Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
(CNN) - A new law in Ohio links teacher pay to student performance on standardized tests. Traditionally, teachers are assessed through direct observation, and student outcomes in the classroom don't usually affect their pay. Ohio public school districts will now give each teacher a grade, and half of that grade will be based on students’ test scores. These grades, and thus the exam results, could lead to salary decisions, promotions and terminations.
Pay for performance isn’t new, but it certainly is controversial. Judging from readers’ responses to our story, there aren’t just two sides to this issue, but many.
Even commenters who identified themselves as educators have a variety of opinions:
(Note: Some comments have been edited for space or clarity.)
In the ISD where I work as a teacher in an inner city school (in a state where they say everything is bigger), similar policy will be implemented starting this 2012-2013. It's a year ahead than in Ohio. There are many variables which account for students' achievement aside from teachers – parents, administrators, politicians, and students themselves, to name a few. I do my job well and work hard but I am not a miracle worker. Let all the stakeholders be accountable for the sake of fairness.
I am a teacher and I agree with this new law! I am a teacher in one of the lowest states in the US. I teach at the lowest school in the state and every year I have scores that are some of the highest in the school, district, and the state. Great teachers should be compensated for their hard work. There is no excuse for such a high percent of minimal performing students. I don't care how awful my students' parents are. It's my job to work with what I have and ensure they learn too. Education and a few others is the only job where employees are not paid based on performance. Some of us work extra hard and should be paid accordingly. Those who don't or can't should find something else to do.
There are so many variables that go into test scores that many people who are not in the profession will never know. Lawmakers and non-teachers always blame the teachers for poor scores..but lets put some blame or praises to the parents. I know for a fact that having supportive parents who have good parenting skills will help a child learn much faster and better than non-supportive parents. It can't be my fault if a child hardly comes to school and never completes his/her homework.
I am a Texas high school teacher and I would WELCOME some kind of merit based pay. Much like a commission. You get a base salary and bonuses for performance. I am an excellent teacher and it is completely asinine that a bad teacher next door to me can make 10K – 15K more than me just because they have taught for 15 more years than me. There are ways to deal with the differences in socioeconomics and tying it to test scores. You do statistical analysis of the entire "group" in that category and then do a comparison of your school / classroom to the average. It can work and it should be a PORTION of the evaluation process. Teachers should NO LONGER be paid solely on how long they have taught.
Veteran special ed. teacher
Has anyone considered what this will do to the choices of teachers to be? If I was a beginning teacher I would think twice about teaching challenging, special needs or deprived students, who historically do not necessarily score well on standardized testing. Teaching challenging kids might mean that these teachers will be penalized in pay, fired or their teaching reputations marked, because of their students' basic conditions.
Some readers warn that this new law could see a shortage of teachers in low-performing or lower-income districts:
I have taught at two completely different schools with different student populations, getting much different results with the same teaching style and strategies on the district-wide tests. This law would basically mean that I would NEVER go back to teach the students who did not perform as well, even though they needed my help and expertise even more so.
Inner city schools will find it even harder to find teachers. Charter schools and schools in wealthy districts will not. Thanks Ohio.
While one Ohio teacher thinks that the new law could cause a shortage in districts where students do well on tests:
I teach in Ohio in a high-performing district and I think that this could potentially discourage teachers from teaching in high-achieving districts, contrary to what most people believe. I have also taught in a low-performing district in a poor area for 3 years previously. This model is based off of student GROWTH. While it is not easy, the potential to produce large amounts of student growth is much greater at the low-performing schools than it is in the high-performing schools. I had quite a few kids make 2-3 years worth of growth when I taught in the low-performing district. It is very rare for kids to make 2-3 years worth of growth in my current school because 90% of them come to me at or above grade-level. … If the new system was just based on the passage rate, then low-performing districts in poor areas would have a HUGE problem attracting and retaining teachers. However, since the system is based on GROWTH I don't think this will be a problem. I think that the law is fair for the most part and I am very interested to see how it will be implemented.
Several readers worried about the law’s possible unintended consequences:
IT DOESN'T WORK...the states that are doing this having failing educational systems. Teachers will 'teach to the test' and not the skills that need to be taught. The high school dropout rate will increase. PLAN ON BUILDING MORE PRISONS.
It will not work and this is why. Once Kids know that if a bunch of them do bad on the state required test they can get the teacher fired they will. They will band together and if you don't think that is true you don't know kids….Kids today don't care and don't care who they hurt. This is a bad idea just like teaching towards a state test is a bad idea.
The end result is the teachers will teach the test which is not good. But this does keep weak teachers on task and in attendance.
Phil in Oregon
The worst part of this is the ceding of power to the students. Giving power to children is always a bad idea and will never produce good results. The US govt could go a long way toward giving students a good example by getting some things done.
Readers of Schools of Thought often debate the role of parents in education, and how much influence teachers have over student outcomes, and that theme emerged in discussions about Ohio’s new law:
At your job you have direct control over your work...as a teacher, its up to the students to do work at home and the parents to be involved. The same parents BTW who often think their kids do no wrong.
So yeah, not exactly the same setup is it? Kinda the reason suburban school often our perform inner city schools. Very little to do with the teaching and very much to do with the environment and parental involvement.
clearly what is wrong with public education is the insistence that we use performance on standardized tests that assume all children mature at the same rate and learn in the same way. We have the technology to individualize and personalize instruction to meet the unique needs of every child and we are squandering it on "measuring student growth" based on age-linked cohorts. As long as we think of schools as factories designed to sort students into two or three "piles" we will continue to use tests to bludgeon students, teachers, and public education.
Everyone it seems except public sector workers (and some big executives) is employed based on merit of work and compensated for it. Teachers can adhere to the same standards the rest of us have to. Given their positions, they should be held to a higher standard.
I wonder how many people who have commented that this is a good thing would like THEIR job relying on a single test score that they have no control over how the test was designed or by whom or why, or if the test was designed by legislative corporate cronies with a political axe to grind against teachers, or if the test is valid and reliable and has no political bias. Also, if their job relied on parents that don't care, a gutting of funds for even textbooks that students are to (maybe...in their spare time off the unsupervised internet or video games until the wee hours of the morning) read… So, if you think that it's such a good idea to do this to teachers, then let's do it for doctors, nurses, lawyers, etc... And YOU dear reader that supports this legislation. Let's see how YOU like having YOUR job depend on the whim of politicians and 12 year olds.