Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 22, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

PAY FOR PERFORMANCE....Florida has passed a plan to pay teachers based on how well their kids do on standardized tests:

The effort, now being adopted by local districts, is viewed as a landmark in the movement to restructure American schools by having them face the same kind of competitive pressures placed on private enterprise.

That's a laugh. How many private schools can you name that pay their teachers this way?

Actually, what's really a laugh is the BS that conservative politicians routinely pass off as "being like private enterprise." It's true that companies themselves rise or fall based on some pretty simple metrics, but the people inside them sure don't. Hell, CEOs, those paragons of American entrepreneurial spirit, routinely grant themselves pay plans that are completely divorced from any genuine performance metrics.

At any rate, since politicians are so fond of competitive pay, I suggest that we start paying politicians based on performance. I'm sure they won't mind, accountability being such a watchword and all. I'm open to suggestions on just how we should do this.

Kevin Drum 12:09 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (181)

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Comments

Index congressional salaries to minimum wage.

Posted by: reef the dog on March 22, 2006 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

At any rate, since politicians are so fond of competitive pay, I suggest that we start paying politicians based on performance.

Better yet, let's pay them according to how well they provide for their "constituencies". Oh wait, lobbyists already do that. Never mind.

Posted by: Irony Man on March 22, 2006 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure the Jesuits who endured me during grade school got paid at all. You should have seen their shoes.

Posted by: Roxanne on March 22, 2006 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

We already do -- Duke Cunningham's performance (for his constituents) was directly tied to his pay.

Posted by: sean on March 22, 2006 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

Florida has passed a plan to pay teachers based on how well their kids do on standardized tests

Christ, what an invitation for the teacher to cheat on the test, arrange for low-performing students to be absent on the days of the exams, and "accidentally" give out too much help during the test. Oh and what a swell way to get good teachers to teach in troubled districts. "Thanks for volunteering to work in this poor, high crime high school - enjoy your pay cut!" Just what suburban schools need - another advantage over urban schools. Delightful.

Posted by: FMguru on March 22, 2006 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

> Index congressional salaries to minimum wage.

Or to unemployment?

Or to cost of healthcare?

Posted by: speculator on March 22, 2006 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

DOH! Correcting the hyperlink target: Politician pay should be directly proportionate to job creation during their term in office.

Posted by: James on March 22, 2006 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

FMguru:

Bingo bango bongo.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 22, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

Given that it's much harder work to teach students who have limited English proficiency, with fewer resources, in bad neighborhoods, the teachers who teach the toughest students should get more money, not less.

Posted by: Joe Buck on March 22, 2006 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Why don't we just stop paying Congresspeople pensions? If you're in Congress for 2 years, you get money for the rest of your life. It's a ridiculous system. The only good thing about it is that some government employees get the same benefits as members of Congress. (Not the pension bit, but healthcare, etc.)

The problems of standardized tests go way beyond the urban / suburban divide. Why more people don't stand up on this issue is beyond me. We need less bureacracy, more teachers. Less talk about privatization, more community support for public schools.

Posted by: C.J. on March 22, 2006 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Jobs did someone say jobs;

link

Posted by: Neo on March 22, 2006 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

Running deficits is bad. Taking too much of "the people's money" is bad.

So the closer the government operates to "break even", the more Congress and the President and the Federal Reserve Board gets paid.

This year, they get zero.

Posted by: Robert Earle on March 22, 2006 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

Want to cut spending? Starting now, every Senator and Congressman will get a ration of discretionary Federal spending vouchers for their state or district. It'll be based on whatever was spent in that state or district during a randomly-selected target year (relatively recent), and adjusted upward for inflation each year. Within that limit, they can party on. And yes, I'd include defense contracts.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 22, 2006 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

Anybody who thinks a politician's salary is his prime motivator hasn't been paying attention. There probably isn't one Senator in fifty who couldn't easily make more money doing something else.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 22, 2006 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

We already do -- Duke Cunningham's performance (for his constituents) was directly tied to his pay.

Say what you will about the Dukester, but he did manage some impressive throughput. A real perfomer!

Posted by: sglover on March 22, 2006 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, your analogy between private enterprise CEOs and schools would only be valid if the school administrators' salaries also varied with performance. Will they?

Posted by: tbrosz on March 22, 2006 at 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

I send my children to school so they can learn how to do well at standardized tests.

I later traded them in for a computer. The computer was much better at regurgitating standarcized output.

I've never been happier.

Posted by: exhuming mccarthy on March 22, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

The President makes national yearly median income. Representatives (being the source of budget resolutions) make national yearly median income adjusted downward relative to an index of the size of the budget deficit. Senators, who have long terms because they are supposed to take the long view, make 2/3 of a Rep's salary the first term, and recieve pay increases equal to 1/3 of a Representative's yearly take for every six years of service.

Governors make statewide yearly median income, &c.

Posted by: dunno on March 22, 2006 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

I suggested a week or two ago that we cut politicians' pay to 30K a year, on the theory that they might recover some of their principles if losing their jobs didn't cause such an economic hit.

Posted by: Linkmeister on March 22, 2006 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

Why not just make the job commission based? Why have a salary at all?

The article didn't mention whether education spending would be going up in Florida, or how it was being paid for. I got the idea (from the article) this somehow represented additional money being used to pay for good performance. (Color me skeptical.)

Some features of the program make sense, such as tying performance gains to improvement over the year prior.

Fundamentally, the plan presupposes that teachers respond to the same incentives that, say, a bricklayer responds to: threatened with unemployment or entreated with prospective raises, the bricklayer lays more bricks.

Maybe education and bricklaying aren't identical vocational models. Maybe education is more like medicine: set the bar (and the rewards) really high and you get highly qualified people. You don't have to incentivize them not to kill their patients, and you don't struggle to find people willing to do it.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on March 22, 2006 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

' Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has characterized the new policy, which bases a teacher's pay on improvements in test scores, as a matter of common sense, asking, "What's wrong about paying good teachers more for doing a better job?" '

By the way, proving aqain that liberals don't read or think ....

The policy links pay to improvement. An inner city school has as much scope for improvement as
a top school...

This is no disadvantage to inner city schools.


Posted by: Mca on March 22, 2006 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

Right, because instead of having a congressman accept a donation to his campaign effort in exchange for "access", we'll just go for outright bribes so he can afford to go to Washington. Good call.

Read the article. Pay linked to increase in student abilities ain't so bad. Sure, if you get a classroom full of underperforming kids, it's a lot harder to bring them up. But if you're being rewarded for that, the teacher that covers the gap stands to be rewarded - and there's more incentive for the early grades not to drop the ball.

If you've gone through public education in the US, you've probably had your share of both good and bad teachers. You -know- they exist. Increasing the number of good teachers and decreasing the number of bad ones are worthy goals. And, in the absence of good metrics, I'll settle for "can Johnny read and add?", because as it is, far too many Johnnies can't.

Posted by: Avatar on March 22, 2006 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe education and bricklaying aren't identical vocational models. Maybe education is more like medicine: set the bar (and the rewards) really high and you get highly qualified people.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on March 22, 2006 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps but then you have the issue of cost, because like medicine the incentives have to be high.

And medicine has a quality control called lawsuits. Would you then allow trial lawyers to sue teachers for malpractice if a high IQ kid gets a low SAT?

Medicine is probably the worst economic model you can use.

I like bidding. Every government school has 5% private slots.

Parents can leave their normal schools and bid for these. If the school is in a neighbouring district, some funds move along with the student to meet part of the cost.

Schools that have long waiting lists for their private slots are good schools and schools that don't are bad. Teachers get a bonus at good schools.

Posted by: McA on March 22, 2006 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

This might work if teachers are given the power to fire students who don't meet certain standards. How else does one get the couch potato, video addicted brain dead students going through public schools today to actually give a shit about being taught the answers to questions they don't even understand. We need to start teaching children to think, not memorize answers.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on March 22, 2006 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

That's a laugh. How many private schools can you name that pay their teachers this way?

It's not a "laugh" to claim that private businesses and private schools face competitive pressures not faced by public schools. Private schools and private businesses can go out of business, and have to please their customers, because the latter can vote with their wallets. Public schools, by contrast, possess a captive audience as long as children continue to be born in their districts. Public schools thus face little in the way of competitive pressure, and little in the way of a mechanism forcing them to improve quality. Don't like your Dell? Vote with your wallet and buy a Mac. Don't like your high school? Too bad -- we, the public education establishment -- sure as hell aren't going to be so stupid as to give you the option of punishing our incompetence by taking your business elsewhere.

Posted by: The Kevin Drum Truth Squad on March 22, 2006 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

"I really like how moonbatty this site has become..."
Posted by: Manco_Dollars

What a wonderful post, so constuctive. I'm glad you got out of your mom's basement to post it.

Posted by: Satan on March 22, 2006 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK


TBROSZ: Anybody who thinks a politician's salary is his prime motivator hasn't been paying attention. There probably isn't one Senator in fifty who couldn't easily make more money doing something else.

Money/power (these are interchangeable, particularly when it comes to the motivations of most politicians) is the "prime motivator" of politicians. There isn't one person in fifty who makes as much as someone in congress. As for those who are there being able to make more if they were somewhere else, that mostly applies to after they have left; and it doesn't take into account the many perks not included as part of their salaries. Whether they stay or go, time spent in office is an investment which greatly increases net worth. But to the extent that your assertion is correct, it only speaks to their elitism and how detached from their constituents politicians are and how wholly unrepresentative of them they are.


Posted by: jayarbee on March 22, 2006 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

"This is no disadvantage to inner city schools."

So you teach, live, attend an inner-city school? Then how the fuck do you know?

Posted by: Bill O' on March 22, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

This bill will lead to widespread test result fraud, as well as internal student tracking systems that group high performing students together to be rewarded in mass to teachers most loyal to administrators. High performing students under this system are now worth disproportionately more than those that most need a good teacher.

If you want to measure success you have to look at relative improvement over long periods of time. Can be done with standardized testing systems but is not even remotely reflected in this bill.

Posted by: patience on March 22, 2006 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

The reason Jeb is pushing this half-measure is because of the tremendous resistance vouchers are recieving from the Judicial tyrants on the Florida Supreme Court. making up sophistries to thwart the will of the people.

