Everybody in a School Building Must Be Treated as a Child

In a comment to my previous post, Rhody writes:

… go to 401(k) first. Then we can sort out the seniority/merit issues.
Who decides who gets the merit raises? The only way you can do this fairly is have teachers teach to a test – whoever has the highest number of students pass gets the biggest raise. Not sure that’s the best thing for the kids, and the political can of worms you open…

Before all else, I’ll speak from experience and suggest that the current step system hardly eliminates unfairness. At best, it merely consolidates it at the beginning of the teacher’s career — when jobs are doled out in the manner of lifetime appointments. More importantly, though, when did it enter the unwritten laws of the land that teachers must be treated as if they are a bunch of vulnerable children?
The working world that most of us inhabit has few explicit and standardized tests to determine the raises of employees. Managers and administrators grant raises and promotions according to whatever formulas they believe will bring the best results to them in their own capacity. Sure, sometimes the criteria seem unfair (e.g., the ability to stroke the manager’s ego and tattle on other employees), but overall, a system of hierarchical accountability strikes me as exponentially more fair than one in which a mediocre employee making minimal effort follows the same path as an exceptional employee making extra effort.
That last — the current state of affairs — is certainly not the best thing for the kids.

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17 years ago

I’m glad this issue was raised on Anchor Rising. I recently retired after 39 years of teaching at Rhode Island College and lived thru both a merit system, and then its abolishment by union leaders determined to scuttle it. They said it caused resentments. What they refuse to note is that a system where everyone gets the same raise (subject only to salary equity issues involving discrimination on hiring) causes resentment amongst the most competent.
Despite this peverse lack of incentive, most faculty members do work real hard for their profession and their students, but there are those who coast, and others sometimes have to pick up the slack. When I was department chair, that was a source of much frustration, you always had to ask the busy people to get something done, and there was no reward for them. But the union is run from the top and though I tried, nothing can be done to change the party line.
I’m not one who wants to abandon fucntions of government, and public higher education suffers from lack of support. But I do believe taxpayers have a right to demand accountability from their employees, who should be rewarded for excellence and not mere longevity.

17 years ago

A significant problem is the irrelevancy that has become the position of school principal. Ivory tower administrators demand more and more of principals’ time away from individual schools, and declare mandates that often tie the principals’ hands and fail to take into account schools’ unique needs. Union leadership approaches discussion with a detailed contract in one hand and a threatened grievance in the other.
Justin is correct when he points out that standardized tests are seldom used to grant raises and promotions. As a leader and boss, the principal should have the power to determine criteria based on the needs or his or her school, and evaluate accordingly.
I’ve worked under a handful of principals. Some I got along with on a more personal level; others I did not. But I have always felt confident professionally and would have been comfortable having any determine my merit-based pay raises.
A key to improving our public schools is the increase in decision-making powers of school principals.

17 years ago

Good points all around. We don’t need coasters in our classrooms, and the principal is probably the most qualified person to be making the merit decisions.
A big problem is, though: the job of school superintendent has become so politicized ovet rhe kast 20 years or so – that’s why they keep moving around. If a school board member has a beef against a teacher (because his kid didn’t get good grades, a religious fundamentalist who has a beef with something being taught – that’s happened in Pennsylvania and Kansas, the teacher is also a coach whose team is losing, etc.), he/she leans on the superintendent, and the superintendent leans on the principal.
Or what if one teacher who feels he/she did as a good a job as the next doesn’t get the raise? There goes the teamwork a school system needs.
Sounds like paranoia on the surface, but these questions require some thought before putting in any kind of a merit raise system.

17 years ago

“Or what if one teacher who feels he/she did as a good a job as the next doesn’t get the raise?”
The rest of the working world deals with this every review cycle just fine.
And schools require no more or less ‘teamwork’ than any other success-striving business and the rest of the country seems to get on just fine when co-workers .

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