Teacher "pay for performance" not realistic
September 19, 2013 12:31 AM | 1434 views | 9 9 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DEAR EDITOR: RE: Pay for performance for teachers

A performance-based pay system for teachers, based on their students’ test scores, is a great idea if we lived in a perfect world. If all students came to school having eaten a nutritious, well-balanced breakfast with their mom and dad at the breakfast table, then maybe. If every child had a good night’s sleep in a nice bed by themselves in their own room, then perhaps. If each and every student spent their summer vacation on a trip to Washington, D.C., visiting all the monuments, the Capitol, Mt. Vernon and then Williamsburg, well possibly.

Unfortunately many kids come to school without having eaten a thing for breakfast with the caregiver (single mom, grandmother, aunt, sibling) long gone to work, and having slept on an air mattress on the floor with two other siblings, and with nobody to ever help them with their homework. Oftentimes, these same students spend the summer alone in front of a T.V. and never leave their house, let alone go on any kind of vacation.

And we want to reward teachers for high test scores from their students and thus punish teachers who have students with low test scores! Where is the logic in this when there are so many other variables? The classroom teacher is only one, I repeat one, factor in a student’s ability to learn information and to perform well on a standardized test! There are so many other factors that affect a child’s ability to read, learn, perform well, pay attention, absorb information and be a good test taker. In fact, in some colleges, they even have a class on “Factors Affecting Student Performance.”

It’s not just the teacher that influences student performance.

So if this pay system were to be put in place, what teacher is going to want to teach these kids who have no one to ever help with their homework, don’t own a computer, never go on a vacation, and don’t perform well on standardized tests? Probably only those fresh out of college, desperate for any school system that would hire them. Yet these special students are the ones who need the experienced teacher the most.

Plus, pay for performance would just increase “teaching to the test” within the classroom. Teachers have already been robbed of a lot of their creativity by the rigid curriculum requirements. Let’s not put even more pressure on them by expecting them to single-handedly produce high, or even improved, test scores for every student in their classroom.

Pay for performance for teachers is just not realistic because so many different aspects go into student learning and their ability to perform well on a specific day on a specific standardized test.

Sue Lake

west Cobb
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Lisa S.
October 11, 2013
Well stated argument. One more variable - what about teachers of students with special needs?!!
Jane W.
September 26, 2013
If there was such a thing as "teaching to the test," wouldn't test scores be better at struggling public schools? Why would educators endue year after year of embarrassing test scores and the increased public scrutiny which goes with them?

What parents want is accountability and progress -- not more excuses.

Stakeholder 57
September 21, 2013
Thank you, Sue Lake, for a more realistic picture.

How about paying doctors based on performance? Cure your patient of cancer and you get paid. Oh, but you didn't have anything to do with the fact that he kept smoking? You gave him the information he needed to quit? Let him know the risk he was taking? He still got cancer - you didn't do your job.

How about the dentist who has patients who, regardless of the check-ups, the sealants, giving them toothpaste, toothbrush, and floss? She still has cavities - you didn't do your job.

The airline pilot who didn't reach the destination on time, regardless of the poor weather. I still missed my connecting flight - he didn't do his job.

The counselor who still had a patient try to kill themselves?

Need some more examples?

Funny how it doesn't work that way for them...
Cobb History Teacher
September 19, 2013
Well Said Sue!
September 19, 2013
I think this is very disturbing. It is terribly unfair to many excellent teachers who are simply up against a lot of social problems. For instance, students whose parents are either illiterate themselves or unwilling to help the student, students who do not speak English, students who have already fallen far behind. Someone with some common sense needs to address this.
September 19, 2013
We don't let them sleep there, but students can get a well-balanced breakfast at school for cheap or even free. Some families are working their tails off at multiple part-time jobs rather than one good job (thanks to this president) and don't have much time left over to invest in their kids... on that part, you're right.

BUT, if lower-performing classes carried the added incentive of "battle pay" for good teachers to take them and, instead of simply rewarding high scores the reward were tied to the INCREASE in scores for each student, there's a good chance this could work really well.

School systems now are able to track EACH student very carefully, using sophisticated databases and computer programs that can alert teachers to problems, achievement, etc. Though this tech is no panacea, it can be an extremely powerful tool in serving each child, rather than just teaching to the lowest common denominator.

The fact is, many teachers (though not all) have gone online to get an easy degree that qualifies them for a raise rather than focusing on education that actually improves their teaching ability. Those "academia nuts" are focusing solely on their paycheck, not the individual students. Many other teachers do both, get that additional degree or two and excel in the classroom, benefiting the kids.

Don't get me wrong, here. Teaching is a VERY difficult job when done right. My hope is that the good teachers will get significant rewards for their efforts and the bad ones either will try harder or leave.

It all reminds me of the line from the character, Frank Burns, in the TV series M*A*S*H, "Why do I get all the dying patients?!"
Concerned Bystander
September 20, 2013
Do you realize how this data is collected? Testing, testing and MORE testing. My third grade nephew has had some sort of "special test" every week since school began. At his school, they've taken two of his specials days to administer some stupid test. This week it was Cogat. Next week it's ITBS. And there's something called after that.

With all of the testing and data collection when do teachers have time to teach and students have time to learn?
September 23, 2013
Nope. Though standardized tests are a part of that set of data, I'm referring to daily scores on quizzes, homework, etc.

BTW, CCSD has said they want to reduce that standardized tests burden (at their last meeting). I'm looking forward to seeing HOW they accomplish that!
Proud Teacher
September 19, 2013
Perfectly stated. Thank you.
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