3/10/11

Keep your incentive money....RESPECT, the incentive teachers dream of

Did you read the paper today about how "New York City’s heralded $75 million experiment in teacher incentive pay" did not improve achievement? I am not at all surprised....in fact, no one should be surprised.

First and foremost, teachers do not go into teaching to make a load of money. We knew going into this we would not be wall-street rich or even close, therefore throwing money at us for doing a good job is a absolutely a nice 'pat on the back', but only helps to affirm that we are doing a good job. For teachers that do not get the incentive pay, they could do just fine without it; for it was never about the money anyway. The problem with economists and business-minded folks infiltrating and privatizing our schools in this corporate reform movement is that they bring with them the ideas of the business world, such as 'incentive pay for performance'. These ideas work well in wall-street, but fall flat on its face in education overall. So the education reformers need to rethink incentives or throw it out all together.

Now, as a teacher of 13 years I can give you the kid-in-a-candy store incentive that would automatically help raise achievement scores, and that is respect. In fact, I would even take a pay cut to get it. But how would respect raise scores? Up to now, most reforms are handed from above (district-level) and while they theoretically sound good they do not often fit the reality of the schools or the community they address making them ineffective. If teachers were invited to the proverbial 'table' and treated as a part of the solution, teachers could give valuable insight that would better work for their schools. Right now, in the country, teachers are depicted by wall-street and the media as the problem and millions are poured by each state into weeding out 'bad' teachers. Not all teachers are under attack we are told, just the 'bad ones'. turn on the TV you'll hear about the 'avarice' of teachers, our greedy pensions, health and dental and cushy 10-month contracts. But while each and every District spend millions on smoking out the 'bad teachers', every teachers is feeling the pressure and that makes the profession very unattractive for young teachers. I loved the most recent Jon Stewart , during his interview with Diane Ravitch he jokes,

"The whole bad teachers argument blows my mind too, have you been in the world, there is a bad everything. How many fast food restaurants have you been to and think, what the h*** is going on here? How many times you've been to the bank, the wall street...there are crappy people working almost in every field and yet, somehow teachers don't have the luxury of having a couple of crappy ones."

As funny as this is, it's probably true. In my 13 years teaching I have run across maybe 1 or 2 teachers who I felt should not be teaching. But, wouldn't this incentive money be better spent getting the right learning environment for our children and getting all the teachers the right professional learning environment to learn from one another with the right resources? I would urge any district to stop wasting money on incentive pay. While I don't mind getting an extra 5k a year for being highly effective, I would more happily give it up for an invitation to the 'table'.

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