Sunday, July 26, 2009

Teachers Will Be Held Accountable...Someday

Recently, I read that President Obama provided the Secretary of Education with $4 billion of federal aid to help speed up change within the American education system. In order for states to be eligible for a portion of the $4 billion, they need to expand who they allow into charter schools (not to mention close failing charter schools) and they need to implement a better way to track student achievement so that the teachers of students who demonstrate growth are "rewarded". This reward system is a type of performance pay for teachers.

I will admit, I am all for this performance based pay. I am unsure how they will exactly measure student achievement when the state standardized tests are given only a few times throughout a child's educational "life span". Science is only tested 3 times (5th, 8th and 11th grade). What if I teach 7th grade science - how will they determine if I am eligible for this bonus pay? I am not sure what the answer is or what it will be, but if bankers can be given a $700,000 bonus for doing well, why can't teachers be rewarded the same way? Now, I know we all didn't become teachers because we thought we were going to get rich in this profession, but a little additional income every now and then would be nice for my unborn child's college fund.

As of right now, teachers who are ineffective are not necessarily penalized. In Florida, if your school achieves a certain grade according to FCAT scores, the entire school receives a bonus. The unfortunate part is this: if YOUR subject area shows improvement or the overall percentage of students who are at or above grade level but another subject area that is involved in the equation to determine your school grade does NOT have a high enough score, your school will not receive as much of a bonus as it could have.

Here is an example: my friend taught Language Arts and with his 8th grade students, they earned a 94% at or above grade level. That's fanstastic, especially since the type of students he teaches are not gifted and talented.

Now, his science teacher, who was placed there last year due to surplussing and bumping (due to the reduction in students enrolled in the district) earned a whopping below 10% at or above grade level.

Her reaction, knowing that my friend was not going to have a job next year due to job cuts, was, "I don't care."

Yup, she's a tenured teacher and she doesn't care. She doesn't care because she knows nothing will happen to her. She will have a job next year and she will continue getting paid and she will have money going towards her retirement and she will have health insurance. She will not be reprimanded or penalized for her student's low performance.

So, why should she care?

This is why I support a performance based bonus for effective teachers. Because there are teachers, young and old, new and experienced, who do care about their students' educational experience and should be rewarded for using best practices.