At the recent Education Committee meeting of the City Council, as reported by Maisie McAdoo, a Tweed official lauded a plan to track pupil achievement data to evaluate teacher performance. The beginnings of pay for performance?
I taught in a large high school with maybe two hundred teachers. Every day I interacted with the teachers in my department, we discussed: lesson plans, shared tests, lesson motivation ideas and the morning traffic, and we all were paid on the same salary schedule. Would I share materials with a colleague who might make more money because his kids did better on Regents Exams? Will setting up a system of competition among teachers improve pupil achievement? It doesn’t work in the private sector why should we think it would work in schools? Management gurus talk in terms of “learning organizations” and “teams of learner,” not individual merit pay.
Why do some schools with similar kids do better than others? Usually a principal who is able to create a team, a faculty that works together, a synergy created by teams of teachers who pool their expertise and increase their effectiveness. In some schools teachers participate in “kid talk,” all the teachers who teach the same students talk about individual kids, and, they talk with the kids themselves. When the English, Social Studies, Science and Mathematics teachers get together to discuss how Johnnie is doing in their classes and map out a strategy Johnnie is the winner.
Teaching can be a lonely job. In too many schools teachers close the door and teach the kids. The job is akin to working in a factory and screwing in the bumper rivets all day every day. Add into the equation that the faster you screw in the rivets the more you’ll be paid. I’m sure you’re going to attract the “best and the brightest” to work in this new style education factory.
Highly effective schools are highly effective teams of teachers who collaborate, support each other, laugh and cry together and the winners are the kids who are lucky enough to be in these energetic, synergistic buildings.