As long as education is viewed as something public employees are supposed to pour into the heads of our disinterested tykes, we will continue to have miserable results. For all of Kevin's sneering at vouchers or parental choice, I've never seen him adress the prime benefit of these programs: it would motivate the couch potato parents, especially underclass moms, to have to take a more active role and responsibility for their kid's education. Knowing that they have to choose where to invest their school voucher would force them to at least consider what kind of structure, disciplinary rules and procedures, and acedemic requirements they want to negotiate with their kid's educators. Once they have agreed to such a contract alot of the frivolous disputes, i.e. lawsuits over Johnnie's suspension, would be obviated. This idea of empowerment and partnership in education is what terrifies the NEA bureaucracy, and is a prime example of why I still hold my nose and vote Repub each November.

Posted by: wks on March 22, 2006 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

Mca-

I agree that medicine isn't a perfect corollary. Nonetheless, economic models that I have seen for medical practioners account for doctor's inclination to serve patients - in this sense I do think that medicine is a better corollary to education than sales or bricklaying.

It's also clear that the risks associated with a single bad teacher are not the same as those associated with a single bad doctor; therefore the idea of comparing litigatory responses between the two is silly.

Instead of suing or auctioning, I like the idea of parents joining the PTA.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on March 22, 2006 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

I fully agree with kevin that education services controlled by centralized political bodies is likely to produce sub-optimal results. I fully agree with many in this forum that having national defense controlled by centralized poitical bodies results in all manner of poor use of capital. I wish Kevin and many in this forum would explain why they have such Faith in the ability of centralized political bodies to produce optimal results in the delivery of health care, and to use capital well in that pursuit. Is there some sort of magic wand which prevents the dynamics at play, in having centralized political bodies controlling education and national defense, from being in play when centralized political bodies control the delivery of health care?

Posted by: Will Allen on March 22, 2006 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

The highway trust funds have a formula for balancing the amount each state gets on a per capita basis. If the rest of the federal budget were handled like that, the blue states would get much more, the red states much less. A simple formula to determine national health, i.e. jobs, healthcare, environmental quality, fiscal balance, etc. could be set up as a yardstick to judge Congress. If they don't meet expectations, the budget would default to equal funds to each district. Anybody losing their state or district tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds is not going to be re-elected.

Posted by: Common Sense on March 22, 2006 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

In some states, children have to pass assessment exams in order to graduate. Perhaps, politicians should also have to pass assessment exams (administered by constituents, of course) in order to remain in office.

Posted by: Moira on March 22, 2006 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

What a bunch of traitors ya'll are... You don't deserve to be called Americans. You ream Taliban.

Posted by: Donkey_Courage on March 22, 2006 at 2:01 AM | PERMALINK

I always hated standardized tests in school. If school was based around these stupid things I'd probably skip school and take up smoking pot.

If they want to make it performance based why don't they base teachers pensions on the average salaries of their former students, the % that are incarcerated, or the total weight of anti-depressants they take.

Posted by: ranaaurora on March 22, 2006 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

To hell with the pay - I've always thought congress critters should be berthed like the military is - in barracks.

Better yet, put 'em up in some decomissioned submarines, and make 'em hot rack.

Posted by: j on March 22, 2006 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

Xin chao, Minh den tu HL, minh mong muon duoc lam quen voi tat ca cac ban. Thanks in advance

Posted by: phuong on March 22, 2006 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

From the story:

"The centerpiece of the new effort, known as E-Comp, requires all school districts in Florida to identify the top 10 percent of each variety of teacher and award them a 5 percent salary supplement."

A 5 percent bonus when your kids score well seems pretty reasonable. They tried this in California a few years back, but the state ran out of money. As I recall, the LA Unified teachers union refused to deal on the issue, accepting bonuses only to be shared and shared alike by all teachers.

Of course, the real problem is that the kids have no motivation to do well on the FCAT. Why not pay them for their improvement?

Posted by: trotsky on March 22, 2006 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

Standardized tests are the opposite of intelligence. Any idiot can be trained to pass standardized tests, especially multiple choice. To actually be taught how to think, how to do logic, how to critically reason, how to form an argument, how to end an argument, how to form an allusion, how to create an escape, those are the brilliant things you can learn, and that we need teachers to teach.

We don't need standardized tests validating a bunch of chimpanzee technicians.

Posted by: Jimm on March 22, 2006 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin only posted this so he'll get mentioned in "The Daily Howler" again tomorrow.

Posted by: SteveK on March 22, 2006 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

If they really wanted to see an improvement, they'd pay the KIDS for performance. Think about it: Which works better in the long run --- a system like that in the former USSR where workers are guaranteed jobs (with no incentive to perform them well) while the CEOs receive big bonuses, or a system of incentive pay for the actual workers?

Posted by: catherineD on March 22, 2006 at 2:50 AM | PERMALINK

Florida!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Florida!

I'll bet their teacher pay is near the bottom of the national scale.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on March 22, 2006 at 4:16 AM | PERMALINK

Phuong oi - em song o dau? O Ha Long?

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 22, 2006 at 4:23 AM | PERMALINK

Hey - how about we pay our troops in Iraq by the scalp? That how the West was won, right?

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 22, 2006 at 4:24 AM | PERMALINK

Jimm--you can sneer at standardized tests, but they are the only egalitarian factor (besides sports) going on in education. Standardized testing was developed precisely so that children from poor or working class families would have a chance to go to college by demonstrating they did have intellectual merit.

You see, back when there were no standardized tests it happened that teachers most frequently recommended kids from rich or influential families to go to college because, by golly, it seemed those kids completed their homework or did projects more often, usually did well on teacher-made tests, were more popular and participated in a lot of activities, etc. By all subjective measures, kids from richer backgrounds tend to get rated higher by local establishments.

Today I see educators backsliding and going along with the position that standardized tests "only" measure some superficial kind of verbal ability. This view asserts that multiple choice questions only measure your verbal abilities and how well you take tests. Bullshit. Most well-designed test questions figure out in a hurry who should be rocket scientist, the medical doctor, or the social statistician who will direct a billion dollar program. By and large, the person who can do The New York Times crossword puzzle in five minutes is also the one whose SAT scores were all above 1400 and the one who you really want engineering the materials of the pacemaker they are planting in your chest.

Yes, there is such a thing as non-verbal intelligence and people who are quite smart but always "froze" on tests. I know wood workers and auto mechanics like that. I've known CEO's who couldn't spell cat without advice from a secretary. I've got two young guys in the family who can't pass tests, do their homework, or stay in school, but one can rip off a Jimi Hendrix riff on the guitar without thinking about it and the other can walk up to anyone, make a friend, and convince them that any product you can name is far superior to all the other products.

It's like the old complaint about "story" problems in math. Yeah, story problems are hard. But they make you learn how to write equations. More than that, most real mathematics problems in life are "story" problems. The rest you can do on a calculator.

If standardized tests are done away with, soon the children of local elites will be the only ones magically getting recommendations to higher learning. There is a strong affirmative action tendency in a lot of places already. The worst university you can have has a lot of children who are there because their parents and grandparents were alumni and donate a lot to the school, the affirmative action kid whose parents are local political powerhouses, and the foreign kid who (unlike most such students) doesn't really test well on English language tests, but was recommended highly by someone who knows someone because of his or her passionate, trendy political views.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 22, 2006 at 5:02 AM | PERMALINK

A guy named Kevin Drum once noticed a really good idea for effective standardized-test based teacher pay schemes.

A guy named Tyler once wrote a blog post about it.

Posted by: Tyler Simons on March 22, 2006 at 5:16 AM | PERMALINK

"Hell, CEOs, those paragons of American entrepreneurial spirit, routinely grant themselves pay plans that are completely divorced from any genuine performance metrics."

speaking of which, Billmon has a new post up (finally!) addressing - with typical Billmon brilliance - some recent comments by our beloved Treasury Sec Snow. Well worth the trip.

Posted by: Triskele on March 22, 2006 at 5:53 AM | PERMALINK

Jimm writes: Any idiot can be trained to pass standardized tests, especially multiple choice.

Then why do so many children have trouble passing them?

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on March 22, 2006 at 6:50 AM | PERMALINK

Any politician who votes for such a plan should have her/his salary set in a comparable manner. Two wrongs does not make a right, but it would serve voters well to watch/listen as the perpetrators of such an idiotic compensation approach for teachers struggle to define effective, measurable performance for themselves. Elected officials, bereft of achievement and performance, nonetheless are all paid the same except, of course, for the special stipends they receive for committee and leadership jobs...just like teachers who are paid stipends for additional duties (e.g., coaches).

Posted by: Jack Polidori on March 22, 2006 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

Wow ! ! ! I can't belive it. One cock-a-maney idea after another put in place. Florida has taken California's place as "the land of the fruits and nuts."

Posted by: Chief on March 22, 2006 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK

j,

Spoken like a smoke boat sailor. Rickover's nuke-e-poos each have their own bunk and writing desk. Bet they don't have an 'after battery' either.

Posted by: Chief on March 22, 2006 at 7:55 AM | PERMALINK

Pay for performance, in regards public school teachers? I'll merely recall the old saying "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." In other words, as applied here, you can be the best teacher in the world, but if your classes don't want to study, the teacher can't make them.

Posted by: raj on March 22, 2006 at 7:55 AM | PERMALINK

How many private schools can you name that pay their teachers this way?

Not a one that I know.

The vast majority of private schools also pay their teachers LESS than their public-school counterparts; I know this because I took a pay cut when I quit my public-school teaching job to come to my current independent boarding school. (The perks are better here, as are the general teaching circumstances, but the salary is definitely lower.)

Posted by: PCashwell on March 22, 2006 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

"Hell, CEOs, those paragons of American entrepreneurial spirit, routinely grant themselves pay plans that are completely divorced from any genuine performance metrics."

You mean like Congressmen???

Posted by: Lurker42 on March 22, 2006 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Wow I should have read responses before I posted. You guys/gals are already all over this.
My bad.

Posted by: Lurker42 on March 22, 2006 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

I would love to see pols get their pay tied to i don't know the national debt level? or how about how many votes they cast, as far as vouchers are concerned, i don't think privatizing everything is a good idea just like i don't think the government control over everythinig is a good idea either, i don't want my tax dollars spent so somebody can send their brat to a close minded church school

Posted by: Jeremy on March 22, 2006 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Everyones pay and/or raises should be based on performance. That is what gives incentive to perform well. How to do it with teachers...good question but I bet I would be making more money if I could come up with an answer. nyuk-nyuk

Posted by: Lurker42 on March 22, 2006 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

"At any rate, since politicians are so fond of competitive pay, I suggest that we start paying politicians based on performance."

