in certain areas but much of the problem has to do with what goes on at home or in the home today. Poverty is an issue but lack of parenting is also an issue. Merit pay based on standardized testing will never be fair for a variety of reasons. Something does need to be done; however, there is no one idea that is going to fix the myriad of problems facing public education.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  42. R.Schultz

    Can anyone explain why tenure exists in the K-12 level at all? I honestly am curious. Tenure was originally invented by University's for professors so they would study subjects that could be subject to ridicule; things like gay lifestyles, race relations, etc... So, it was to protect professors and encourage higher educational studies on non-mainstream topics. And in that respect, it completely makes sense.

    But I don't understand the purpose in the K-12 level to be honest.

    August 30, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • teacher

      Tenure exists to protect teachers from retribution by administrators and others. It provides DUE PROCESS, not a job for life. This is a very political job in terms of human relationships.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
      • donna

        Lots of jobs are political, teaching is not at all unique in that. Why do teachers deserve more protection than other government employees? Shouldn't they all have the same protection from wrongful termination?

        August 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
      • Zebula

        Must be nice. There is no due process at the college level. Teachers are denied tenure for personal reasons.

        August 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
      • aggiemara

        All jobs are political. Tenure makes it really difficult to get rid of the bad apples.

        August 30, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • donna

      It was part of the same movement in the late 1800's I think, but the first law was for college professors.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  43. donna

    I think we should have merit pay, if it can be done in a way that doesn't encourage teachers to avoid teaching needy kids. In fact, I think you should be paid more to teach kids who are struggling than kids in honors classes who are easy to manage and to teach.

    And we should do away with tenure. They should have year long contracts and districts should have a requirement to make rehiring decisions in time for teachers to look for other work before the new school year. But there's no reason for it to be so difficult to fire bad teachers.

    And I think pay should reflect the class you are teaching. It simply doesn't require the same time to teach and prep for PE as it does to teach English or science.

    We also need to make sure schools have remedial programs. When I taught 9th grade English, I was stunned at the beginning of the year reading assessments. I had many students who were still at a grade school reading level- some even at lower grade school levels. However, remedial reading was not part of my curriculum, and there was no time to catch everyone up to 9th grade reading and still teach the required standards, even with long after school hours.

    Finally, people talk a lot about teacher, parent and student accountability, but you rarely here people talk about administrators being accountable. District superintendents make a lot of money for example, and no one is pointing the finger at them when students fail.

    August 30, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Jim Herr

      As a twenty-one veteran special education teacher with two graduate degrees, it's not about money. Yes, I also worked years in the private sector. Those who believe they require more money, try the private sector and see if you can maintain that job.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • donna

      Jim, I don't believe you. I don't believe that you would be willing to do your job without any pay. You are saying, that for your life, the amount of money that you earn is enough. Good for you. That doesn't mean that we should all settle for what you want.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
      • Jim Herr

        I did not say I would work for free. Supply and demand. Those who require more money, try the private sector. Does a rabbi, preacher, priest, or even a President work for the money only. Of course not.

        August 30, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  44. William B

    My question is, what about those of us that teach at private schools or high achieving schools? I think the merit-pay incentive is a great idea for under-achieving schools or schools that are struggling to meet the demands of NCLB. However, in terms of logistics, how would a merit pay system work from school to school? Is that up to the district to determine? If so, you might be punishing a lot of districts that simply do not have the money or can not afford to pay teachers extra, and a lot of your better teachers would leave to try and teach at a different district. While this may increase the level of teaching going on in one school, it may severely damage another.

    just a thought i had...

    August 30, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • donna

      Private schools already often have merit pay. It's entirely up to them how much they pay each teacher. Though, my experience is that private schools are often lower paying because they don't always require teachers to have credentials, and because they can bring in experienced teachers with better teaching conditions than in public schools, so that's seen as a big benefit.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Mousemincer

      Remember many under performing schools get extra money, to fund additional programs and supplies for hands on activities, paper, etc. With merit pay why would you want to teach at an under performing school? In Florida you can literally loose your job because of your scores. When your students have already been retained once if not two times, it is just a waiting game until they are old enough to drop out or get into a GED program.

      August 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  45. Kevin H

    Bottom line: in Europe and elsewhere teachers are state employees. They are paid full time wages year round and theyre good wages. This concept of – well if you get good test scores you'll be rewarded just isn't there for them. They enjoy generous pay and benefits. If they have a doctorate they're very, very well rewarded. Teachers don't have to tolerate what we subject our teachers to here in America. In Germany and France if we did to them what we do to our teachers – they'd quit – they'd sit on unemployment rather than subject themselves to these conditions. Our teachers are the front line – they've never been treated well and now we're treating them worse. The money doesn't go into teacher salaries, it doesn't go into the buildings, or learning materials – I'm not sure where the money goes – but it isn't to impact educators or learners. We need to change that paradigm. Start with decent salaries, add in merit pay, add in pay for special skills or difficult situations. Stop rewarding teachers on the basis of standardized test scores. These aren't effective means of evaluation – we know it – let's stop it – period.

    August 30, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Katina

      Amen!

      August 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  46. Valerie

    I agree with merit increases. I remember when I was in the fourth grade, we had this old teacher, "Mr Hill", he was just about ready to retire and we were his "last class"....this is in the late 70's in Chicago, just for reference.....anyway, this man slept at his desk 30% of the time while showing us "educational films" on this ancient movie projector.....I remember distinctly watching the Nuremberg Trials...IN 4th GRADE! Hahaha! I will NEVER forget old Mr Hill......

    August 30, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Letty

      Valerie,
      Merit increases would not have helped your situation with Mr. Hill. That is a good example of how tenure gets out of control. I think we should have tenure...with some heavy guidelines. That is where the evaluations come in. But even they need to be approached with kid-gloves. My administration loves what I do in the classroom with my students but I got dinged during evaluations because I didn't make my students raise their hands to ask or answer questions. Some of the evaluations were written by administrators/district supervisors who have not seen the inside of a classroom in many years. It needs to be written to help the teacher, not TRY and hurt them.
      Merit increases can't help...period. Pay teachers fairly, and if they get an advanced degree or certification yes, give them a boost in salary. Sadly I have had students tell me that they don't want to do well on the TESTS because their parents don't think we (teachers) deserve any additional (merit) pay. After all...we get 'paid' during the summer to take long vacations, right? (No we don't John Q Public...part of our salary is held back so we can get some money during the summer to live off of. You are not paying us to sit around on our lounge chairs sipping iced tea during the summer months. I for one have a second job to help pay the bills.)

      August 30, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  47. theseconddavid

    Stop setting pay rates based on tenure and start basing it on difficulty of subject matter taught and how well the students do, and American high school education becomes best in the world overnight.

    August 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  48. ABarker

    I would be willing to agree that teachers should be given the ability to earn merit pay (pay for performance) if: they are willing to give up tenure and take on slightly larger classes. But to keep the tenure based system and receive pay for performance bonuses would be irresponsible. We need to make it where the great teachers can survive and feel appreciated while cutting the less than great teachers loose.

    August 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • cabergman

      Slightly larger classes?!! My kids have been in class rooms so full there weren't enough desks or books. It hurts the learning environment to cram more and more students into a class, just to save money. Our kids and their teachers deserve better than that.

      August 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
      • theseconddavid

        That has more to do with the classroom size, not the class size. If the room were big enough, a teacher that can teach 60 kids well is twice as valuable as a teacher who can teach 30 well.

        August 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
      • Meidy

        You're arguing about physical space available and not the arguement for higher student/teacher ratios...particularly at the higher grades. Why can we only teach 20-30 high schoolers in a class but then the very next year ship them off to college where they have clases with 100, 200 or more students? Young children need low student/teacher ratios. The ratio should directionally increase as students age. High schoolers do not need / should not have low student/teacher ratios. Upgrade the job of the teacher, pay for performance without the safety net of seniority / tenure and I'd be happy to help pay teachers more money.

        August 30, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
      • Teacher

        Having a class of 60 students isn't possible. It is impossible to give 30-35 students the 1 on 1 attention that they NEED to succeed. It is proven that students are able to learn more in smaller classes. No classroom should have more than 20-25 students

        August 30, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • JQP1172

      @ Meidy:

      Agree with the student/teacher ratio as students get older (elementary versus high school). In high school, for many subjects where this would be appropriate, we should be utilizing more technology where one teacher at a remote location teaches hundreds of students then have a skeleton crew of teachers focus on some of the particulars as well as questions, etc. I went to a large University and this was the standard op procedure and I am no worse for it.

      August 30, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • donna

      Your larger classroom size requirement sounds arbitrary. Which classes should be larger and why? We are talking about kindergarten through high school seniors here is a variety of classes, and class size will impact those groups differently.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  49. mbane

    I'm tired of teachers complaining. If you don't like your job or what it pays you, change careers. No one told these people to be teachers. This is what they chose to do, mostly because they thought it would and easy job with summers off or because they like the status of telling others they are teachers. They don't even have to perform! What a bunch of whinners!

    August 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • doug

      Obviously you did not have a good teacher because you could not spell "whiners"!!!!! I did not go into this profession because I thought it was easy or because I wanted my summers off. When do I have a summer off? I am attending seminars and workshops at MY OWN EXPENSE!!!! I buy my own supplies. I spend many hours outside of the classroom working. I am NOT "just a teacher". I am a parent, doctor, nurse, psychologist and so many other things for kids today.
      You post is an INSULT to the MANY teachers who diligently work hard because they love what they do – ENRICHING THE LIFE OF A CHILD......
      If you can read this post go thank a TEACHER!!!!!
      (otherwise – SHUT UP!!!!)

      August 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • doug

      Obviously you did not have a good teacher because you could not spell "whiners"!!!!! I did not go into this profession because I thought it was easy or because I wanted my summers off. When do I have a summer off? I am attending seminars and workshops at MY OWN EXPENSE!!!! I buy my own supplies. I spend many hours outside of the classroom working. I am NOT "just a teacher". I am a parent, doctor, nurse, psychologist and so many other things for kids today.
      Your post is an INSULT to the MANY teachers who diligently work hard because they love what they do – ENRICHING THE LIFE OF A CHILD......
      If you can read this post go thank a TEACHER!!!!!
      (otherwise – SHUT UP!!!!)