That's a good idea. Also, since politicians get fired (voted out) for doing a poor job, how about we apply it to teachers too?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 22, 2006 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

"This might work if teachers are given the power to fire students who don't meet certain standards."

This wouldn't be a big issue if there were no such thing as social pormotions.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 22, 2006 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

"Everyones pay and/or raises should be based on performance. That is what gives incentive to perform well."

But that would create a disparity in income between teachers. Isn't the goal to achieve the opposite?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 22, 2006 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

The education at private schools is inferior to public schools.

Inferior.

Private school teachers get memos saying "Parents pay $20,000/year to send their kids here. No one will fail."

If private schools choose to demonstrate that they are as good as public schools, they will accept and administer state tests. Until they do, they are to be considered inferior.

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 22, 2006 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

"The education at private schools is inferior to public schools."

Funny how limosine liberals send their kids to private schools. Obviously, talk is pretty cheap.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 22, 2006 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

The vast majority of private schools also pay their teachers LESS than their public-school counterparts; I know this because I took a pay cut when I quit my public-school teaching job to come to my current independent boarding school. (The perks are better here, as are the general teaching circumstances, but the salary is definitely lower.)

In addition, most or many are not qualified as having passed state exams.

They are not highly qualified in the NCLB sense.

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 22, 2006 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Funny how limosine liberals send their kids to private schools. Obviously, talk is pretty cheap.

My kids go to public school. I went to public schools, from grade school, junior high, high school, college and grad school.

I got my PhD in a public school.

How about you? Where is your PhD from?

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 22, 2006 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

"Christ, what an invitation for the teacher to cheat on the test, arrange for low-performing students to be absent on the days of the exams, and "accidentally" give out too much help during the test."

That's right. Now, if we guarantee every student all A's to begin with, that would eliminate any need to cheat for everyone.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 22, 2006 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Conservamorons like freedom chicken demonstrate again that the operative factor in today's Repukeliscum party is .... stupidity.

You cannot be a Repuke in today's Repukeliscum party unless you are stupid.

You believe anything Limbaugh says. You believe James Dobson, and kiss his picture.

You are nothing but ignorant sheep, bleating out Rove's talking points.

YOu have never taught, and don't know anything about it.

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 22, 2006 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Why are you sitting here in a safe warm place and posting, Freedom Faggot? Enlist now, and be a man.

Why is it that so many Repukes today are physical cowards? Admittedly this is the example set by Chicken Shit George, the Coward in Chief.

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 22, 2006 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

This is a bit complicated and so we do not expect the liberal base to get it. You see in Florida we want to help all children do well not just the wealthy so this state that is leading the nation in innovative sollutions is offering all children, poor, minority a chance for a better education. We understand if you do not get this concept, especailly if you attended a public school in the north.

Posted by: daveyo on March 22, 2006 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Politicians' salaries go to relieving any deficit incurred that year, proportional to the specific bills they voted on which caused the deficit.

Posted by: Bah Humbug on March 22, 2006 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

especailly if you attended a public school in the north.

Yep, this demonstrates again that the reason that the South needs to have stricter laws is due, simply, to the vast incompetence of the Southern mindset. Southeners have more divorces, more alcoholism, more drug addiction, more stupidity, and more need for strict state coersion.

Basically, in the South, civil society does not work because it is run by Southeners.

If we replaced all the corrupt incompetent Southeners by industrious Yankees, things would work immediately.

The problem with the South is that it is filled with Southern citizens.

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 22, 2006 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Enough with the faggot remarks, please, POedLib.

Posted by: shortstop on March 22, 2006 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

I see on a daily basis the products of a system that requires teachers to teach to a multiple choice test.

The product is not a good one. Of course, wingnuts will cheer anything that comes out of a Bush, no matter from what orifice.

Posted by: Ba'al on March 22, 2006 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

In Michigan the written essay for the MEAP test was graded by a company that hired college students from Grand Rapids (our bible belt). These kids were grading essays from Detroit street kids, Saginaw Chippewas and UP trappers as well as their own small cohort, and they got 90 seconds to grade each one.
That's why multiple guess tests are so popular--they're mediocre predictors, but you can grade them in seconds with a scantron. A couple of year-end, 1000 word essays would be far better, but no one wants to pay to have them graded.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on March 22, 2006 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

"being like private enterprise."

Most new businesses fail in their first year. Why are we supposed to draw our political leaders from this caste of professional losers?
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on March 22, 2006 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

That's why multiple guess tests are so popular--they're mediocre predictors, but you can grade them in seconds with a scantron. A couple of year-end, 1000 word essays would be far better, but no one wants to pay to have them graded.

Reliability (correspondence between grades offered by different graders) is unbelievably low with such exams.

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 22, 2006 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

POed liberal is right about private schools. The ones that appear to perform better do so because they are selective in what students they accept to begin with. They do not have any mandated standards for who can teach there and they pay much less.

Much the same can be said about private universities, I might add. The public university where I teach does not limit itself to the top 4% of students. I would argue it is a better environment, and in any case, it is about 15% of the cost of the elite private school located 10 min drive away.

Posted by: Ba'al on March 22, 2006 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Much the same can be said about private universities, I might add. The public university where I teach does not limit itself to the top 4% of students. I would argue it is a better environment, and in any case, it is about 15% of the cost of the elite private school located 10 min drive away.

I went to U of I for my undergrad education. U of I has numerous Nobel Prize winners on its staff. It is true that most students do not have exposure to these persons, but you can take their classes in the upper levels of undergrad school.

Regrettably, the Repuke approach to taxation has led to yearly decreases in support for public universities, making it more and more difficult to have middle class students attend even state universities

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 22, 2006 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

The education at private schools is inferior to public schools.

Umm... no. Sorry, PO. You cannot make that generalization.

There are superb public schools (I went to one myself) and there are superb private schools, such as the one where I teach now. There are also bad public schools (such as the one where I used to teach) and bad private schools (such as many of the ones that send students here.)

What makes a school good or bad isn't the source of its funding; it's the combination of involved parents and capable faculty. If you don't get those elements, you can throw as much money into the pot as you want--from any source you want--and you'll get a weak school.

Posted by: PCashwell on March 22, 2006 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Let's see, the problem with Southerns is that we are dumber and more inferior to Northerners. Quick quiz Northerners who was the last President of the United States from a Northern State? Tough Category History. Ok. here is an easier. Which part of the Nation is the fastest growing, oops Geography, sorry. Finally Which property values increased the most since 2000, oops Economy. Sorry for the quiz, go back to watching the moving vans that are headed south.

Posted by: daveyo on March 22, 2006 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Boy am I glad that my youngest doesn't have to deal with this. She has learning disabilities, and after Kindergarten screening for public school, we were told that if we sent her there, she would end up in Special Ed, even though she didn't really belong in the program. We were fortunate enough to afford private school and now she is a college freshman. I can only imagine how radioactive she would have been to teachers whose pay was tied to her standardized test scores, which were always very low.

Posted by: KyCole on March 22, 2006 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

With all due respect to your personal opinion about your school, until private schools subject themselves to the same testing as public schools, we must consider them inferior.

They don't test for a simple reason: They are afraid that if people see that their results are equivalent to public schools, they will lose their students.

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 22, 2006 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

PCashwell, you raise a point I don't think anyone else has touched. When I read about this plan, my first thought was, "Way to divorce parental involvement from educational outcomes."

I haven't read the details (I will), but my wild guess is that the effect of family environment, example and engagement hasn't even been considered by the idiots who came up with this garbage.

Posted by: shortstop on March 22, 2006 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

from my brother in Fl who has 2 kids in the system:
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
"Florida schools declined since the introduction of the lottery. They promoted the lottery profits for education in our schools. Here is what happened. Lets say before the lottery, the state of Florida had an education budget of $15 Billion. Once the lottery started the revenue created by ticket sales was $2 Billion. What the state did the following year was reduce the states portion to education by $13 Billion and made up the difference with the lottery revenue!! So they took the extra $2 Billion and spent it elsewhere!! They didn't add to the education budget at all, They robbed us! As the lottery novelty wore off and people didn't buy the same amount of tickets as the year before, the lottery revenues declined, therefore the schools got less money.

FCAT:

That is all they focus on in the class room because their scores reflect the amount of money they receive from the state. If you're an "A" school they get more money. If you are a "C" school you get less. Where's that logic? I feel if you score low they should get more money to hire better teachers. Our school board allows the FCAT money awarded to the individual school as a discretionary fund for the principal to use as he sees fit. He uses the money as bonuses to the teachers and staff not for curriculum, technology or classroom improvements. My kids don't even know how to write in cursive!
We have a school in Vero where 80% are Mexican kids since it is located near the citrus groves and vegetable fields. They need bilingual teachers and English classes to teach these kids English. What do you think their scores are? The principal is my friend and you don't how many times he has asked for help from me. I hit up the business communities and chamber of commerce for money.

F#CK the FCAT and teach these kids the three R's, science and social studies."

Posted by: patsy on March 22, 2006 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, this is nice. An elementary school is boosting pep for the test by having the kiddies sing:

I'm doing good on FCAT/Yes I am

Sigh.

Posted by: shortstop on March 22, 2006 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

This issue makes my blood boil...with a combined total of nearly 60 years expeience in the classroom, my husband and I may just have a better handle on this than a POLITICIAN who probably hasn't been in a classroom since leaving school (except for Bush reading to the kiddies). More articulate posters than I will delineate the variety of reasons why teaching is UNLIKE working in the private sector and assisting students on their learning journey to open mindedness and critical thinking is NOT like making a car! Of course it's the very tenets of education that are now under attack...it's about the test, STUPID!...not the learning. It's about finding a way to reward teachers that march along in the approved line and chastising those who truly believe in LEARNING. One more example of how this gang is destroying our true American values.

Posted by: Dancer on March 22, 2006 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Give them a bonus for cutting wasteful spending. Make it a "contingency fee" at 1/3 of the amounts cut. I'd rather have 635 extremely well compensated (and taxed back on it) than fund an extra trillion dollars of bull.

Posted by: steve on March 22, 2006 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK
Why don't we just stop paying Congresspeople pensions? If you're in Congress for 2 years, you get money for the rest of your life.

Wrong. You have to serve at least five years to get any pension at all, and the amount is tied to length of service and age, just like virtually every pension plan I've heard of. It's also a contributory system, so it really isn't that different. See for yourself.