      August 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
      • Jo

        I taught *myself* how to read at age three. I'll thank teachers for knowing how to play instruments, solve algebraic equations, speak Spanish, or even solder copper pipes together, but if I have anyone to thank for knowing how to read, it's either Jim Henson or my own mother.

        August 30, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • ImSickOfParentsLikeYou

      I'm sick of parents like you that can't say anything good about teachers.

      if you don't like teachers and the school system. Take your tarragon little peace of crap kid out of the school system and teach them yourself. By that action alone, we don't have to listen to your crap. And your peace of trash child will no longer disrupt and destroy the learning experience of other children that really are trying to learn.

      Take your child home, deal with them yourself, and do us all a favor and shut up.

      August 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Bob

      Hey Mbane –

      These teacher pay arguments are never started by teachers. We knew what we were signing up for when we started the career and are content with the agreed upon terms of employment. We only get involved when we have to defend ourselves from ignorant people like you who want to take away things that we have earned.

      Yes, earned. Our profession deserves to be paid, and paid well. Don't change the terms of employment and THEN tell us we are overpaid and expect us to just sit back and take it.

      You knew the rules too for your career and ours. Don't whine at us now because you are unsatisfied with your choice of job and want to take away our benefits.

      August 30, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
      • theseconddavid

        When you work for the government, you work for the public. When the public says you don't deserve what you are paid, you don't deserve what you are paid.

        August 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
      • Bob

        No, the seconddavid, you are not our bosses. A taxpayer funded job does not give you as an individual to walk into any government office and tell them how to do their jobs, either.

        How does the police officer respond to you when you tell him you don't deserve a ticket because you pay his salary?

        Let me know how that works out for you.

        August 30, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Paul

      mbane translation:

      "I amounted to nothing after lazing my way through school, before dropping out the day I turned 16. Now my retard kids are following my lead and I can't be bothered to try to motivate them for school, or tell them to turn off the xbox. Anyway, it's the teacher's fault....."

      August 30, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Brad

      Be nice to teachers. A lot of bad decisions got them to this point.

      August 30, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • anonymous

      Apparently your own education was with one of "those" teachers because you didn't even proof read your post. I would love to see you take over a class of emotionally disturbed students and see what you could do with them. Anyone who believes that teachers have the summer off are sadly mistaken. I have been teaching for over twenty years and never had a summer off because I work in a program that is a 12 month program. When I did have the rare occasion to have a summer off, it was spent planning for the next year and going to graduate school. I didn't choose teaching for the "perks", I chose it for the rewards of seeing my students succeed.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Bob

      This wins as the most ignorant comment on this site. Wow.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
  50. JQP1172

    Another thought, problem with failing schools is NOT more money, or teachers or lack of school supplies...it is the failing or downfall of America as a country. And not Washington politicians but the American people (parents, children, everyone). I think it can be safely said that China and many Third World countries struggling to make a name for themselves have an inferior educational system yet they are kicking are butts in math/science/etc. It is because THE PEOPLE care more about math/science than they do about The Kardashians.

    But what is happening to America again not Washington politics but the American people is nothing new. As I have argued with friends and family before, America is just like Rome at its height of supposed superiority and we all know what eventually happened to Rome.

    August 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • donna

      Yes we do. The forced religion thing weakened the hold that Rome had on it's variety of culture groups.

      We can't expect our kids to value science and the significance of evidence and research when we tell them that fairy tales are true.

      What's China's stance on religion?

      August 30, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Letty

      Great point! As a high school teacher I can tell you that my students care more about what the popular reality show 'stars' are doing than in the reality that I teach. You and I should be their mentors and who they look up to. NOT reality "stars". If you permit them to watch these fools on tv then your child is going to behave as such.

      If you don't like the education system, do something productive about it. Go to the school board meetings, vote, ask to speak to the teacher. Don't bad mouth teachers and the system in front of your children and then be surprised when we call and tell you little Johnnie or Janie is disrespectful. If you set the example, be prepared to deal with the result.

      No, I'm not a teacher for the money, no true teacher would ever say that. However, I think it would be nice if students and parents would respect what we are trying to do...educate the world one child at a time and help make the world a better place.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  51. Teachers Husband

    I agree with the intent of this article but I feel that one important factor has been overlooked. Teaching is one of only a few professions that rely heavily on someone else to suceed. If a parent is not involved in their childs education then statistics prove that the childs chances of success are greatly diminished. I feel that to hold a teacher 100% responsible for a childs education is unreasonable and unfair. If a teacher is blessed with a class full of student who have parents that are commited to helping their children suceed in school then that teacher will benifit from merit where as the teacher with a class full of students whos parents could care less (which is unfortunately the case in many schools) will not be provided the same reward. And the teacher with no parental support is most likely working harder to keep their students on track.

    August 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • theseconddavid

      That is completely and totally incorrect. There are plenty of jobs where someone's success or failure is dependant completely on the success of a disinterested party.

      August 30, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
      • Joseph

        True, but teaching relies on parental involvement, children involvement, other teachers. You know the old phrase it takes a village... You do not need a village for a job among your peers.

        August 30, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
      • Bob

        Really? Name a few.

        August 30, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Joseph

      The problem that you run into with teaching is parental involvement. If you teach in an area with more poverty the parents do not care or they are not even in the picture. Better areas that are predominantly White have more parental involvement. The teacher in the better area does not have to teach. They work there 40 hours and go home. The teacher in poverty has to teach, think of new ways to show material and works 60 hours a week. After the standardized tests the better teacher receives worse marks. So we reward the easier teaching job and fire the teacher that is working 60 hours and doing all they can do? Come on. Parental involvement is the biggest problem.

      August 30, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • phk46

      MANY jobs depend on the behavior of someone else for their success:

      The president can't succeed without the cooperation of congress.

      A doctor will fail if his patients don't follow his advice.

      August 30, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
      • Joseph

        Doctors dont get fired if the patient doesnt follow advice.

        August 30, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • donna

      I agree that a lack of parental investment is a huge problem nationwide. However, remember that we are a society of specialists. I rely on the grocer to bring in food to buy, and they are dependent on our choice to buy their food. They rely on teachers to educate their kids, and teachers are dependent on the grocer and kids to work for their education. Everyone depends on others in this type of society.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  52. Fran

    I believe that in most areas, the teachers are underpaid. That being said, I know that there are a lot of other people who are underpaid for the work that they do.

    If you look at each individual person and their situation, you would see that there are a lot of people (not just teachers) who deserve a bonus. There are people who go above and beyond what their job position calls for and they do not receive extra pay for it. They are usually not even recognized for their efforts.

    Most teachers already know what will be expected of them before they choose that as their career. They also know that teachers are not paid the big bucks. But that is the profession they choose, and therefore should do it to the best of their ability without expecting extra pay.

    August 30, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Bob

      To be clear, it is not the majority of teachers who favor merit pay. The majority of teachers are against it.

      August 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • donna

      I don't think the majority of teachers are against merit pay at all. But what they are against is arbitrarily basing that pay on things like test scores which can't accurately reflect the effort teachers put in. It's designing merit pay that it fair and effective that's the issue, not merit pay itself.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
      • Bob

        Surveys of teachers about merit pay would disagree with you. Most teachers are not in favor of merit pay because they know it will not be carried out fairly.

        August 30, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
      • donna

        Surveys about merit pay based on test scores. Can you show me the surveys about merit pay based on multiple factors? I'm curious to see what's really been studied in that area.

        August 30, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
      • Bob

        No, surveys about merit pay *at all*. Teachers don't believe it can be done in a fair manner without political ties or that every content area can be evaluated with one instrument.

        August 30, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
      • donna

        Bob, I asked if you could show me those surveys that ask teachers about multi-factor merit pay. There are actually teachers who want a form of merit pay, so you don't speak for all of us. And if you refuse to back up your claim about these surveys, I don't think you should speak for any of us.

        August 30, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
      • David

        Interesting, Donna, that you ask for proof when Google can tell you all you need to know and you know CNN will not allow or they will edit comments that have other URLs in them.

        So should I copy and paste entire studies into this little window?

        The majority is against you. Deal with it.

        August 31, 2012 at 10:26 am |
      • donna

        David, I asked for evidence because I couldn't find the surveys he claims are there- and now you're making the same, empty claim. So if you can, yes please post them. People post urls here all the time, just put a space somewhere. But you spent more time protesting the idea of posting them than it would have taken you to actually do it.

        Educators should appreciate the value of evidence and of backing up your claims.

        August 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  53. iceload9

    The problem is not whether to have merit pay, the problem is how to review the teachers. If you use standardized testing you get "teaching the test" and usually the test is so dumbed down as to be useless. If you use a subjective system you get inconsistent results. But at the end of the day nothing will change till people admit the problem is not the teachers but the students. If they are disciplined who is the first one at the principals office. If they don't do homework, have the parent argue till the teacher changes the grade. We are seeing the results of a system not valued by the parents.

    August 30, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • phk46

      If you reward the wrong behavior then that is what you will get. So measuring and rewarding the right thing has to be part of the solution. Right now in most cases, as far as I know, we reward seniority and pieces of paper that indicate additional training/degrees. (Regardless of where those degrees came from.)

      We can quibble about the details, but it is hard to argue that all teachers are equally good. At good schools and bad, there are some teachers that are exceptional, loved by their students, and that turn out good enthusiastic and qualified students. And there are terrible teachers that don't care about their job, do the minimum or less, and leave many students unqualified.

      Some exceptional students can succeed even with terrible teachers. And some students are beyond the help of even the best teachers. But that doesn't alter the basics.

      Merit pay may not encourage excellent teachers to do more (because they are already doing all they can). But it may send a message to the terrible teachers to go away.

      Merit pay is also useful to for beginning teachers. Because they are inexperienced they won't do as well as the best experienced teachers. So they should start out at a lower pay level. But by giving merit increases, rather than seniority increases, they are encouraged to get better rather than slack off.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  54. Athiest

    Isn't Tenure where you're guaranteed a job no matter how you do ALREADY a form of Merit pay?
    I'm not guaranteed a job... if mess up, I'm gone son.

    I know teacher pay is low. And that you have to take a lot of work home with you. Maybe teacher pay should be increased. But merit pay strikes the same chord as CEOs and execs who get performance bonuses while the rest of the country suffers.

    PS. Teacher Tiffany Six can have all my merit she can handle. Hot for teacher...:D

    August 30, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • phk46

      CEOs getting bonuses even when the company does bad is an example of rewarding the wrong thing.

      If CEOs were rewarded for long term performance of the company then they would focus on that.
      The problem with CEO pay is that the CEOs can strongly influence the decisions about how they are paid.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • donna

      No, tenure doesn't usually require consistently good performance. It's a one time thing. Generally, if you make it through 2-3 years it's automatic and effectively permanent.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  55. DJH

    I, like many parents who pay attention, agree teachers – GOOD TEACHERS, should be paid better but that isn't going to solve the problem at all. If you can stand there and claim you'd do a better job if you had merit increases and more money then the implication and questions of integrity and work ethic are pretty clear. And considering parents in most locales are being forced to provide general supplies along with regular back to school stuff, that is hardly an argument in favor.
    This will resolve nothing, regardless of whether or not good teachers deserve better pay. Schools are failing because of too much bureaucracy, federal intervention, teachers unions, parents who don't care or pay attention and almost as large as all others – our schools are not focusing on educating kids when they're constantly engaged in being a 'social services' provider. You can't very well be mommy, daddy, care provider, medical provider and 'general well being' AND educate with any level of proficiency. In other words, our schools are failing because they're trying to do everything BUT be schools!

    August 30, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  56. Joe

    Where else can you get a job,so in eight weeks you get a vacation?
    No merit pay,as evaluations are subjective,a longer school year and strong curriculum.
    This country is going soft and falling too many other countries epecially in the scieces, math,engineering and industrial arts.

    August 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Bob

      Yeah, it isn't like other countries where the only educate all kids until 8th grade and then count test scores from the brightest college bound ones...

      Which BTW is how they are comparing to the US which counts every score, including special ed. and non-English speakers.

      August 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
      • DidntKnowTahtAboutOthernations

        I didn't realize that about other nations. I had heard that SOME other nations, that have higher scores. Would fast track the top learners ahead of the others. And just push the lower level learners into vocational education.

        Thank you for the post. More need to understand this fact.

        August 30, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Joe G

      Totally agree with what you are saying but teachers do not get paid for that vacation. Most have to work orsave their money for this time...unless they are married int weath.

      August 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • MotorCity53

      Another one who obviously has no clue what he's talking about. Teachers do not get " 8 weeks vacation". What they get is a forced unpaid layoff of 8 weeks with no unemployment. Also, how many other professions allow their employers to withhold money already earned and pay it over time (during summer "vacation")as school systems do with teachers?

      August 30, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
      • Joe G

        Yes but the government actually makes money in interrest for holding on to our money. The money we get is for a 10 month contract and not twelve. The money is earned throughout THAT time period and not through the summer. I know exactly what I'm talking about becasue I am a teacher. I work during my "vacations".

        August 30, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  57. JQP1172

    Here's a thought, feel free to challenge. In a profession that gets paid from taxpayer $$$, why shouldn't teachers get paid wages based on median income for their education level and for the area in which they live and/or work. Should teachers make far less than median income, no. But should teachers make far more, also no. And in the area I live, when benefits are included, teachers actually make more than the median income.

    And one important point, I referenced median income based on education level as well as area. There should be no automatic salary increases for master's degrees, etc. unless the teacher can directly demonstrate how the additional degree is needed for the position they hold. A 2nd grade teacher, teaching a similar ciriculum year after year should not make more simply because they chose to earn a higher degree if it was NOT necessary in his/her current position.

    August 30, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • phk46

      So, in Podunk, where nobody except the teachers has a college degree, the teachers don't get paid anything? Or they can be paid whatever they want, because whatever it is, it will be the median for people with that level of education?

      And in Snootville, where everybody is a CEO with a MBA, with a median salary of $1M, the teachers with a master's degree should be paid $1M?

      August 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
      • JQP1172

        @ phk46:

        You comment is clearly stated tongue in cheek because my idea although needing much more specifics and details has some merit. Wealth in this country can hardly be summarized by a number on a tax return without including the zip code of the person's residence. For example, lets say New York State governs teachers salaries and all teachers make $x. Well $x in one part of New York will afford a different standard of living as compared to NYC.

        So while your comment was more or less a dis, my original comment has merit.

        August 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  58. Joe G

    First of all, I want to commend you on a very well thought out and organized essay. The facts do speak for themselves. I have been a teacher of twelve years and work a lot with special needs students and understand the importance of sometimes putting in long hours to make sure the lesson is the best it can be. I understand the lack of money in our school budgets and I too have spent money of my on on this. I also have a deep repect for your obvious passion for teaching. It is very evident in how you expressed yourself here. However, you did choose to enter into education knowing that you would not be rich doing it and and that we are sometimes unsung heros which means most of the time we are not compensated for the extra time and effort that we put in. Contrary to what many people think, education is not an industry. I do not agree with merit pay. It's extra monetary rewards like this take away from the real rewards of teaching which is helping the students grow and become responsible adults. We are a positve influence on this and it sometimes bothers me that we need to get rewarded for putting in an extra effort. We are not private industry and if education is to survive in this country, we should have to get rewarded monetarily to persuade us to do our job. Teaching is a very noble profession and I am very proud to be one. I sometimes talk to my former teachers and wonder how they made it back when they were not getting paid nearly as much as we are today. I could see thier passion after all these years. They didn't do things for extra pay because there wasn't any. Many people out there vollunteer their time firefighting and saving people's lives. I see our extra time as vollunteering to make a difference. As teachers we may not get compensated for it but the rewards ofgetting thanked down the line by your former students compensate better than any federal note. I am a teacher and very proud of it. I have taught for 11 years full time and was recently cut back to only half time. I have to work a side job to earn extra money. I have had many chances to venture into private industry but opted not to becasue I love teaching that much. And despite only teaching halftime, I still put in extra time preparing fun and exciting lesson plans. Teaching is a very noble profession and I really think some teachers should stop thinking of the monetary aspect of it. We are very well compensated and get paid a lot for what we do. Some teachers have incorporated a lifestyle that can't be supported by our comensation. If you want more money, get a second job. Some people brag about their postions in private industry an how much money they make. I know I will never make the money they will. The job satisfaction and love for my profession is what keeps me going. When someone asks me what I do for a living, I don't brag....I tell them I'm just a teacher an damn proud of it...even though I have been humbled by having some of my position taken way.

    August 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Educator

      I appreciated reading your comment and the respectful way you expressed your opinion. However, I think much of what you're saying speaks to the low status of the teaching profession. As a 12-year veteran, you SHOULD brag about all you're doing for your students. You SHOULD be proud of the fact that you've stayed in the classroom despite the great challenges of the job. And you should NOT see yourself as "just a teacher". You're so much more than that. And perhaps a pay structure that rewards great teaching can help others who have never taught realize the monumental role that teachers play in our society. We need to treat teaching as a real profession that is as important and prestigious as law or medicine, because treating it as anything less than that sends the message that our children's futures don't matter.

      August 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  59. Gee whiz

    Sadly, I don't think any profession, unless you're along the level of a CEO, nowadays can expect merit pay. It seems we should just feel lucky we have any pay at all in this economy. I only wish I got merit pay or even made enough to make a living - and believe me, I work just as hard as a teacher.

    August 30, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  60. Andrew

    Of course, this teacher would have us forget the fact that merit pay has been tried on and off since the 1920's and hasn't worked. Forget that most recently Vanderbilt University's National Center for Performance Incentives' study showed there are no gains in using merit pay. Forget that almost every valid educational study and attempt at using merit pay over the last 20 years has shown little to no gain. Forget that the latest research on motivation has shown "carrots and sticks" do not achieve better outcomes in complex work environments. Forget that the money for merit pay and testing would better be spent on quality professional development, academic support, more time for creativity in the classroom, more support for curriculum development and collaboration, smaller classes, wrap-around services in high poverty schools, full-day kindergarten, parental involvement programs, etc. Instead of these proven programs, we are asked to dismiss all research and believe in merit pay and testing.

    August 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  61. Objective view

    I agree to merit pay in exchange for getting rid of tenure. You cannot expect to be guaranteed to have a job no matter how badly you do it and also be guaranteed additional pay if you do it well. You should take the same responsibility for your performance as any other employee in any company.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • erin

      OV, your idea of what tenure iis s way off-base. Firstly, a lot of states have already done away with tenure. Secondly, tenure (or its equivalent) in NO WAY protects teachers from being fired. It just protects teachers from being fired FOR NO GOOD REASON. Does that seem unreasonable to you? I can guarantee you that if these protections were gone, then the only teachers in schools would be the friends and family of administrators, and 22-25 years olds who are at the bottom of the salary scale (and therefore friendly to the budget). No offense to young teachers (I was once one) but one of the biggest factors in teacher quality is experience.

      August 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • mdh49

      Even at the university level, tenure doesn't completely protect you from being fired (or your position being eliminated) either. With our state's recent budget cuts, our university had to eliminate entire DEPARTMENTS, including tenured professors. Tenure does NOT guarantee you a job for life!