Posted by: eric on March 22, 2006 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Private school teachers get memos saying "Parents pay $20,000/year to send their kids here. No one will fail."

Posted by: POed Liberal

My sister, whoring at a very expensive private school, says that a B+ (for work which deserved a C-) will have the BMW/Escalade Brigade circling the parking lots.

She says they don't actually get out of their vehicles carrying vats of boiling pitch and goosedown pillows (or having their illegal nannies and gardeners carry more likely) but since the windows are so deeply tinted, you can't be sure that they aren't 'packing'.

Giving the actual earned C- would probably trigger lynch mobs.

Private schools are about many things but the actual measurable quality (and remember they don't have to submit to the same testing standards) of the education is frequently secondary to other concerns - social status and 'making the right contacts' are often paramount.

Posted by: CFShep on March 22, 2006 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

I am a Republican, of course, and a supporter of standardized tests, especially for making a high school diploma actually mean something, like being able to demonstrate that you can calculate the area of a carpet, locate Kansas and Liberia on a map of the world, and not only write a decent essay, but be able to read any column on The New York Times editorial page (I had one there once and am partial to citizens being able to read them. Mine had only a few four-syllable words.)

I am pushing my beloeved "Repuke" party to raise teacher wages in proportion to an increase in the school year from 180 days to 210 days, and the school day to a full eight (8) hours for grades 3-12. As a former teacher, counselor, and principal I think the main problem with American schools is that students aren't there long enough. Since most students will have to take at least three types of achievement tests in their careers, "teaching to the test" isn't a bad idea if the domain of potential testable material in each battery is broad enough.

Someone said that standardized tests are a poor indicator of later success. I'd like to send that one in to Myth-Busters.

The other main thing I intend to do is to re-criminalyze chronic truancy and dropping out of school before age 18. We may as well, because drop-outs have about a 90% chance of soon criminalizing themselves due to the path of miserable existence they have chosen. We may as well skip a step, here.

But first I would try all manner of alternative schools with them, including non-lockdown boarding schools in another state if necessary for students with particular needs. But if all that continues to fail, then the drop-out would be in for a lockdown boarding school or apprenticeship program. The apprenticeship program could pay above the minimum wage convertible only to a further education scholarship fund.

Regarding universities, the single biggest factor in soaring tuition costs is that liberal academia has realized that the federal government is a pusher of student loans and encourages students to bury themselves in debt.

Nothing so amuses me as the avowedly liberal college professor knocking down over 100K a year by fleecing undergraduates whom he hardly has contact with. His graduate students are doing all the grunt work and in return the tenured faculty begrudge them absolutely everything and treat them worse than serfs. Been there, done that.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 22, 2006 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

With "School Choice," I see all the schools competing for the best students, as happened with the the system in England; school choice evolved from a program of students choosing schools to one of schools picking and choosing their students.

Test scores are just photographs of a single point in time. You can't see any movement. Therefore, if a teacher is making remarkable gains with the still low-scoring immigrant Haitians, she or he will be paid a lower salary than the teacher whose white upper class students are gaining at an average rate. It's incentive for the good teachers to move on to schools where they are needed the least. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

This whole system is based on the theory that a "free market" system of competition will improve education. Now, perhaps if we make it a true free market and go with "Value-Added" system of pay, it might come closer to working. Base pay on the percentage of growth shown by the tests over a longer period. The students who come into schools with already high test scores have little gain, therefore they aren't as valuable to the good teachers and schools. The schools and teachers will really want to attract the lower-scoring students because they have so far the can go.

Posted by: Jim in Arizona on March 22, 2006 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Freedom Fighter
"But that would create a disparity in income between teachers. Isn't the goal to achieve the opposite?"

Only if ALL teachers are performing at the same level. That is highly unlikely. In any job there are good performers, outstanding performers as well as degrees at the opposite end of the scale. Would you suggest that a teacher who isn't doing their job satisfactorily should be paid the same as the teacher of the year? The goal is to get teachers to perform better to achieve better pay.

But then I think you knew that *shrug* I'll say it anyway.

Posted by: Lurker42 on March 22, 2006 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps everyone should be paid equally. regardless of the product they deliver. Sure, why not? let's imagine the analogy (which, like most, falls flat when examined too closely, but can still serve as ah AHHA moment): I buy a loaf of white, squishy, totally nutritionally void bread, and you buy a loaf of "real" bread, loaded with all sorts of ingredients. Let's each pay $3 for our loaves. Why not? they do equal work on the shelf, preening to be bought. They each are about the same weight and volume. Why not pay equally? how about the next analogy? let's assume that three utility companies, each a monopoly in it's own area, unless you can afford alternative fuel, exist, each giving power to the customer at a flat rate per month. But each of the three delivers differing amounts of energy to each consumer. Yet they all pay a flat rate.

Doesn't make sense, doesn't it? Now insert "teacher". Why does that make sense?

Posted by: Chris on March 22, 2006 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Deduct a sum from their salary equal to the amount the deficit is to the federal budget. Then add to that the percentage that the median wage increased during that term.

To stop them from selling the government to lobbyists, you would have to institute public funding of campaigns. Carville and Begala had the best scheme. No campaign fundraising of any kind for incumbents, since they represent a conflict of interest. Challengers can raise all the money they want. Then the public matches whatever the challenger raises.(Keeps things fair). If the incumbent wanted to spend his own money (free speech) the fund would match that amount with the challenger. You then provide more free debate time in the media. It would greatly reduce campaign costs. take money out the campaign, and even the playing field.

Posted by: Paul on March 22, 2006 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

It's true that companies themselves rise or fall based on some pretty simple metrics, but the people inside them sure don't.

Huh? I dunno about you, but most of the places I've worked in private industry have used fairly simple metrics as the key evaluation of many of their employees -- certainly its frequently true in sales (ever hear of commission?), but its also true in other areas.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2006 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Now, now.

>>I buy a loaf of white, squishy, totally nutritionally void bread, and you buy a loaf of "real" bread, loaded with all sorts of ingredients. Let's each pay $3 for our loaves. Why not? they do equal work on the shelf, preening to be bought. They each are about the same weight and volume. - Chris

They're nothing of the sort. The conventionally produced bread-like substance is much lighter for unit of volume than 'real' bread.

Dough emulsifiers and stabilizers hold water and air into the bread-like substance to give the appearance of bulk.

Mash the loaves and look at the result...they'll both weigh about a pound, but the conventional loaf will be 1/3 or more smaller when compressed even though it LOOKED 1/3 LARGER on the shelf.

Lovely deal for the conventional bakeries: sell air for food prices. It's widespread practice throughout the industrial food industry.

I do this a supermarket checkouts from time to time with regard to ice cream:

Someone will comment about my 'expensive' Ben & Jerry's...

I take a pint the regular stuff from their basket (or from the nearest frezer case) and a pint of the 'super premium' and weight them.

The regular stuff is a miracle of 'overrun'. The vegetable gums (guar gum and derivitives of irish moss - a kind of seaweed) and stabilizers allow more air to be temporarily incorporated into the excess overrun stuff - that's why it gets so foamy when it begins to melt (at much lower temps than the premiums, too.) - that's the air escaping.

Posted by: CFShep on March 22, 2006 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Standardized testing was developed precisely so that children from poor or working class families would have a chance to go to college by demonstrating they did have intellectual merit.

That's a good argument for the SAT, but what does that have to do with testing grade school students for teacher's merit pay?

Posted by: B on March 22, 2006 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

With all due respect to your personal opinion about your school, until private schools subject themselves to the same testing as public schools, we must consider them inferior.

PO, they all take the same PSAT, SAT. and AP tests every year. (In fact, that's what the SAT was created for--to provide a standard by which students from all different educational backgrounds could apply to the same colleges.) Our school is among the best in the world on the AP Economics (Micro and Macro) tests, and we do quite well in a number of other areas (including physics, history, and Latin.)

Do you have anything other than personal opinion to back up your generalizations?

Posted by: PCashwell on March 22, 2006 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

"How many private schools can you name that pay their teachers this way?"

All of them, generally. I nave attended and studies both systems, and it is my experience that underperforming teachers are generally removed in private schools.

Posted by: Matt on March 22, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

I'm confused about something. Most teachers teach one grade level, so they have students for one year and then they move on to another teacher. So, how exactly do we measure the teachers effectiveness based on standardized testing?

A teacher at a school in a wealthy area gets kids whose parents are motivated college graduates who see the value of education and those kids score at or above average on the tests while another teacher in poor area gets kids whose parents are uneducated, less aware of the value of education (if they are even present). So those kids do worse on the standardized tests. Do we measure the improvement based on the previous year's scores?

What if the teacher in the previous year was really lousy and this year's teacher is simply adequate? What if last year's teacher was spectacular and this year's is just a bit above average? If a teacher had the kids for several years and there was a way to measure their progress over that period, you might be able to really judge teacher performance based on test scores. Under the present system, I don't see how it would work.

Posted by: orogeny on March 22, 2006 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

PO, they all take the same PSAT, SAT. and AP tests every year. (In fact, that's what the SAT was created for--to provide a standard by which students from all different educational backgrounds could apply to the same colleges.) Our school is among the best in the world on the AP Economics (Micro and Macro) tests, and we do quite well in a number of other areas (including physics, history, and Latin.)

You have indeed validated your selection ability. Your school has selected excellent students and not screwed them up.

That has nothing to do, of course, with the educational process. You do not have, with the SAT or any end-point measurement, any indication of VALUE-ADDED by your school. That's what yearly testing gives a system, and what private schools are scared to death about.

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 22, 2006 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

In making this comparison you've really got to factor in the NEA which allows the most experienced teachers to choose their assignments (the safest, most affluent schools, natch) and sending the rawest, least experienced teachers into the worst/underperforming schools which just intensifies the inequlaities in funding and parent participation.

(Parents working 2-3 jobs really can't mount a coordinated Escalade assault at the drop of a whining text message from junior.)

The very expensive Episcopal school where my sister teaches just cherry picked her out of the public system by the simplest strategy: They offered to double her pay.

She'd already derived tens of thousands of dollars in free/ heavily subsidized higher education from the state and was fully vested in her relatively lavish public school pension (severely underfunded relative to liabilities - but that's another discussion).

Twice the money, 1/3 the kids, none of whom come to school hungry or beaten, and no onerous obligation to do lunch duty...all she had to give up was her conscience, which was apparently pretty easy.