      August 30, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  62. erin

    The justifications given here for merit pay are actually reasons why OVERALL teacher pay desperately needs to be increased. The problem with merit pay continues to be: who decides, and by what critieria when the "pay" is "merited." Most of the talking heads who have never stepped foot in a classroom want it to be based on students' test scores. That means that the teachers in Montauk are WAY better than the teachers in Bed-Sty, right? Ridiculous. You say in your article that you think the evaluation process needs to be inproved. I whole-heartedly agree, but I am far less optimistic than you about whether that will ever actually happen. Until it does (for real) then any discussions about "kick the bad teachers out," "get rid of tenure," and "reward teachers for good performance" is nothing but nonsense and hot air.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  63. jegelkrout

    We keep waiting, year after year after year, for these "objective" ways to measure teacher performance. When will they finally admit there really aren't any? "Merit pay" is just code for rewarding the administrator's pets, coaches, and pretty young teachers.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • David the Teacher

      You are correct. I've had Special ed and ESL students packed into my classes because I can work with them, whereas others can't. So would it be any surprise if my students did not score as well as another class of students who all speak English and have no I.E.P. on some standardized test? The only way you can judge for merit is if the administrator, director, or principal is actually paying attention to what is going on in the classes of their school.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  64. Dave

    Definitely teachers deserve merit and hazard pay. Get rid of the bad teachers, regardless of tenure, and reward good teachers willing to take jobs in difficult districts.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  65. Olinser

    I agree. Teachers need to have tenure removed, and merit pay implemented. Pay the good ones more, fire the bad ones.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  66. KatieS

    Giving merit pay for doing the job well implies that it is acceptable to not do the job well so long as you don't expect a bonus. All of our children deserve to be taught be excellent teachers, not just some of them. I think all teachers should be paid a fair wage comparable to other professions, but I also think all teachers should be expected to perform their job well or be fired. A good start would be to get rid of the unions that protect teachers' jobs at the expense of our children's education.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  67. diluded000

    I say use both a carrot and the whip. Give good teachers a bonus and fire the bad ones. If they go on strike, fire them. If they don't perform, fire them. Put minimum education and experience requirements on running for school boards so, for instance, the people choosing the math curriculum know how to solve differential equations and inverse kinematics. Besides unions, I think the biggest problem in public schools is the educational attainment of the people making administrative, curricular, and personnel decisions. The people doing it now are more qualified at preserving their position and negotiating bureaucracy than educating children.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  68. LT

    I have no problem with merit increases for teachers when the economy can accommodate it. That said, tenure needs to go away. Tenure is a mechanism that allows bad teachers to keep their jobs. Can teachers be fired for poor performance? In theory, yes. But the union and tenure rules make it next to impossible. No one should be handed a raise just because you belong to a group (union). Increases should only be earned. Let's do something to keep and attract good teachers and get rid of the ones who don't belong.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Bob

      OK LT, please explain how unions and tenure make firing a teacher "next to impossible."

      You can't, because that is pure talking point drivel that has been repeated ad nauseum by people who don't know what they are talking about.

      Tenure and unions only protect bad teachers from incompetent administration. All that tenure and unions require is that school district administrators follow dismissal procedures laid out in their own contracts that THEY AGREED TO.

      Period.

      The simple fact is administrators are too lazy to follow procedure and want to snap their fingers and dismiss a teacher they don't like without due process. Look up due process and you will find that many professions have it. It counters abuse by those in charge, of which there are countless cases.

      August 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
      • David

        Not only that, but the discipline and firing procedures are clearly spelled out in their contracts, which any person can walk in and obtain a copy of (or have it emailed to them).

        People who say unions make it impossible to fire teachers haven't made any effort to find out the truth. Stop watching Faux News and go to your local admin. office and get a copy. Read it. Then discuss if you like.

        August 31, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  69. dakota2000

    Many people who are extremely competent, would choose teaching over being a lawyer, engineer or doctor. But they don't because they need to put their kids through college. They need cash.

    For most people, family comes before career.

    So you commenters who believe that people who chose teaching are some kind of monastic saints are mistaken. They are human beings with professional training and deserve a salary and livable wage.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • KatieS

      But teachers are not lawyers or doctors. Both of those careers require advanced degrees beyond a basic bachelors. Teaching does not. Teaching is more comparable to careers in nursing, accounting, or computer programming, so a teacher's salary should be comparable to nurses, accountants and computer programmers, not doctors and lawyers.

      In my area, teachers are already fairly paid when compared to equivalent professionals. Still, if you ask any teacher, they will tell you how underpaid and overworked they are, always droning on about how many extra hours they work grading papers without additional pay. Perhaps they don't realize that just about every professional is expected to work additional hours for no additional pay. That just goes along with having a professional career. If you want to be paid overtime for every extra minute spent on the job, go work at Walmart or McD's.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
      • David the Teacher

        Actually you need a M.S. degree to teach. You can start with a B.S. but you have to be working towards and finish a M.S. at least in the NY NJ CT area.

        August 30, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  70. Joe Schmo

    EDUCATORS FOR EXCELLENCE is not an organization run by teachers. It is an anti-union ed-deform group that is run by millionaire hedge fund goons. Your organization does not speak for the vast majority of NYC teachers who work hard every day and are aware that merit pay for teachers is proven not to work. NYC teachers are also aware that your so called "leaders" are ex-teachers who could not or would not hack it in the classroom. Your propaganda machine is starting to crumble as the facts come to light that your agenda is purely anit-union.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • NoUnionHack

      And you are just a union hack that simply cares about your paycheck and not the students. Taxpayers like me and others fund the school system for the benefit of the students and NOT for keeping lazy union hacks like you employed. If you union hacks don't like teaching, just go find another job that accommodates your special interests and needs but leave our students and schools alone.

      As a taxpayer I applaud Colleen McGurk and others who are trying to reform the system for the benefit of the students.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
      • Joe Schmo

        Hey NoUnionHack: I've been teaching close to 20 years with perfect evaluations never miss work or come in late. I have an outstanding rapport with my students, staff, administration and families in my community. I come to work an hour early every day. I have dedicated my life to teaching and care about my students more than you can imagine. I have news for you: Unions are not evil. Teachers are civil services workers just like police officers and fire fighters. Our unions exist to ensure that consistent and fair working conditions are in place. Unions allow teaching to be a profession that keeps it's teachers wanting to stay on the job for a lifetime. The educational deform movement is attempting to make teaching just another Mc Job for fresh out of college kids to do for a year or two and then move on to a "real job". I invite you to step into an inner city school and see what we do and deal with on a daily basis. I've personally been kicked, spit on, bitten, and threatened by students throughout my career. I deal with it because that is what part of the career entails. However, my union negotiates decent job security and due process rights which allows me to know that in the end it is worth it. Lastly, noticed how I used the word "negotiate". The working conditions of unionized teachers is not something that they created. Rather, it is a mutual agreement between teachers and their school district. Numerous studies have shown that teaches in unionized states actually have better performing schools.

        August 30, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
      • Bob

        Really? Care to prove any of that? At least Joe backed up his statements with facts. You're just attacking someone you have no knowledge of to try and prove a hollow point.

        August 30, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
      • NoUnionHack

        My wife is a teacher and an excellent one by the way. And I am aware how things work with union negotiations. It's not negotiation when you are "negotiating" with the same people you union folks strived to get elected through get out the vote efforts and other initiatives to support politicians who are pliant to approve your demands once in power. It an evil nexus that needs to be broken.

        Unions allow the worst performing teachers to stay on their jobs by defending the indefensible and keep the worst teachers on the pay rolls simply because of seniority while good teachers are laid off when staff sizes are reduced.

        It is imperative to get rid of unions to reclaim our schools for our students and for the betterment of education.

        August 30, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
      • David

        NoUnion –

        ...and you would be incorrect. Teachers negotiate with the administration and school board, but the administration tells the school board what to do and often they hire a lawyer to do the negotiating. Ad as far as elected officials, the teachers can no more elect school board members than you can.

        If it bothers you so much, why not run for school board? Then you can learn all you need to know about how "greedy" teachers are.

        August 31, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • KatieS

      The best thing we could do for education and the future of our students is get rid of the unions!

      August 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • njx

      "However, my union negotiates decent job security and due process rights which allows me to know that in the end it is worth it. Lastly, noticed how I used the word "negotiate". The working conditions of unionized teachers is not something that they created. Rather, it is a mutual agreement between teachers and their school district. "

      You mean, your contract was negotiated between the union and the city in exchange for political support. So don't tell me how your benefits were "negotiated", because as far as I am concerned, it's meaningless and illegitimate.

      August 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
      • Bob

        ...except in a legally binding sense, you mean.

        The contract is signed by both parties and notarized, making it binding in a legal sense. It is too bad when the admin. learns that means that it is binding both ways.

        Take your hate somewhere else.

        August 30, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
      • NoUnionHack

        Bob,
        Have you heard of chapter 9 bankruptcy filing? That is what many towns and cities bankrupted by greedy unions and their political cronies are opting for!

        August 30, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
      • David

        HA! This is your best one yet.

        Teachers and their high salaries drove towns into bankruptcy! Yes, those greedy, greedy teachers! Remember when they crashed Wall Street and bailed out those corporations too?

        Yeah, it wasn't the elected officials who raided all of the pension funds (and everything else) to fund their pet projects at the expense of public workers.

        Watch Fake News much?

        August 31, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  71. Easy E

    "We deserve merit pay": well, tell that to your union, because the NEA has refused to allow such compensation ideas to be discussed, let alone implemented.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  72. Saage

    Just need more American jobs. More jobs, More home owners. more home owners, more tax income. more tax income to pay for schools and teachers. there are tons of money issues across the board. we need everyone working.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  73. teacher

    As a 20 year veteran teacher...how DARE you say certain teachers deserve merit pay. We all teach students with IEPs, sudents who live in poverty or shelters, children who have a variety of needs. Why should a 4th grade teacher earn more that a French teacher or a Special Ed teacher or a Biology teacher? We choose our profession to teach all students. Get off your high horse.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Educator

      I challenge you to reread Ms. McGurk's piece. Nowhere does she mention 4th grade teachers getting paid more than French teachers. I believe her point (which is incredibly valid) is that great teaching is hard work and is one of the most important jobs in our society. The current pay structure does not reflect that. Rewarding great teaching monetarily would be a huge boost to the profession and could keep more great teachers in the classroom.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • SillyMan

      Hmmm.. a 20 year teaching veteran who cannot critically read a simple article without making large errors of content. No wonder you don't want merit based pay: you'd only be getting $50/ week. And this is what is teaching our children.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • David the Teacher

      I'm an eight year teaching vet and some teachers deserve more then others. Not all teachers are hard working professionals. I work my butt off while others sit around playing with their phone. It is no different then our students. Those who do their work and pass the test deserve an A while the kids who are disruptive and don't make an effort deserve to fail.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
      • Winterfell

        Let's hope it isn't David the "English" Teacher.