Posted by: CFShep on March 22, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

By that logic, all universities with application processes must be considered inferior to those with open admissions policies.

Ohio State admits any graduated high school student from Ohio; should we therefore consider Denison inferior because it does not?

Posted by: PCashwell on March 22, 2006 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

"..the teachers who teach the toughest students should get more money, not less."

Bingo, gold star. This author is saying that public school teachers should get bonus for performance, exactly what Kevin bitches about.

"Standardized testing was developed precisely so that children from poor or working class families would have a chance to go to college by demonstrating they did have intellectual merit."

Yes, but the concept got screwed up, as demonstrated in a previous Drum post. The problem, if I remember, was that we needed specialization so the student interested in welding can get a technical proficiency certificate, especially if he couldn't do algebra.

------------------

We could save billions, help the kids if we just got the feds out of the way and contracted out with a nationwide testing service to come up with various educational certificates for our kids. Any kid can take the auto mechanics + plus basic math; or advanced science; or homemaking, even. The idea that one size fits all is nonsense, for students and for teachers.

In some neighborhoods, it is entirely reasonable for a Cisco teacher to actually teach for free in some basic computer and networking classes. Industry would love this if it gets them cheap recruits. I know mathematics professors, semi-retired who would lecture and teach young kids for free, except the government hassles.

On the otherhand, if a teacher gets the job done, then $250,000 and more for working in tough neighborhoods is well worth the money.

The problem is two fold, federal intervention and teachers unions. Nobody wants to fuck with either, so it is either let the kids rot or use private schools.


Posted by: Matt on March 22, 2006 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: vdeedd on March 22, 2006 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

orogeny has a point. I think that the end result will be to pay teachers in wealthy districts more than teachers in disadvantaged districts. Every teacher I know realizes that it takes more time, more money, and more creativity to teach the poor kids. At some point we need to invest in breaking the cycle of poverty by actually mentoring each individual kid. NCLB tutoring was supposed to do that. It is failing miserably because of lack of funding and local politics.

How about reinstating the draft, with the birthday lottery method, and a garanteed out into national service rather than military service. People can apply for something like a CCC to clear forest brush, hospital/nursing home volunteers, Peace Corps, Vista, and a program putting two years into mentoring poor kids.

They would have to draft enough to fill the military but in unpopular wars the number opting for national service would go up. But maybe we would get the manpower we need to attack some of the real problems - like poverty.

Posted by: Lindata on March 22, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

FMguru:

Bingo bango bongo. Posted by: rmck1

Seconded.

Teachers are responsible for their students only when they are in their classrooms. They can't make them study outside the classroom. They can't control their home enviroment, which is the single most important factor in determining how students perform in school.

Stupid idea. But, what would you expect from Florida.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 22, 2006 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

We could save billions, help the kids if we just got the feds out of the way

When I hear these words, I get out my revolver. You die. You die and go to hell.

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 22, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

I would like to point out that my earlier post (March 22, 2006 at 10:17 AM) was WAY over simplified. I want to acknowledge that the attitudes of the students in each class can make or break the appearance of a teachers effectiveness.

Posted by: Lurker42 on March 22, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

We need to find a way to pay students. The promised rewards of an education are too remote for the average adolescent, but a few bucks for decent behavior and intellectual work would make a good incentive.

It would also help to completely revamp the nation's colleges of education, or else eliminate the requirement for "training" in them in favor of superior performance in their field of study by teachers. Hire the guy who made all those As in history in college, and then pay the kids to be good students.

Sound expensive? Not compared to the Iraq war, it ain't.

Posted by: Ace Franze on March 22, 2006 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

"How many private schools can you name that pay their teachers this way?"

All of them, generally. I nave attended and studies both systems, and it is my experience that underperforming teachers are generally removed in private schools. Posted by: Matt

Actually, public school teachers, on average, are paid better than private school teachers. The difference is that private schools have mostly the cream of the educational crop with mostly motivated parents. In the typical public school, you'd be lucky to get 25% of your students fitting this category.

If you throw lots of money at an already wealthy district, it's money wasted as you don't need the extra funds to support the teachers in the classroom (other than perhaps reducing class size).

If you throw lots of money at a poor school district you will see comparatively significant results in that many borderline students (as in on the verge of falling through the cracks socially and educationally) can be saved by greater attention at school otherwise not afforded them in overcrowded classrooms short on materials. You won't save them all, of course, but for every one you save when they are 16, the more valuable they will be to society in the long run. They may contribute to rather than being a drag on society.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 22, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, this takes me back:

>>Most well-designed test questions figure out in a hurry who should be rocket scientist, the medical doctor, or the social statistician who will direct a billion dollar program.

I can remember those lovely 'aptitude tests'. Based on identical results the women would be advised to become secretaries; the men, lawyers. The women, nurses; the men, doctors. The women, lab assistants; the men, scientists or engineers.
The women, bookkeepers....well, you get the idea.

That wasn't so long ago and it's still pretty much the case. Works pretty much the same in selecting for socio-economic status rather than gender.

Poor kid, mechanic; rich kid, CEO of Halliburton...

I like Matthew Yglesias @ American Prospect for this definition of 'meritocracy': "After all, the "merit" in "meritocracy" isn't, at the end of the day, genuine moral worth. Rather, Ignatius is talking about the possession of skills that happen to be in high demand relative to their supply by people who have enough money to buy them. Once upon a time, being able to kill large game was a high-value skill and being able to dominate the low post on a basketball court wasn't. Today it's the reverse. For a while in the 1990s a basic working knowledge of HTML could make you a lot of money. Today in 2006, it gets you very little. These things change. They're essentially arbitrary. It's important, economically, to reward the possession of useful skills to some extent, but we shouldn't confuse this with merit. "

Posted by: CFShep on March 22, 2006 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK
Most teachers teach one grade level, so they have students for one year and then they move on to another teacher. So, how exactly do we measure the teachers effectiveness based on standardized testing?

There are a couple of conceivable models (I'm not advocating any of them, mind you):

1) a "team" model (analogous to performance pay based on unit, rather than individual, performance in private industry, something that happens at least with regard to bonuses with some frequency) might pay teachers either based on overall school performance on the tests.

2) a simple individual model might pay based on the performance of the students in that teachers class on an absolute scale on yearly standardized tests.

3) a more robust individual model might pay based on the performance of the students in the teachers class on yearly standardized tests relative to the performance of other students in the district or state with similar socioeconomic background and/or previous years test scores.

The big problem, of course, is whether the standardized tests are valid representations of the public expectation of what should be taught. Often, such tests are not, they cover limited and easy-to-test subsets of what the public expects the tools to teach, and the higher the stakes are, the more the rest of the curriculum gets sacrificed by educators to focus on "teaching to the test".

Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, some great comments here on both sides, although some of the stereotypes got pretty thick in some places.

A few drive-by remarks:

--An awful lot of well-off liberals send their kids to private schools.

-- As I have shown in previous threads, the education cost per student in constant dollars has been increasing rapidly and steadily for years. Oddly, the salaries of teachers, in constant dollars, have not. Why?

***

CFShep:

Nice rundown of air in food. Ivory Soap made that same discovery a long time ago, and turned it into a feature, not a bug. Our grocery store has tags that give you price per ounce or pound, so I'm not sure it makes a lot of difference. In my experience, whole food fanatics who eat a lot of dense fiber-filled bread seem to squeeze a lot of the air out a bit further down the road.

Sorry to hear your venal sister ripped off the System. We should pass laws to force her to work where the State thinks she's needed the most.

Of course, that should apply to you too, now that I think about it.

***

POed Liberal:

I got my PhD in a public school.

I can see that.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 22, 2006 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

We need to find a way to pay students.

Worship me! Worship me! I am Moloch! There is no God but Moloch!

Is there anything Americans these days think people do for any other motivation than to make money? Maybe we should consider paying parents when their kids get good grades, or have good dental checkups? How about paying soldiers by the number of enemy they kill? How about paying priests by the number of catechisms they chant?

Oh, wait - Western civilization tried that once, didn't we? I think Martin Luther had something to say about that.

America is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the charge that we literally worship money.

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 22, 2006 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

We need to find a way to pay students. The promised rewards of an education are too remote for the average adolescent, but a few bucks for decent behavior and intellectual work would make a good incentive.

Neil Postman said in his "The End of Education", that given a suffiently strong 'Why' to learn, a student will survive nearly any 'How' to learn.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on March 22, 2006 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz:

Where is your PhD from?

Where did you get your Associate degree from?

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 22, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

brookesfoe, take a deep breath!

My point is the same as someone upthread made: it doesn't matter how hard the teacher goes at it, he can't teach a kid who doesn't care whether he learns or not.

As for America "becoming increasingly vulnerable to the charge that we literally worship money," that horse left the barn a loooong time ago.

Does anybody remember a book from the 60s called The Student as Nigger?

Posted by: Ace Franze on March 22, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

You know, I would sign up happily with the advocates of merit-based pay for teachers, if they would guarantee to set the upper end of the merit pay scale around $200,000 a year. Similarly, I'd be willing to take the advocates of school voucher programs very seriously indeed if they would guarantee that the vouchers would be for at least $9000 per year - still less than what tuition costs at most decent private schools these days, but at least in the ballpark.

"But how could we ever pay for it?" they whine, waist deep in $120 billion per year of Iraqi mayhem and sand.

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 22, 2006 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

I agree with your comments about the problems with standardized tests. I wonder if it is possible to develop a single test that fairly measures the knowledge and abilities of the wide range of students that would be taking it?

Of the three options that you outline, only #3 seems like a reasonably fair way of evaluating teacher performance. Unless the socioeconomic variables are factored in, the test results really don't offer any standard for comparison.

Posted by: orogeny on March 22, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I've often wondered why the teaching profession doesn't adopt a standard similar to that used by engineers. Engineers start out their careers as Engineers in Training and, through a combination of experience, education and testing can advance to the rank of Professional Engineer, with salary increases going along with that advancement.

Posted by: orogeny on March 22, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK
Of the three options that you outline, only #3 seems like a reasonably fair way of evaluating teacher performance.

You could combine it with #1 (or some system based on smaller teams than the whole school) to do a "team-based" relative performance value-added measure, which might be more useful at encouraging sharing techniques, mentoring, and collaborative process improvement in educator teams.

In some senses this might be argued to be a less individually fair method of payment, but it may also be a more effective and useful method of quality improvement (presuming, again, the validity of the quality measure.)

Again, I'm not at all convinced that paying based on standardized tests is a good idea overall, just discussing some of the ways that it could be done, and some of the implications they might have.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that before launching into a fix for poorly performing schools, we should be clear on why students do not perform well. There are lots of factors, and not all of them are under the control of the teacher.

First, many kids finds themselves in a class for which they are not prepared. They are expected to do algebra when they have not mastered addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and fractions. They are expected to write coherent essays when they have not fully mastered reading. Lack of preparation may be the fault of teachers, but not necessarily the fault of the teacher of the class where the problem shows up.

Second, kids are unable to learn if there are too many distractions. Behavior problems can affect how well students learn; not just the misbehaving student, but the other students in the class. You might blame misbehavior on the teacher, but enforcing discipline is a different kind of skill than knowing how to teach English or math.

Third, kids are unable to learn as much if their home life and out-of-school experience is not supportive of learning. Teachers don't have a lot of control over that.

But the biggest complaint I have with judging teachers based on test scores is that it completely misses the inspiration factor. To me, the most important thing that a teacher can give to his students is a love for the subject, a love of learning. If a teacher can inspire a student to learn on his own, that is worth more than any number of perfect scores on standardized tests. In fact, I would almost say that inspiring kids to learn on their own should be the main goal of teaching.

In this sense, focusing exclusively on standardized test scores is worse than ineffective, it is potentially poisonous to the student-teacher relationship. It could actively discourage great teaching.

This is not to say that I see no value in standardized tests. I think it is very important to keep track of what a student already knows, what he is already capable of. I just don't think that such tests should be the exclusive focus of teachers.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on March 22, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

CFShep: Once upon a time, being able to kill large game was a high-value skill and being able to dominate the low post on a basketball court wasn't.

I don't know about y'all, but I'm just proud that Dick Cheney excels at both.

CF, I believe I'm younger than you but older than many of these pups here. Our "aptitude" tests had begun to reflect changing times, but their creators hadn't quite crossed over to the modern world yet. I was advised to become a dental hygienist or a farmer.

WTF? But, ever obedient to authority, I now clean cows' teeth for a living. Stupid bovines never floss, no matter what you tell them.

Posted by: shortstop on March 22, 2006 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

A better plan would be to give parent's a subsidy if their kids perform better on tests. This could be inversely proportional to income and would provide incentives where they can best affect perfomance.

The incentive pay for teachers would undermine those teaching in central cities and other locales where students don't perform well. It's a bag of worms.

Posted by: cycledoc on March 22, 2006 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

If you think the proper way to judge teachers by test results then you should use the test results of NEXT year to judge teachers this year.

You look at how well students did in 3rd grade and how well they did in 4th grade. The students who scored best and improved the most in 4th grade had the best 3rd grade teachers.

This prevents teachers from teching to the test because the students are not yet able to handle the test that counts for the current teacher. It eliminates teacher cheating because the test that counts is always a year in the future.

Posted by: neil wilson on March 22, 2006 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

I can see that.

A bottom-of-the-barrel statement, even from you, tbrosz.

Posted by: shortstop on March 22, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

At any rate, since politicians are so fond of competitive pay, I suggest that we start paying politicians based on performance. I'm sure they won't mind, accountability being such a watchword and all.


An excellent suggestion Kevin!

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 22, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

>>>Our grocery store has tags that give you price per ounce or pound, so I'm not sure it makes a lot of difference.

The difference is water. Water's cheap and heavy. Ditto crap like 'Low fat sour cream', 'diet spreads' and the like. Water and air.

That's also what makes the bread-like substance so gummy. I didn't say anything about fiber. That's another issue.

I was talking about the very basics: the proportion of actual food as opposed to water and air held in suspension by vegetable gums, dough conditioners, and other stabilizers.

I'm not surprised in the least that you apparently like your food-like substances the same way you like your politics: as devoid of substance and merit at possible.

When was the last time you heard Ivory marketing 'It floats' asa selling point? That's about as current as any of your other idiotic ditto-head talking points.

Yeah, my sister's a craven sell-out. I'm disgusted by her choice - but she's free to make it without consulting my opinion on the subject. She quite naturally avoids discussion with me on that account.

What pisses me off is precisely that she took so much in completely tax free, tax-payer subsidized public university education along the way to private school heaven.

And the money she makes in the off season teaching seminars is pretty good, too. The state pays her to conduct 'whole language' workshops and writing classes - expertise she gained on the taxpayers' dime.

I'm amazed to report that she's still a Democrat...but that's apparently from too much up close contact with the obnoxious entitlement addicted Republicans in the Escalade Brigades.

Posted by: CFShep on March 22, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Our grade school had this archaic set of cards with 50 holes punched in them and a bunch of pins that you pulled out one by one as you answered questions.

I was supposed to be a telegraph operator or a railroad engineer.

Posted by: B on March 22, 2006 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have a problem with performance pay, but it needs to be tied to performance improvements for the specific kids in one's classroom and school rather, as opposed to that school or classroom's prior performance or to reaching hard-and-fast "standards". I believe that Houston has a system similar to this. Obviously we want all students to reach minimum capacities, but the first rule of goal setting is to make them realistic. For some, "standards" aren't realistic.

But as someone else pointed out, if the parents aren't engaged and accountable, achievement problems won't go away. The next big push should be development of curricula that can be used in the home by parents and that is tied to the instruction students are receiving at school. Parents are then enlisted as reinforcers of the day's or week's lessons and therefore co-responsible for student performance. Unless our society formalizes this responsibility, parents won't assume it is theirs.

Michael Cook suggests lengthening the school day and year. As an alternative, I suggest switching to a year-round format. Too much is lost in that three-month summer break, and besides, this traditional school year schedule is the relic of an agrarian society. Year-round school need not necessarily mean an increased number of instruction days. If that long break is eliminated, there'll be more continuity from year to year. More instruction hours might help, but if the day itself is extended, I think more recess time would be desirable, especially in the lower grades, in order to maintain balance and give kids an outlet. Burning off excess energy can be a good thing.

If I had to rank them, I'd place in-home curricula first, followed by year-round school and then pay for performance. We have to enlist parents formally in this effort before we can expect improvement - this is fundamental. School calendar adjustments and peformance pay are ancillary.

Posted by: Kurzleg on March 22, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

I went to a for-profit university and my degree is looked down on by those who went to traditional schools.

Why is it that primary education should be different? If it is thought that non-profit secondary education is superior, why would it be any different for public schools versus for-profit grade schools????

Posted by: yep on March 22, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

The teachers could defuse this whole process by insisting that any such performance pay be based or indexed on the quality of the incoming "raw material" - the students. These performance pay proposals all assume that the incoming raw material is uniform. It isn't and never has been. No private enterprise would ever try to run its processes with raw material which could be completely random and the teachers shouldn't be expected to put their incomes at risk on that basis either. You don't get six sigma outcomes when the incoming raw material is arriving at a half-sigma level.

The only private enterprise functions which function like this are sales or brokerage. These functions depend on being able to throw the prospects which don't/can't have any interest in the product or service away, in order to to move on to the next prospect. How about we allow the teachers to pick and choose which students they want to allow into their classroom?

Posted by: PrahaPartizan on March 22, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

WTF? But, ever obedient to authority, I now clean cows' teeth for a living. Stupid bovines never floss, no matter what you tell them.
Posted by: shortstop

hahaha

Ah, bovine breath. It's something else. All those stomachs and fermenting...yikes.

One of my great-uncles was a dairy farmer and another was a rancher (real - not vanity GWB variety) so I've had some exposure there.

But large animal vets have my complete admiration.

Yeah, I'm referencing the mid-70's when I graduated but my sister was still encountering these sexist outcomes 7 - 8 years later.

Posted by: CFShep on March 22, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Don't get me wrong; farming is an honorable, not to mention handy, profession. My grandfather did it, and I've milked my share of cows and walked my share of rows.

But dental hygienist OR farmer? How did they come up with that combination?

Posted by: shortstop on March 22, 2006 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK
It seems to me that before launching into a fix for poorly performing schools, we should be clear on why students do not perform well.

It seems to me that that still skips right past the key step of developing a firm cosensus of what "performing well" actually means, and developing valid measures to assess the degree to which it is or isn't met.

You can't explain the causes till you define the issue; lots of people agree there is some problem with education, and use the same vague words to describe it "our kids aren't doing well enough", but it is far from clear to me that there is anything even vaguely approaching a common understanding of what the standard of "well enough" is (or even what axes of performance are involved in that standard, much less what levels of performance constitute "well enough"), which is the first thing that needs to be established before the problem can be defined, much less explained and solved.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Providing incentives to parents as well as kids is a more direct way of affecting school performance. The trickle down effect of providing incentives to teachers opens the door to many abuses and simply is too indirect to have major effect. The problem is not the teachers.

The amount of incentive would be inversely proportional to family income which would interestingly provide the greatest incentive to those groups with the losest scores.

Posted by: pagoff on March 22, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

I see there isn't too much respect for pols on this page--Here is something to add to the indexing--How about tying it to length of time it takes their "finger in the wind." You know, if the community needs a zoning ordinance, or leash law, or new government building or whatever, we decrease their salary based on how many months or years it takes them while the cost of construction sky rockets and trees disappear. Got any ideas how to tie procrastination into this?

Posted by: ELR on March 22, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

>>>The problem is not the teachers.

I beg to differ. In many cases they are exactly the problem.

Teachers are, for the most part drawn, from the lowest quartile in academic achievement. Their unions make matters infinitely worse.

Schools of Education are by and large dreadful. They go to great legths not to have their students take courses in the university at large so you'll see bastardized "Math for Education Majors" taught in their little balliwick rather than in the Math Department.

Teachers scream at the top of their lungs about 'being professionals equivilent to doctors' (and entitled to pay scales to match) but refuse to sit licensing exams of equivilent rigor, or indeed be tested as to mastery of their subject in any way whatsoever.

People who were on academic probation would transfer over to the Ed Department and magically become honor students - because, frankly, they all were awarded nothing but A's and B's regardless.

"Felt Board Management for 1-4".

When I graduated we staged a protest - refusing to accept our honors degrees on the same stage and at the same time as the people from the Ed Department. We argued that the degree weren't equivalent in any sense.

They had to have a spilt ceremony.

Posted by: CFShep on March 22, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

"I got my PhD in a public school."

Oh yeah? And what field was it in? Education? LOL.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 22, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

"YOu have never taught, and don't know anything about it."