        A couple examples to convey to your students:

        -Tommy likes ice cream more than learning.
        -Ms. Sally listened to her first lecture regarding professional competence. Since then, she has enrolled in several refresher courses.

        August 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  74. Joe

    Teachers always whining over money. They get the entire summer off with pay! They work 8:30am to 3pm.

    Wish I had a job like that.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • David the Teacher

      Actually, your wrong. Not all of us are in unions. Not all of us get summers off. Most of us work after hours to get class work done. People like you think it is a cake walk, well your dead wrong. I've work as a mechanic, I've worked on an assembly line, I've done construction work, I've worked in the I.T. field and guess what..... Teaching is the hardest field I've worked in, most people would not be able to hack it. You are constantly non stop pulled in many directions physically, mentally, emotionally as opposed to most other jobs where you can take a break.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
      • Snark

        Please ask one of your students to teach you about contractions.

        August 30, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
      • David the Teacher

        Oh please. I'm rapidly posting on a forum which i care very little about.

        August 30, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • DianeB

      Joe – Clearly you have never personally known a teacher. Most likely you punch a time clock. Teachers have no time clock. I, as well as most of the teachers I know, work numerous hours to educate your and others' children. I have supplied coats, mittens, food, school supplies as well as safe environment for numerous students whose parents are unable to give their children those things. How dare you insult me and all the others who have worked hard for the children. How about you go to college for 5 years and see how the real world works.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Paul

      Another guy whining about whining teachers.

      Amusing.....

      August 30, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Letty

      Gosh Joe...summers off with pay??? Really??? Sign me up!!!
      So back to the REAL world where the county holds back some of my pay each month so I can live during the summer and where I (and my husband) have 2nd jobs year-round to pay the bills.
      Oh and that doesn't count the planning I do, and the professional development seminars I have to attend to keep up my certification...during the summer!
      Summers off with pay...what planet are you from?

      August 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
      • KatieS

        Do you think that teachers are the only profession that has to attend development seminars? That's pretty standard in just about every professional level career. Also standard in most professional careers is working long hours without additional pay. Except for most of us, the "extra" hours start at 5:00, not 3:00. And most of us don't get summers off. Or every little nothing holiday. Or two weeks at Christmas. I don't know how your pay is structured, but I do know that where I am, teachers love to pull the "but money is taken out of my paycheck to pay for summers" card. What they fail to mention is that their yearly salary for working 9 months is already more than equivalent professionals who have to work an entire 12 months.

        I am just so sick of constantly hearing about how overworked and underpaid teachers are. Teaching is a profession. A very honorable and much needed profession. Like any profession, it has its ups and downs, pros and cons, and part of deciding whether you want to be a teacher is deciding if you are willing to accept the bad with the good. Same as any other profession. So why do teachers feel the need to whine about their jobs so much more than everyone else? I just don't get it. If you don't like it, choose another career!

        August 31, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Beth

      Actually, no teachers get the summers off with pay. Contracts are written where school contact days and professional development days are numbered. The teacher is paid for those days and those alone. In most districts, teachers have access to paid sick leave but there is a limit on the number of days per year it can be used. My husband teaches 206 days out of the year. His holidays that occur during that time period are not paid. However, his full contracted amount is split between 24 paychecks. This was done so that teachers (particularly young teachers) would budget their money efficiently and not become a burden on their communities. Some districts split into 12 paychecks. Still, the teacher is paid for the contact days, not any holidays. Rarely are professional development opportunities the teachers engage in during the summertime actually reimbursed by school districts. And yet teachers still flock to these professional development opportunities to try to make themselves better in the classroom.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • John Zoeckler

      Joe: I know of no districts where teachers get the summers off with pay. In my 43 years of teaching at several different districts in California, I became aware that teachers are all day laborers. In our state, teachers work 180 or more days per year and get paid a daily rate for each day taught. Should any of us take an unapproved day off, we lose a day's pay. We get no pay at all for vacations or holidays. We also get no pay for the time required to prepare for our teaching days. Writing exams, grading exams and papers, devising new lab experiments, conferring with parents, attending various school functions and meetings, is all done on our own time without pay. For most of us, the time we spend in the classroom is only a small part of our responsibilities.

      August 31, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  75. mary

    maybe merit pay, but only after they get cameras in their classrooms first, and start reviewing the tapes with other teachers and admin to prove their worth. Bill Gates suggests putting cameras in classrooms to improve quality and I totally agree, after myself being recorded working at gas stations for years, I've seen firsthand how cameras improve service. Miracles would happen in the school systems if they had to see how they really are teaching compared to how they are judging themselves with rose colored glasses.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Letty

      Better yet Mary...put the cameras in the classrooms to prove that the students are making every effort to learn...not every effort to distract others and mock the teachers.
      I'd PAY to have cameras in my room to tape the kids...then when little Johnnie/Janies mother gets in my face about disturbing her at home about their "angels" behavior...let's see who that bad guy is now!

      August 30, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  76. Joe

    "But one of the best ways to reverse poverty is through an excellent education"... um, I know people who have gone to a 4-year college and then been **broke** for the next 20 years. Isn't this counterintuitive?

    August 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • terry

      can't get a degree in basket weaving though. We'd be better off with more engineers, Petroleum Engineering is the highest paying engineering career no surprise, get a degree in that or demand that your local public university start offerring it, you'd be surprised at how little demand there is for such high paying career field degrees.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • David the Teacher

      Life is not a cookie cutter Joe. If you get a degree in gay and lesbian studies as opposed to say engineering you will have different results. On average a degree equals more earnings. Also past income ideally and education means exposure which in turn should help you be a better person.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  77. Catman

    The problem is teachers pay. I know a Principle of a Catholic school in Mass. making 50k a year working 70 hrs a week. The person loves her job and is not complaining about her pay because her partner is a corp exec making the big $$$. Come on wake up America, pay your teachers. What is wrong with this picture ( you have teachers with Masters degrees making 40K).

    August 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • guest

      Masters Degrees are the new Bachelors, they are saying

      August 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  78. American

    Governor Malloy in CT told teachers its ok to teach to the test if it improves test scores... Who cares about teaching kids anything of value right?

    August 30, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  79. R. L. Cook

    Deserve? No. You must earn it. When you ACTUALLY educate America's youth and ignore what your union tells you, then we can have a conversation.

    August 30, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • SillyMan

      Thanks for being useless. The definition of merit based pay is that you DO earn it. She's saying that teachers deserve a chance to earn higher salary. It's the basis of capitalism and really not that complicated. Think harder. Like third grade level.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Mo Greene

      Imagine what pay and working conditions would be without a union! Teachers make a fraction of what others make with the same education.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  80. David

    I have been in the Marine Corps for over 27 years now. When I started out I was paid $327.00 every two weeks. (after taxes) I did not choose this profession because of the money. it was because I wanted to be part of something special and defend my country when called upon. If I had chose to go to school to be a teacher, it woul dnot have been for the money, it would have been for my desire to teach and impart knowledge on the generations to come. If you look at your position being more important than someone else and you should be paid more than someone else, then you are in it for the wrong reason and you should have probably chose a better career path. If teachers would stop wasting time trying to justify how important they are and just enjoy their job, they would be a little happier. Remember, every year there are a lot of young excited graduates entering the world with drive and determination, wanting to make a difference. keep complaining about your salary and they will take your job!!

    August 30, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • SillyMan

      Your view is fine if all the competent people were also altruistic. My brother went through a communist phase and his argument was the same as yours (people will still become doctors even though they're paid the same as janitors because they will want to help people regardless of pay). Of course Mao's China and Stalin's Russia suggest you are mistaken.
      I have a PhD in Chemistry and would never teach because the pay isn't high enough. In a capitalistic society you get what you pay for (on average). You may have a couple of altruistic outliers who could get much better paying jobs but stay in teaching to help the kiddies, but they are the exception, and you cannot build an education system on those few.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Catman

      Have money teachers are there out there who would chose the profession if they were paid better. As mentioned come on you are going to pay someone with a Masters degree 40K a year? In order to become a teacher you shouldn't have to make a vow of poverty( you should leave those vows the religious leaders)

      August 30, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Doug U

      What a great answer... I applaud your 27 years for military service.... and have encourage my own children to join the services... but your answer is horribly misdirected... those in the service are recognized for excellence – higher ranks, awards, educational experiences, etc... and the retirement is excellent plus the other benefits. Teachers in most states have no rewards to earn - there is no change - little recognition for doing a good job... retirement is good but not great and health benefits are in most cases marginal. Most of us use our personal funds to purchase supplies, etc for use in our classrooms. So until you stand in a teachers shoes and deal with dysfunctional parents, administrators and kiddos your opinion means little to me.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • David the Teacher

      You forgot to mention that the $327 you took home every other week is disposable income, pretty good for the 80's, since the jolly green giant paid for your living living expenses like housing and food. As for not deserving more then others that sounds like communism. I work my ass off while other teachers sit around all day, so please. I appreciate your service but don't act you know because you don't. I'd be a little happier if I had $654 in disposable income when I first started like you and I have a freaking M.S. whereas you were most likely a high school graduate. I became a teacher because I wanted to serve my community like you, but that does not mean I should have to live near poverty level, just getting by and not able to save.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
      • MRN32

        Do you feel better now? Go ahead keep crying you'll feel better.