Well, that's like saying, you have never been President, so you don't know anything about it, and therefore, you can't talk about it.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 22, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Suggestions on compensation for political performance...

How about capital punishment?

Posted by: skimble on March 22, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Well, that's like saying, you have never been President, so you don't know anything about it, and therefore, you can't talk about it.

You can talk about it, sure, but not with the same degree of authority.

After all, everyone in here has been born, but that doesn't make us all obstetricians.

Posted by: PCashwell on March 22, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

The general problem with performance pay is - to sum up half the comments here - that there's no clear way to evaluate performance that doesn't run the risk of poisoning the educational mission, one way or the other. Find a way, and you'll have a winner.

Kurzleg - your proposal #1 sounds quite good. There is a problem not so much with parent motivation - you'll get problems with that, but it's much rarer than usually assumed - but with parent ability, from comprehension/language ability/etc. to time. But what can you do?

As far as I can tell, the modern versions of those career aptitude tests tend to tell people they should go into forestry or trash disposal - which under the current administration really is more or less the same thing.

Certainly you get some rather good private schools (and some rather less good ones). Of course, there is no question that by design they start out with some overall major advantages, specifically ones that are not portable to public ed. more or less by definition, although de facto economic segregation does its best to reproduce them for the privileged . (Also some disadvantages, but of a type that are hard to quantify). It would be quite an amusing experiement to have the entire student body at a high-performing private school switch with those of a low-performing public school. Now that would be a great reality show . . .

I think I've seen some studies suggesting that when you adjust for various social factors, public and private schools tend to do more or less the same, with the exception of certain kinds of religious schooling. Wasn't there a post about that here?

Posted by: Dan S. on March 22, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

A bottom-of-the-barrel statement, even from you, tbrosz.

Wow. You guys can dish it out, but you sure can't take it. Have you been reading his/her posts?

Posted by: tbrosz on March 22, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Have the pay of all senators and representatives set by a local referendum. A senator's pay referendum would be statewide. Representatives would be in their district only.

Referenda would have to list current pay, proposed pay, and what the difference is. Current cash value of benefits would be included in the figure (like the sweet Congressional health plan and retirement plan).

Posted by: Gene Ha on March 22, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
I manage a team of consultants for a $10 billion publicly traded company that recently adopted that "pay for performance" mantra. It's funny, the top performers here haven't seen a bit of difference since that was adopted. However, our exec comp has gone sky high. I don't think anyone below sr. mgmt anywhere in this country benefits from pay for performance anymore.

Posted by: AA on March 22, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

I have been a public school teacher for over twenty years. In my opinion the most significant indicator of how well a student will do on any kind of assessment of their learning is the attitude of their parents. If the parents make it clear to their children that education is important and take the time to do things like read to their children when they are young and make sure they do their homework, the chances are very great that their children will perform at least acceptably well on standardized tests. As others have pointed out, this (perhaps most significant) factor is essentially something the classroom teacher cannot control.

There is another consideration I have not yet seen mentioned that confounds the dynamics of a system used to reward/punish teachers based on the performance of their students. In many of the poorest performing schools a teacher may be lucky to have as much as half of the same students at the end of the year as she/he did at the beginning. I don't see any way to fairly make a teacher accountable for standardized test scores when there is a very high rate of turnover in students.

Posted by: TK on March 22, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Brosz, did you or did you not attend a public university?

Posted by: shortstop on March 22, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

What a kick in the nuts this Florida proposal is to teachers.

First, the No School Left Standing act lets schools shift their best kids to other schools and then grades teachers on the kids who remain.

This is most definitely NOT best commercial practice.

Posted by: pj_in_jesusland on March 22, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely writes: It seems to me that that still skips right past the key step of developing a firm cosensus of what "performing well" actually means, and developing valid measures to assess the degree to which it is or isn't met.

I think that we can split the issue into two separate issues: (1) What should children know and what skills should they possess by the time they graduate from high school? (2) How well do children do relative to number (1)?

I have no firm opinions, for example, about whether children should master algebra in order to graduate from high school, but I believe that it is not too difficult to determine whether a student has mastered it or not.

Of course, not all subjects lend themselves to an objective notion of "mastery"...

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on March 22, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Ace France--

I'm the one who made the comment upthread about the need to pay students. It's frustrating when everytime I mention something connected to children's rights, the mass of so-called liberals invariably totally ignore the idea, unable to wrap their minds around the concept and consider how they're treating kids in their suggestions as so much meat --- a product that the teachers and parents can mold. I wonder if discussions of how to get better-performing slaves in the 19th century were all about incentive pay for the bosses.

Posted by: catherineD on March 22, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK
Have the pay of all senators and representatives set by a local referendum. A senator's pay referendum would be statewide. Representatives would be in their district only.

Hmm. I have an idea: set the maximum salary nationally, the percentage of that salary that they receive is equal to the percentage of eligible voters in their district that vote "yes" in a referendum "does your Representative Snuffy (e.g.) deserve their pay?" conducted shortly after the end of each year of service.


Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

I have been a public school teacher for over twenty years. In my opinion the most significant indicator of how well a student will do on any kind of assessment of their learning is the attitude of their parents. If the parents make it clear to their children that education is important and take the time to do things like read to their children when they are young and make sure they do their homework, the chances are very great that their children will perform at least acceptably well on standardized tests. As others have pointed out, this (perhaps most significant) factor is essentially something the classroom teacher cannot control.

There is another consideration I have not yet seen mentioned that confounds the dynamics of a system used to reward/punish teachers based on the performance of their students. In many of the poorest performing schools a teacher may be lucky to have as much as half of the same students at the end of the year as she/he did at the beginning. I don't see any way to fairly make a teacher accountable for standardized test scores when there is a very high rate of turnover in students.
Posted by: TK


You, TK, are of course well aware that parental involvement is simply not part of the equation for many students, but schools still have responsibilities to these students. Of course, many would like simply to throw them overboard, but of course that means onto the streets, perhaps into a criminal life. So why not pay kids to stay in school and learn? They can't help who their parents are, nor can their teachers, but they can still be motivated.

Posted by: Ace Franze on March 22, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

"Teachers are, for the most part drawn, from the lowest quartile in academic achievement."

And can you provide a cite for this that isn't that cobwebbed study about how prospective ed. majors did poorly on the SAT? I'm not saying you can't - it's just that I haven't ever seen one . . .

But there are some real issues here.
One is that teaching requires a rather odd skill set, always, but especially in tough schools. I'm sure at least a few people here have had the experience of seeing someone - high school teacher, college professor, whatever - who was unquestionably brilliant, but completely inept at teaching. Merely decent teachers need a) a level of content knowledge high enough to effectively understand and teach the material, b) good knowledge of effective teaching techniques, differentiation, etc., c) people skills up the wazoo. Ideally all teachers would be equally highly skilled in all relevent areas, but there's no way that's gonna happen, and certainly not with anything like the current system. (Ideally everyone who complained about how dumb/lazy/etc. teachers are would have to spend a week or two in the classroom - on the other side of the desk this time - but that's not gonna happen either . . ) It's hard to think of a similar job, actually - most things requiring similar levels of knowledge and daily autonomy involve dealing with mature adults, while child psychologists have an leg up re: credentialing and knowledge base (at least to begin with), but generally deal with the little tykes on a very specific one-to-one basis.

Another is that teaching is a low-status job, and as such at every step attracts not just good candidates but the kind of folks you might expect given a career whose rather split public image includes ideas such as 'easy,' 'work 8-3,' 'anyone can do it,' 'summers off!' 'get to play with kids,' 'all you need is a little bit of dedication and a inspirational movie will be made about you!' along with more positive (and realistic) aspects. Many of them get weeded out either before being certified or early on, but not all, and they keep on coming. Especially in the most challenging schools, it doesn't help that some of the really good teachers are running on almost pure idealism, and burn out early, or that any relatively competent teacher has the prospect of working in a tony public or private school, instead of, say, having one's shoulder dislocated by a oversized third grader (my wife),* the kind of thing that tends to overshadow the sizable proportion of kids that are doing their more or less best. The fact that most teachers actually do a good job doesn't actually make much of a dent on the public perception, especially given its determined refusal to face social and economic reality. Improve the status of teaching - and pay is one way to do this, although nowhere near the entire answer. I also think that education should be functionally part of a double major, but that's a bit off . . .

One aspect that should be borrowed from the medical model is, more or less, apprenticeship - perhaps not to that degree, but certainly more than a minimal student teaching experience. At the very least it should be a incentive-laden option - crap, I almost said incentivized! - for new teachers. The straight outa college and into the classroom model is not good. And I'm all for tough licensing exams, but they need to be practical and relevent, instead of 'how well can you regurgitate your ed. coursework and general knowledge, which only shows you have a good memory, not that you have any actual ability to teach.' You get really odd results, like experienced & high quality teachers failing mandated PRAXIS tests because they never got around to reading specific texts from the classic high school canon, etc.

* that is, she had her shoulder dislocated, not that she's an oversized third grader. That wouldn't be cool . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on March 22, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

I have no idea where those italics came from.

Posted by: Dan S. on March 22, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

"There is no God but Moloch!"

Why, thank you! It's good to be appreciated. Or should I say appreciating?

Posted by: Moloch on March 22, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum writes: "I suggest that we start paying politicians based on performance. I'm sure they won't mind, accountability being such a watchword and all. I'm open to suggestions on just how we should do this."

Why, by measuring the political performance of their supporters with standardized tests, of course!

Posted by: s9 on March 22, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

My PhD is in statistics in psychology, sometimes called psychometrics.

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 22, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think public education in this country will be finished within the next fifty years. Extensive voucher programs and charter schools will be the first step toward moving toward "privatized" education. I expect that there will continue to be some vestige of public schools left for people who can't afford private schools even with the vouchers.

The bottom line is that middle-class America has no faith in the public school system, and won't continue to pay for it or send their kids to it. Look at the success rate for school referanda around the country.

Also, the rapidly growing number of Christian Americans prefer to send their children to schools that are able to incorporate religion into the curriculum. I think we're even starting to see moves to support these schools with tax dollars.

In any case, I think public education in the US is dead. It will just take a while to die.

Posted by: Tom on March 22, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Dan S wrote: "There is a problem not so much with parent motivation - you'll get problems with that, but it's much rarer than usually assumed - but with parent ability, from comprehension/language ability/etc. to time. But what can you do?"