        August 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
      • Rocky

        To compare what you do to serving in the marine corp is a joke. Are you asked to leave your family for months at a time? Do you risk getting blown up by IEDs? Quit whining and fight with your union who makes it possible for your co-workers to sit on their butts. They are the ones who gives your profession the bad reputation it has earned. If you don't have the balls to fight the good fight, then go work somewhere else.

        August 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
      • SillyMan

        @Rocky: So you are saying only the military deserves merit based pay? And communism for everyone else? Really? Go back to North Korea there Kim.

        August 30, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
      • David the Teacher

        I'm not crying about anything I'm simply replying to what was said. However, if makes you feel better to belittle me go for it.

        I'm also not comparing teaching to fighting which most people in the armed services do not actually do. A small percentage of servicemen actually see combat and those that do deserve all they get compensation wise and more.

        I'm not in a union so stop making assumptions. I'm actually against tenure and I don't get summers off.

        August 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
      • Henry

        How many days do you work in a years time? Please do not count days that you voluntarily decided to work (weekends, holidays). I actually worked in a job that I did not have a day off for 16 months......my pay never changed...I never saw my family....I was working 17 hours a day.....I had to pay both state and federal taxes.....and I was not even in the U. S. After the 16 months were done I was finally home for 2 weeks when I was informed that I was going to have to do it again for 12 months.....I did this for 24 years......18 of which I was not home....I did not get merit pay....I did not get any bonuses....I work for a school district now.....I know all about "prep time".....I have seen the absence abuse that school district employees squander with therir days off.....sick time.....prep time.......comp time....overtime.....it is very sad and very unprofessional...... I live in a state where teachers do not pay state tax....I know how many hours teachers put into their profession.....in no way shape or form does it compare to my last job....

        I am suggesting that rather than always feeling sorry for yourself......try earning what little pay you do get.....then you would have every right to complain about a higher wage......from my experience with teachers, there are the great ones and there are the ones who just get by.....maybe it is time to remove the less than stellar performers......

        ETCM, USN, Retired......

        August 30, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Joe

      6yrs 0302 .The manual is dumbed down to an eighth grade reading level

      August 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  81. Sir Lord

    Re:"Teachers deserve real merit pay"

    I think that merit pay needs to be based on a defined and clear set of criteria. For example, five to ten points that need to be met by the teacher in terms of her/his approach to teaching, whereby once the majority of the points are met (no teacher is perfect), then that teacher shall be awarded merit pay rather than merely focusing on a group of poorly performing students and blame the teacher(s) for that performance since there are several variables that affect students' lives. Whenever students poorly perform, it is always easier to pin the tail on the donkey (teacher) since it is easier to silence her or him with little or no effort!

    Let's hope that we do not wake up a giant population known as teachers who may decide one day to walk out for an extended period of time and send our society into a tailspin!

    August 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  82. teachers_whine_to_much

    I live in cali and i know a lot of teachers. they all make pretty damn good money and get months off per year. stop your complaining and be satisfied that you actually taught somebody something. did you get into teaching for the money or love of teaching? i'm so sick of this same old song and dance.

    and yes, i know my grammar sucks in this post.

    August 30, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • NC2012

      Teachers_whine_toO_much, maybe where you live teachers are paid well. My wife has a masters and has been teaching for 18 years, now. She makes $46k/year in NC.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Henry

      And they do not pay State Income Tax!

      August 30, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  83. H. Johnson

    Since1962 the US govt has invested over 2 TRILLION in education. Teachers are among the highest paid professionals in the workforce. Each year they claim to need more money, however, there is NO EVIDENCE that test scores or any other measure of success have risen. If you want to make money BECOME AN ACCOUNTANT. If you want to teach, shut up about the pay and do your job. TEACHERS ARE THE MOST OVERPAID PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND THEY ARE DESTROYING OUR FUTURE

    August 30, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Tom

      Sorry, but your post looks like words but when I try to read it, all I hear is clown music.

      Spend one day in charge of 30 kids, then tell us how easy it is.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:18 am |
      • mary

        I still feel cameras would motivate teachers to do better and stretch themselves more. I know it's hard but if you don't like it, don't be part of it and do something else and demand better. I think schools would be better off having more than 1 teacher in a classroom too, have some assistants in class sprinkled throughout the classroom, but people want to do things the low cost way. In Ivy League schools, it is not uncommon for there to be multiple assistants on hand to share the burden, I think it would help stop a lot of the distractions in class.

        August 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
      • Bob

        Mary –

        "sorry if you don't like it, don't be part of it?"

        Really? Who put you in charge? And many teachers do record themselves and their classes. It is required for some classes. Also, you have to have a consent form signed by parents for every student in that room or who could possibly be on that recording. Some parents don't want their kids on video, so GLWT.

        August 30, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • sick of lies

      Please, spoken like someone who doesn't teach. These teachers spend more time with your children than you do. They are not overpaid and they are obviously by your remarks, underappreciated. Do you home school your children?
      Probably not. You send them to a school so you have no leg to stand on. Want to talk about people who are overpaid? How about all those people in congress and the senate that get nothing done? The only people destroying our future are people like you.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • John

      I have plenty of teachers in my family and extended family, and I can tell you they are not the most overpaid professionals. For what they do, I would say they are underpaid. Most spend countless hours outside of their contracted work hours to help students and keep the classroom functional. Many spend their own money on supplies that the schools can't afford.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Maria

      Yeah? Do what I do on a daily basis and then tell me I'm overpaid...and what do you even consider overpaid????

      August 30, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Doug U

      Yes our government has spent millions and millions of dollars .... but do those $$$ get to the classroom?? Or do they wind up supporting things like a $60 million football stadium? Or an Administration building for meetings? or special ed facilities and support staff to manage violent or uncontrollable students?? Largely the increases in teacher pay have not kept up with cost of living increases...

      August 30, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • David the Teacher

      Right at 35K, no summers off, with a M.S. and eight years experience I'm over paid. Please, the local town workers who rake leaves get paid more with a high school degree.

      August 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • dmantx

      IN ALL CAPS for you since you are yelling about me being overpaid. I wonder where society would be now without public education. ANY SOCIETY THAT WANTS TO CONTINUE TO EXIST AND PROSPER NEEDS ITS BEST AND BRIGHTEST TEACHING THE NEXT GENERATION. Want to argue that point. If teaching was just about memorization do you think we would even be needed. There is so much more to education than you are discovering in your research. I don't expect to be paid $100,000 a year for what I do. That is not the reason I got into the profession...I chose to make a difference. So I carefully manage my money and have a very small house so I can afford to have my american dream, would I like more money of course, who wouldn't. :) In 5 years I will have 20 years experience and my pay will have changed a total of $10,000.....that is $500 a year raise......wow I am so greedy )

      August 30, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  84. Good luck w/ that

    What she means when she says "Merit pay hasn’t worked in the past because teachers couldn’t be confident it was based on objective measures" means her union rejected the idea of merit pay.

    If you want to improve education you need to axe the unions and hold teachers accountable, and link federal dollars with students, not schools that perform well on standardized testing. That's a start.

    August 30, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • MotorCity53

      You are obviously a moron.

      August 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  85. Sarcastro

    Well said indeed!

    A system that evaluates and rewards excellence (while helping or cutting those unable or unwilling to excel) is what our students deserve. And I mean that at -all- levels of the school system, whether it's the teachers in front of students, the principals or administrators.

    I've lived with teachers my whole life. I've seen absolutely NOTHING to suggest that evaluating performance in their profession is any more difficult than any other industry. Test scores, peer reviews, student evaluations, parent evaluations, direct observation, continual learning, mentoring and the subsequent feedback, all of these things are used every day int he real world to make tough calls about who the most effective employees are. Teachers and their administrators are more than capable, more than intelligent, more than professional enough to live to the same high standards.

    You want respect? Then earn it like the rest of the non-teaching society does by showing us that the best and brightest teachers are the ones in the classroom, not just the ones who happen to have the most seniority.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Tom

      Oh, I get it. You LIVE with teachers so you know everything about their profession. Wow, you're smart.

      I bet you think you know all about botany because you mow your own lawn, too.

      Same challenge as I made to others – go teach 30 kids for ONE day, much less 180. Then tell us how easy it is. Until then, you are nothing but hot air.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:31 am |
      • Joel

        Tom – Great line about this "botanist". I've also lived with a teacher all my adult life – my wife. She's a NYC teacher who teaches Special Ed, and has the lowest functioning students. She's as devoted to her children as anyone can be. She works long hours every day, and has been rewarded by having been denied a contract or raise of any kind in over 3 years. Our mayor won't even talk to the teachers union. They're among the most highly educated professionals in government, along with the doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc., and we wouldn't have these other professionals without the women and men who taught them everything they know. But, this will fall upon the deaf ears of those who don't appreciate these wonderful professionals who spend more hours than the parents with these children. Sad, really sad.

        August 30, 2012 at 11:55 am |
      • mary

        I would like to see the video of her teaching, public schools should be recorded and let parents see. Teachers always blame parents but don't look in the mirror.

        August 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
      • Sarcastro

        I never once said teaching wasn't hard. You're so quick to whine about how tough it is even when no one's claiming otherwise.

        I do know a few things having family in the profession and being a volunteer teaching 22 pre-k and Ks myself as well as part-time at my local community college teaching basic computer skills- it's not easy.

        You know what else isn't easy? Just about any other job! I'll see your teaching 30 kids and lifetime employment and raise you having to work 60-80 hours a week, travel to multiple cities, not spend evenings with your family because you got called to some pointless week-long meeting overseas, etc, etc, etc. Or the people working grueling manually intensive jobs that I literally wouldn't be able to handle to provide the materials, roads, and everything else we enjoy.

        We ALL work hard. Teachers included. I simply hold teachers up to the same standards as every other profession. I have faith they can be mature enough to handle something as standard as merit pay. Tell me precisely how that's somehow not appreciating the hard work they or anyone else does?

        Teachers deserve respect. They deserve support. And they deserve to be held up to the same high standards as other professionals.

        August 30, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
      • Bob

        Hey Sarcastro –

        Teachers work 60-80 hour weeks regularly and then they have to attend classes on their own dime during their summer furloughs.

        Yes, furloughs. They aren't paid so it isn't a vacation.

        And no, until you have been a teacher you do not speak for them no matter how hard you want to try.

        What people outside the classroom do not understand is that it is not hours per week that makes a teacher. It is minutes per hour. People in "regular" jobs get to go to the bathroom when they want to. Teachers don't. People in other jobs get half hour to hour lunches. Teachers are lucky if they get 10-15 minutes that they aren't supervising. Every single minute of their day is scripted and there is no deviation. I bet you wouldn't even know how to handle that it if you had someone (or 30 people) staring you down every minute of the day.

        When a teacher's class time for the day is over, THEN their prep time starts for the next day. I am pretty tired of people claiming to know everything about the teaching profession from purely anecdotal evidence about "some guy they know" or in your case "people they live with."

        August 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
      • Sarcastro

        Yes Bob, As I said, it's a tough job. So is working in a glass factory where a wrong move could burn you to death. So it a job that requires international travel and long stretches away from your family. So is every high-tech job that requires just as much self-paid, 'free time' (read late nights and weekends) of training to stay current.

        As I said, they deserve respect, as does everyone working hard. But they are absolutely NOT special. As much as everyone wants to think they are special, they simply don't put forth more effort than many many other professions.

        So I'll ask you- What makes them so unworthy that they don't deserve monetary rewards for excellence? Why should they be coddled and not held up to high standards, peer review, merit pay, and other things that many many unions fight against? What makes them so fragile that they simply are unable to bear the same burdens others have to bear?

        It's a noble profession, as are many. It's a hard profession, as are many. It doesn't pay enough, nor do many.

        August 30, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
      • Bob

        Sarcastro – the answers all over the forum here.

        Merit pay is not done fairly.

        It is a gimmick.

        It takes money away from school budgets.

        It doesn't improve performance. Teachers didn't go into teaching for the money – they just dislike being told they are overpaid.

        And other reasons above, and below.

        August 30, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  86. TommyTT

    Merit pay does not destroy teamwork. If it did, corporations would abandon their bonus structures. I appreciate the many good things that unions have done for American workers, but the teachers' union has become an obstruction to progress.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Sarcastro

      Precisely! It's not like anyone is proposing that teachers be subject to policies that the rest of us don't already use with tremendous aggregate success every day.

      It's part of being a grown up. I refuse to believe that teachers are so far more emotionally crippled than the average middle class worker that they lack the ability to sustain the ego-shattering blow of a top performer in their school receiving a slightly higher merit increase than they do.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  87. Juanita

    I don't want merit pay. I want good regular pay. I want to be able to make a car payment and a mortgage payment every month and somehow pay off my own student loan debt. I don't want merit pay. My students with below average IQ will never have an above average IQ and will never pass the standardized testing. The miracle is I have developed methods that I actually DO get some through. If I get merit pay I will not share those methods with others who will be competing with me for jobs (In NYS it is not unreasonable to get 300 resumes for ONE job opening). I don't want merit pay. I want my school to buy books, pens, pencil and paper for the students instead of me doing it. I don't want merit pay. I want a supervisor who has actually TAUGHT in a high school classroom. (My last principal never taught ONE day in a classroom, my current supervisor never taught in a high school class room and his replacement also, has never taught in a high school class room.) I don't want merit pay. I want the unfair standardized testing to go flying out a window. I want to help raise students to THEIR highest potential not some potential "out there" that someone who has never met the students decides is best for them. You cannot make someone with a 62 IQ college or career ready. You can make them ready for their life. I'm so tired of lying to my students. (Yes, you CAN go to college.) I don't want merit pay. I just want to teach.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Sarcastro

      You honestly wouldn't share the ideas that got you to reach students if merit pay was on the table?

      What a disgusting, selfish, greedy and emotionally crippled viewpoint to have.

      I wouldn't think that a person holding such a pathetic view deserves to be a teacher.

      I'm sorry you're willing to hold your students hostage to make sure that other teachers don't make more than you.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:18 am |
      • Tom

        Yeah, because people in those "regular" jobs always share every advantage they get so the team wins. And they never take advantage of nepotism or any other edge they can possibly find to separate themselves from the pack.

        Right. Got a bridge to sell ya'.

        August 30, 2012 at 11:27 am |
      • casey

        good points, I agree!!!

        August 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • glad I'm not your student

      these comments are so loser-ish. and we wonder why so many feel drugs are more interesting teachers boring lectures.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
      • glad I'm not your student

        my comment was directed to Juanita

        August 30, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • erin

      I feel you, Juanita.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Letty

      Well said and Amen!

      August 30, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  88. bcinwi

    Teachers should stop complaining. Teachers chose to be in their profession knowing how the pay scale works.....Want more money? Get a different job, its not hard. Oh yeah I forgot, those who can't.....teach.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Badguy

      So which is it? Do teachers "choose" to be in their profession, or are they forced to because they can't find other work?

      August 30, 2012 at 11:28 am |
      • belinda

        the schools aren't teaching them much about engineering or better career options, a government report in the last few years said even school counselors don't know what engineering is, one of the highest paying starting career fields out of college. So a lot of students just see teachers and think that's all there is out there for jobs. Really, why do we need football and marching band taking so much time in high school and football? Even those activities are dumbing down students, those aren't real jobs after you graduate except for a very elite few. But the few rich people running NFL don't want that to change and just like tobacco, continue to tell you how great it is, while taking your money.

        August 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Maria

      Those who can't, teach? Yeah, okay. I'm sure you would not be anywhere near where you are today if you hadn't had a kindergarten teacher, first grade teacher.....sixth grade teacher....high school teacher...college professor....assuming you are even successful in the first place.

      August 30, 2012 at 11:28 am |
      • james

        I had a great teacher when I went to school in Korea, come to the U.S. and experienced a big letdown in the public high schools. At least college was much better, there are too many drug dealers in american middle and high schools that terrorize and bully kids trying to get their education.

        August 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • David the Teacher

      Yeah right those who can't... teach....

      Must be why I as was able to work full time in the day to support myself while going to school full time at night. I have a M.S. I must be incompetent.

      August 30, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Paul

      ...And those who can't think (like yourself) just throw out the same old catchphrase.....

      August 30, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  89. Gary

    I absolutely agree. Teachers should be paid according to performance, not seniority. Obviously we need to device valid metrics to measure teachers' performance based on students' skills relative to their grade.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • mary

      the device should include cameras recording them. service always improve when people know they will just embarass themselves if they have to watch themselves in front of others.

      August 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
      • myreply

        some public schools are so underfunded, how would they ever afford cameras to record every teacher in every school and review all the material? some schools lack enough textbooks, computers, and basic supplies with teachers paying their own money to buy supplies for their students. if schools record teachers, they need to record students' effort too and note which students are playing with other things or chatting about topics unrelated to class, arriving late just in time for free lunch, or not participating/doing homework/trying to learn . students must put forth effort in their own learning too.

        August 30, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  90. Franco Walls

    Colleen,
    What is even better than education to stave off poverty? An intact family unit, and parents are the ones that are best able to provide this for their kids. However, in conjunction with the support of the family everything you said sounds good. I too am a teacher of special education, but this has been all I have ever done. I have been in numerous schools, and like you have furthered my education to the point where I have seen the broader picture of what works and what doesn't. I have evolved in my notion of merit pay as well. I remember in my administration classes being an advocated against it and for a time believing I was right. That was short sighted and I blame one experience I had where I saw merit pay fail. I was in a school where some teachers were paid on the performance of their students and some opted out of the system This lead to the "good students" being put into the classes of those teachers being paid via merit, and the lower performing students in the other cohort. This did not work because it resulted in resentment and when the other teachers came around and wanted to try the merit system the principal had already designated where the higher performing students would go, leaving those late comers with the weaker academically performing classes and no merit pay increases. It was a bad system.

    Merit pay works best, you are correct, with an effective teacher evaluation system but also with an effective principal evaluation system. Danielson's model is a good one to use as a jumping off point. I also feel as if teachers perform better when they are working as a team and that is why I feel PLCs work effectively as well, and it can include special education teachers as well if done right.

    I am a member of VIVA Teachers where this is what our objective is, to improve education. I suggest all teachers who care about the advancement of our profession to join and become active.

    Great piece. Keep them coming.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  91. cc

    As the author points out, merit pay without an honest evaluation system fails to motivate performance so the real problem here is the evaluation system. Implement that first, then we can talk about merit pay. So far it's been the teachers themselves that have been blocking evaluation systems-perhaps that means they'd really prefer to continue 'just doing the job' rather than excelling? There are always exceptions of course-maybe we can find a way to reward those who excel but the real need is to get rid of those who under-perform.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  92. FarLeft

    Merit pay for 'excellence'? What, exactly, will be the measuring-stick for this excellence? Keeping your graduates out-of gangs? Graduating?.., Period? Show the excellence, consistantly, and you may have an arguement.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Bazoing

      I am sorry you are far left. That is as disgusting as far right.Socialism is like staying under the thumb of high school administrators for life. However, I agree with your concern; the teachers of these jail-like places cannot graduate the kids, and are not keeping them out of gangs. The environment is the problem not the teachers.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  93. mcwick

    Pay can only go so far in making the high stress levels worth it. Being treated as a valued professional would go a long way to increasing morale, without having to increase pay. I believe a lot of teachers are okay with the lower pay and the longer work hours; they are just tired of constantly being belittled by society, their administration, and the students. I rarely hear anyone speak up in support of teachers; it seems to be constant tearing down from all sides. I survived five years because I was passionate about the students, but my administration played favorites and made my life hell. I have no passion to teach anymore, so I took a different job in education where I could still work with students, but I wouldn't have the constantly badgering associated with teaching. It was a very good decision, but it does make me sad to think of the numbers of good teachers who are run off every single year. It's ultimately the students who lose out, and it's usually the ones in the inner-city or other poverty-stricken areas who lose out – the ones who need the most help – who lose the most.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  94. Bazoing

    Teachers get paid plenty. Their constant crying that they are poor is a disgrace to their profession. The real problem is classrooms so overcrowded that they are a bunch of prison guards. The disgrace is that this is horrible for the children and for this country's future (what do you know; it has arrived). Their union is typical of white collar unions, however other than their union and the prison guards unions we must have some unions to balance the huge publicly traded corporations.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Brian

      If they get paid "plenty" ,why are nearly half of all teachers taking second jobs at night to pay their bills? You are profoundly ignorant. Please state your opinion when it is an informed one.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  95. Mr. Ed

    Almost half of teachers leave the field after just five years, according to the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. The number one reason teachers leave is lack of administration support. I left. My daughter (taught special ed) left. And a good friend do mine (math) left. We all left because of indifferent and over indulged administrators
    .