These are definitely obstacles, but I don't think they're insurmountable. For one thing, this type of parental involvement is far more crucial at young ages, where comprehension requirements are pretty low. For another, such a curricula can be designed so that there are time-based options from which a parent or older sibling can choose. Even spending 5 minutes an evening reinforcing things can be beneficial. And whether it's 5 minutes or 25 minutes, a daily routine like this socializes kids to understand school is something important. That's different from telling them school is important, and it's a crucial difference. It's how you teach children to value education.

It's also how you teach parents that it's important. Formalizing the expectation by giving them a tool (the curricula) to fulfill it is an implicit statement about its importance. It also empowers parents by helping them help their kids. That's important too.

Posted by: Kurzleg on March 22, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

You, TK, are of course well aware that parental involvement is simply not part of the equation for many students, but schools still have responsibilities to these students. Of course, many would like simply to throw them overboard, but of course that means onto the streets, perhaps into a criminal life. So why not pay kids to stay in school and learn? They can't help who their parents are, nor can their teachers, but they can still be motivated.

Posted by: Ace Franze

Remember the context here - the issue of teacher pay being contingent on student performance. Nothing I said suggests schools should not do as much as reasonably can be done to help children whose parents do not value education, but if parent involvement is one of primary factors (if not the most important factor) in determining student achievement, it should not simply be ignored when trying to assess whether or not (or to what extent) teacher pay should be tied to student performance.

I have no problem with doing trials of the notion of paying students for performance and seeing how it turns out - provided the data is sufficient for drawing a conclusion and the conclusion is not foreordained by making assumptions that favor one outcome. I do, though, have grave doubts that there is a social/political will to provide the kinds of funds it would likely take to make such a program successful if it was shown by fair studies that such an approach would be fruitful.

Dan S., I completely agree with the notion you presented of having teachers go through an apprenticeship. In addition to providing better prepared beginning teachers, good "master" teachers would be the people most likely to be able to identify those candidates (each teacher candidate should work with at least three or four master teachers) who are not likely to be able to become competent teachers.

Posted by: TK on March 22, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

You, TK, are of course well aware that parental involvement is simply not part of the equation for many students, but schools still have responsibilities to these students. Of course, many would like simply to throw them overboard, but of course that means onto the streets, perhaps into a criminal life. So why not pay kids to stay in school and learn? They can't help who their parents are, nor can their teachers, but they can still be motivated.

Posted by: Ace Franze

Remember the context here - the issue of teacher pay being contingent on student performance. Nothing I said suggests schools should not do as much as reasonably can be done to help children whose parents do not value education, but if parent involvement is one of primary factors (if not the most important factor) in determining student achievement, it should not simply be ignored when trying to assess whether or not (or to what extent) teacher pay should be tied to student performance.

I have no problem with doing trials of the notion of paying students for performance and seeing how it turns out - provided the data is sufficient for drawing a conclusion and the conclusion is not foreordained by making assumptions that favor one outcome. I do, though, have grave doubts that there is a social/political will to provide the kinds of funds it would likely take to make such a program successful if it was shown by fair studies that such an approach would be fruitful.

Dan S., I completely agree with the notion you presented of having teachers go through an apprenticeship. In addition to providing better prepared beginning teachers, good "master" teachers would be the people most likely to be able to identify those candidates (each teacher candidate should work with at least three or four master teachers) who are not likely to be able to become competent teachers.

Posted by: TK on March 22, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Oops, sorry for the double post. My browser seemed to indicate that the first post did not "go through".

Posted by: TK on March 22, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

NCLB2=No Constituent Left Behind
Congressional raises based on the average increase in the living standard/quality of life of the poorest 5% of their districts.

Posted by: BD on March 22, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

POed Liberal has a Ph.D. and writes things like Repukeliscum?

Odd combination, that.

Posted by: Birkel on March 22, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

OK. so this year my wife's class is full of highly motivated overachievers with parents who are well involved in their childrens' education, a real easy group to teach, so she should get a raise.

Next year she's getting the class where half of the students had to be taught HOW TO HOLD A BOOK in Grade One before they could start learning to read, and a significant number of them exhibit learning difficulties from autism to dyslexia, physical challenges from poor vision to near deafness and in some cases serious behavioural issues.

No doubt teaching them will be significantly more difficult, time consuming (given the extra prep work and meetings with specialists and parents) and stressful than this year's bunch, but their test scores will likely be lower too, so a pay cut is in order...

Only in Wingnuttia...

Posted by: A Hermit on March 22, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

As education by christian institutions has increased,the ability of US students to do anything useful has dropped, dropped, dropped.

In addition, catholic education is going to get increasingly expensive. In the past, catholics used nun slave labor to deliver education by creating teachers out of women who were unable to make it in the market of normal human being. There are no nuns anymore, and they have to hire people who need a living wage.

So, I expect that it will be RELIGIOUS education that goes out of business.

Posted by: Religious skeptic on March 22, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

A recurring story in education journals tells of the businessman who speaks at a business and education roundtable and criticizes the lack of quality in the public schools. As he extols his company's premier product, "America's best blueberry ice cream," he is quietly challenged by a teacher who asks him about the quality of the ingredients.

"Premium ingredients?" the teacher asks.

"Super premium! Nothing but AAA," the business executive responds.

The teacher continues, "When you are standing on your receiving dock and an inferior shipment of blueberries arrives, what do you do?"

"I send them back," the businessman replies.

"That's right!" the teacher snaps. "But we can never send back our inferior blueberries ... and that's why education is not a business."

Posted by: John on March 22, 2006 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

"At any rate, since politicians are so fond of competitive pay, I suggest that we start paying politicians based on performance. I'm sure they won't mind, accountability being such a watchword and all. I'm open to suggestions on just how we should do this."

Here ya go (from Feb. 2004).

Posted by: voxd on March 22, 2006 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

"These are definitely obstacles, but I don't think they're insurmountable"
Oh, me neither! I'm just beingly reflexively pessimistic . . . It's a really good idea. I've seen some research on parental help showing that there's a big gap between effective and less-effective helping strategies . . .

Tom, saying "middle-class America has no faith in the public school system" is not accurate, most especially at the level of individual schools. It's an artifact of ignoring, again, the social realities of American education, and the fact that there are essentially several public school systems, reflecting settlement patterns, de facto segregation, etc.

Oy vey, it's "Christian Americans" now? Can't those folks make up their minds? : )

The blueberry anecdote always bugs me a little - the inferior bit, y'know. With sane, adequate levels of funding and support, the' we don't send 'em back' aspect isn't a bug but a feature. The pervasive underfunding of both urban and often rural schools (A few years back: Harrisburg to Philly: Stop complaining, like we've been telling you for years, you get more money than neighboring districts, so shut your tr . . . oh, wait. Oops. Ok, just because you have many, many times more kids than they do . . . (Honest. They only stopped pulling this specific crap after a major report on Philly region ed. spending broke it all down and made it glaringly obvious. It also helps to have a governor who doesn't hate the city . . .)

Posted by: Dan S. on March 22, 2006 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

Hahaha. That's a novel idea which should be explored....So do we CHARGE Duke Cunningham for being in Congress because he's taken so much money?

Posted by: Mr.President on March 22, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

The education alternative I haven't seen anyone mention yet is the deeply interactive on-line enhanced home schooling network. This will become popular after I patent (if I'm not too late) the home school work station that is completely integrated with the universal mind of the net and university libraries.

The maxi-station will have a friendly, teacher-like personality that interacts with the student and is capable of dispensing small rewards and privileges as it calculates they are needed. It may even surf the net to find a suitable "friend" for a student and allow them to interact for 60 minutes or so total during the day as a bonus for good work.

This system will excel during pandemics, when students going to traditional schools infect each other and die. The maxi-station will excel at my favorite education maxim: "Good teaching increases individual differences." Your bright child will never again be ignored because the classroom teacher is mandated to be spending most of her time hovering around the hard-to-teach and the behavior challenged.

Some will object--how will the child be socialized? Traditional soccer-mom skills and extra-curricular activities, of course. Music courses, intensive church activities, ballet school, whatever. I know a lawyer who has her 3 year-old going to private day care school and a ballerina course.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 22, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

Although pay-for-performance (P4P) is the latest fad theory in management thinking, it has less fact behind it than any of its predecessors. In fact, it has no fact behind it. There is no research out there that shows P4P achieves desired results in anything other than the most mindless and repetitive tasks. The idea that people will not give their best effort unless we bribe them to is hardly the foundation of good management, education or any other relationship. Nevertheless, it's moving forward. Even the Medicare program is rushing headlong -- without the benefit of research -- into P4P with health care workers. Once a group of idiots starts running with a bad idea, there's no stopping them. Suggested reading: Alfie Kohn's "Punished by Rewards."

Posted by: Russ K on March 22, 2006 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

Base their performance evaluations on the expectations of the voters as of election day (expectations that are largely the result of, at best, dubious campaigning) through a survey of voter opinion. Give them a bonus every time they fulfill an expectation and a paycut every time they block or undermine the advancement of one.
The result will be officials paying the treasury for the privilage of holding office rather than collecting a paycheck. Idiots like bushiekins will have to shell out millions just to stay in office.

Posted by: joe on March 22, 2006 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

I do, though, have grave doubts that there is a social/political will to provide the kinds of funds it would likely take to make such a program successful if it was shown by fair studies that such an approach would be fruitful.

Agreed.

I wonder if discussions of how to get better-performing slaves in the 19th century were all about incentive pay for the bosses.
Posted by: catherineD


Excellent point.
It is also absurd to suppose that extra pay will make a teacher better! The time to increase pay is up front, so that teaching attracts better people in the first place.

Posted by: Ace Franze on March 23, 2006 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK
It is also absurd to suppose that extra pay will make a teacher better!

Inasmuch as pay for performance would produce results, I'd expect it would largely be through encouraging performers to keep teaching and discouraging poor performers from continuing in the profession.

Of course, if that's the model, it makes sense to raise entry level pay and make it depend not at all on performance, while performance measures become increasingly important in setting pay level above the entry-level rate for more experience teachers. The idea being to encourage people to get into teaching, and do the most possible to encourage the performers to stay.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 23, 2006 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

If we held BuSh and congress accountable for NCLB there would be few politicians left to hold the impeachment trials.

Posted by: James on March 24, 2006 at 6:40 AM | PERMALINK

game

Posted by: ghf45 on March 26, 2006 at 3:16 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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