    August 30, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Bazoing

      They left because it takes a different and rare personality to run a crowded prison-like classroom. I have been included in a study of the effectiveness of college professors and was right up there at the top. I am also a "Highly Qualified Teacher" (a professional rating, for primary and high school) and I rate myself near the bottom at crowded classrooms. The solution is more teachers and more classrooms, not more perks.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  96. Sigh

    Good luck finding an objective, fair, rating system. Every kid is different, McGurk, and that's a variable that makes a truly objective rating system impossible and therefore merit pay impossible. You should realize after seven years of teaching that every student brings their own unique challenges and success takes many different forms.

    We're not making widgets here. If we were all workers on an assembly line doing identical work, merit pay makes sense. Kids aren't widgets. Go back to the business world.

    August 30, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • C'mon

      Couldn't disagree more. You can always find something to measure that is reasonable. How about drop out rates. That doesn't seem to be hard evaluate objectively within one school. Those that resist a performance-based system do so for a reason...because they are afraid they won't stack up.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:11 am |
      • Mike

        So because I teach in an urban district with a high drop out rate, and my class happens to be filled with kids from poverty stricken families and these kids drop out to go to work to support those families, I don't get the "drop out based merit pay" that my fellow teachers in suburban, low drop out rate districts receive because of the building in which I work?

        That isn't objective. It's still subjective to the building and area of a school district.

        August 30, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Sigh right back to Sigh

      Sorry, I disagree.
      I work in a non-assembly line environment, where I deal with individuals everyday. As individuals they are each unique. I am measured on my ability to work with them, and get them to perform and complete those projects assigned to the team. As has been mentioned, anything can be measured objectively. Your simply making excuses to keep the status quo.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:23 am |
      • Tom

        Sigh is correct – how do you measure teachers when a student (or few) has not been reached for several years in a row, with many people trying? Do all those teachers fail? Do they all lose merit pay because of a few students? What if those students bring in variables that a few hours in the classroom cannot fix? Also, do you reward the teachers for students who achieve every year regardless of who is teaching them? There are more advanced students and there are students that are going to struggle no matter who is in front of them.

        No "comprehensive evaluation instrument" will address all these variables. At some point, reviewer bias will come into play. It is a human condition and part of the reason merit pay, where it has been implemented, is a "buddy buddy club." If you are in the administration's "inner circle," you'll be selected and you'll be rejected if you're not. People who think merit pay is anything but politics and bias are misinformed.

        I've seen people qualify for that "performance bonus" who only taught two classes per day and tests/grades were average at best. The "evaluation instrument" could be perfect but you'll never remove the bias from the administration.

        August 30, 2012 at 10:37 am |
      • David the Teacher

        You work with adults who are at their job, not kids at school, big difference.

        August 30, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
      • C'mon

        No Mike. In your case, the drop out rate would be measured against your own prior year's level. The school could measure whether you are having a positive or negative impact on the metric. Your class could also be compared to other classes within the same school. It will never be perfect but simply giving up and accepting ineffective teachers is not he answer. I assume the problem is that the federal govt/states/schools districts try to force one metric to all schools.

        Finally, I would happily pay higher taxes if I knew the money was being used to improve your compensation...as a group, you're under paid.

        August 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • nhguy

      hey sigh – i worked in advertising for 25 years prior to my 10 years in teaching and i can tell you that every client had its own unique challenges and success – just like the students you mention. i've done both biz and teaching and can tell you the number one reason teachers perform poorly are the same in biz – poor motivation and lack of financial reward and idiot managers. bring on merit pay and remove the union bs that's based on time of service and you'll see better results.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • mdanger

      Do you think this is unique to the teaching profession? In my job I am rated based on my performance yet every single client I work for is different, has different needs and expectations and different timelines. Still, it is up to me to effectivley manage that and perform to the best of my ability. The same variables exist- they can decide to walk away at any time, they can make a poor decision that causes the project to take a terrible turn..but I'm still rated on how well their projects were executed and managed.
      I think teachers do a very tough job and I greatly respect them, but something needs to change to give them an incentive and prevent burnout. I worked in special education, corroborating with teachers and youth with behavioral problems and I can assure you that with the right measures progress and achievement can be accurately reflected. It's my hope that such a system will be put in place- it will help teachers be more accountable and give great teachers an opportunity to be rewarded.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  97. Don M

    I appreciate the good thought and clarity that has been demonstrated in this artiicle. Perhaps though New York is somewhat isolated from the difficult times that others in the country are seeing first hand. In my profession, architecture, there is 30% unemployment, in construction it is worse. These are all nice theoretical thoughts to have but the reality is that money is not available. I know a lot of architects that would gladly trade there degrees for a teaching certificate to escape a profession that told them that work would always be available. I think that this disconnect with the real terms of economic times is what tends to isolate the teaching profession.
    I do realize that some teachers do work long hours. I also have good friends who teach, who work far, far less hours than those in many other professions and who manage to escape for a month each summer with extra time off thoughtful the school calendar. I also have friends who at age fifty retired with a decent income having taught for 20-30 years, again a far different story inmanybother fields of work, particularly now.
    The argument of merit pay still stands however. I am with Coleen as she says that those that put in the effort ought to be paid more. That makes sense to me but not by increasing the tax basis on an economy that is still imperil.

    August 30, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • derp

      My wife is a public school teacher. I make three times what she does working in the private sector. If you are not making a decent living working in the private sector; that is not the teachers fault, it's your fault.

      My wife has never had a 4% raise. She has never gotten a performance bonus. She has never received profit sharing. Her income is fixed, and it will be until she retires. She chose to be a public employee.

      I have recieved salary increases as much as 25%. I have received performance bonuses as much as half my salary. I have received profit sharing. My income potential is unlimited. I chose to work in the private sector.

      Apples, oranges. Don't whine that since the economy sucks, teachers should "share in the sacrifice". They don't share in the fruits of unbridled capitalism, the should not have to share in the downside of unbridled capitalism.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:11 am |
      • Tom

        Thank God someone else gets this. Teacher don't whine at the private sector when PS workers receive 10% bonuses in good years, but the private sector in a down economy wants to take away the benefits that teachers have had for several decades just because they aren't receiving those bonuses anymore.

        Everyone knew what the rules were when they chose their professions and you didn't hear teachers complaining in the early 90s boom. They chose stability, low salary but good benefits. Don't knock them now because it seems like a better choice in hindsight.

        And for the record, these arguments about teacher pay never start with teachers - it is always someone with an axe to grind since their most recent gamble didn't pay off.

        August 30, 2012 at 10:43 am |
      • Chris Bergman

        Excellently said! My kids' teachers have always been dedicated and self-sacrificing mentors and educators. It breaks my heart to see how undervalued they are.

        August 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • CosmicC

      Yes, exactly. The current generation of taxpayers is not able to earn a good living so they should cut off the only means of making sure the next generation isn't faced with the same problem.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  98. Zafarrano Wolffe

    All she says is true, with one exception - school adminstrators, hell-bent for their own (and their friends) career succcess, too often work against the teachers. Protecting teachers from over-aggressive administrators is the principal need for teacher unions. Truth is, school principals are allowed too much authority and independence and, worse, the entire education system, not just the students, needs anti-bullying rules.

    August 30, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • this guy

      Very well said!

      August 30, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  99. Robert Reyes

    With merit pay you put many teachers into the position where they will teach what is required to get that pay, teach the test so to speak. The only people that benefit from these plans are the teachers. The students don't get the quality education they deserve or need to be successful in life. I've seen that with my own kids. In there english literature class, rather then read books and discuss them, they watched the film version over a period of a week then wrote a report on the movie. They didn't have to take phys ed because students & parents complained about there kids having do do physical activities and not being allowed to go home and shower. When he needed help with his math, I sat down with him. When I showed him how to work out the problem he told me they weren't requiried to do that. They use calculators and don't have to show their work. That's just the tip of the iceberg on what I saw. If they want merit pay, set up a program where the success is gauged on the students, not on what the teachers want to teach. Lets take care of our youth!

    August 30, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • BioGuy

      I teach, and administrators in my district have ORDERED teachers to "teach to the tests". This is not the result of merit pay (Which no teacher here receives), but the No Child Left Behind laws which punish schools with students who don't improve on standardized tests in Math and English.
      Teachers were once told that their job was to educate – to encourage kids to learn and show them how to do so – and I was proud to do do the job. Now we cover only that material that improves our students' test scores – or lose our jobs and livelihood.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:19 am |
      • columbus

        All the more reason to get the federal government out of our local schools, much of the costs to schools is in meeting federal mandates which may not even apply to your school district.

        August 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • donna

      They will only teach to the test for merit pay if merit pay is based on test results, which most teachers oppose. However, schools are already encouraged to teach to the test because of NCLB.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • CosmicC

      NCLB was a bad approach, but the problem is real: The quality of education you receive varies greatly from state to state and district to district. Having nationwide standards is needed. Not only are our students out-competed on the global scale, but the top students on the bottom states cannot compete with the average students in the top states.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  100. Mclovin

    I would likely not skip school if they would take math away.

    August 30, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Sir Lord

      I do understand your dilemma, but that's why tutoring before or after school is so crucial so that individuals that share your sentiments can get the assistance that they need in the subject matter such as mathematics!

      August 30, 2012 at 11:24 am |
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