Here's why teachers, by and large and as a profession, suck like Hoovers.
From Education Week, where veracity and non-verisimilitude would be best served by judicious editing to Education Weak, comes this "attack" on merit pay for teachers. The salient points of the puny popgun wielded by Kim Marshall are presented below, with My responses between brackets.
Set up: Here's what the author says immediately after firing blanks: "These concerns, to my way of thinking, demolish the argument for individual merit pay."
Okay, now find out Marshall's "way of thinking" and his ignorance of the meaning of the word "demolish": (Don't worry: I'll educate him on that as well.)
Is Merit Pay the Answer? ...Here's why (it isn't):
• It undermines teamwork. Teachers who are rewarded for their own students’ test-score gains are less likely to share ideas with their colleagues. [Oh, like what We have now is the epitome of "We're really a family" teamwork. Your contention is that teachers are more interested in their own results and would avoid collaboration to serve their students better. Here's an idea: Let's fire those who do that.]
• The best teachers are already working incredibly long hours, and there’s no evidence that extra pay will make them work harder or smarter—or that it will motivate mediocre teachers to improve. Quite the contrary: Merit pay will steer all too many teachers toward low-level test preparation. [Hmm, hundreds of years of experience across several hundred professions indicate that the chance to earn more money motivates many people. So if the best teachers are already working long hours to be the best, what the hell is wrong with the others? Lack of motivation? Okay, then how about merit pay?]
• Standardized tests are often “instructionally insensitive”—that is, they’re better at measuring students’ family advantages and disadvantages than the school’s or the teacher’s value-added effect. [True, but Teacher A gets great results and Teacher B in the same school is a sack of crap. Blame the students? The parents? The school board? The janitors? Mountains of evidence show that great teachers can appear in any school, regardless of its socioeconomic environment. And standardized tests are not--should not ever--be the end-all and be-all of education.]
• Standardized tests in many states don’t put enough emphasis on writing and critical thinking, so raising the stakes for teachers creates an incentive to shortchange these important life skills. [Literacy rates in the U.S. of part of A. have dropped in the past 35 years. In fact, the U.S. of part of A. could have as much as 35% functional illiteracy. An emphasis on standardized tests may be a factor, as well as TV, video games, iPods, cell phones, El Niño, Tupac's death, Ritalin and sightings of the Virgin Mary on taco shells. Literacy has dropped because teachers are no longer trying as hard to teach these basic skills, maybe because they lack them (all too common) or because teaching them is never anything but the result of hard, persistent effort.]
• To address the last two problems, it’s been suggested that schools should use higher-quality, before-and-after tests in September and May to measure each teacher’s contributions to student learning. Nice idea, but experts say it takes at least three years of data to produce a fair value-added measure of individual teacher effectiveness. [First point: Three years are going to go by anyway. Second point: To get to three years of data, start with one, then keep going. Third point: Suspend all judgment on the data until you have the three years' worth. Fourth point: You have got to be kidding. Is this what passes for reasoned discourse in your brain?]
• Raising the stakes on tests increases the urge to cheat. Most teachers are scrupulously honest as they proctor their test-taking students, but higher stakes will result in more thumbs on the scale. [It's already happening and will continue to do so until the utter stupidity of "No, Child: Left Behind" is dropped in favor of actual education. By reducing the inane emphasis on standardized tests, the "incentive to cheat" would dissipate. This is not a merit pay problem, it is a standardized test problem. Try, really try to keep your criticisms straight.]
• A good many students are pulled out of regular classes for small-group help with other teachers. How could we figure out a fair way to dole out merit pay for these children’s achievement? [How do you measure the value of a bunt that moves the runner up, of a pass that sets up a dunk or a thunderous block that springs the fullback for a long gain? It's called statistics, based on data and measurements, worked on over time until a framework is developed that assesses values to different actions. In this specific case, both teachers would have to collaborate to achieve great results so that both could qualify for merit pay. No other scenario benefits both or either one. Think it through. Have someone help you.]
• Good scores in one 4th grade class (for example) would boost that teacher’s pay—but what about the 3rd grade, 2nd grade, 1st grade, kindergarten, and preschool teachers who helped those students along the way? Don’t they deserve some of the loot? If so, how would we calculate their share? [Jesus F. Christ in a bottle! Are you really this stupid? "Loot"?! If the students improved significantly in the 4th grade, it's very likely it was because their 4th grade teacher helped them do so. If the other teachers did equally good work in earlier grades, they deserve higher pay as well. But if the students had "average" results for their K-3 years and then "overachieved" in the 4th grade, pay that teacher for that merit and let the other teachers work better to earn their merit. This is the same "regression to the bottom" that plagues this profession so unwilling to be measured for results. Let Me reverse the argument for you to show how moronic it is: If you did high-quality work in the 4th grade and the same students bombed in the 5th, should you give back part of your "loot"? I thought so.]
• Fully half of teachers work with grades and subjects that don’t have standardized tests—kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades, art, music, and physical education, for example. Is it fair that they aren’t eligible? [Wait. A fucking. Minute. Didn't you just expend 4 of your blithering points arguing against standardized tests and now you are saying that it is unfair--unfair you say?--that "fully half of teachers" won't get the sublime benefit of being measured by them? And your "point" that only by standardized tests would a teacher be eligible places--once again--the same notion you argue against as the criterion for merit pay? Look, you may have had a wisp of a shadow of a sliver of a notion of an idea possibly maybe floating somewhere near a neuron in your head, but it faded quickly into pure vapidity. The only reason I'd give you a D- instead of F on this piece of numbskullness is that your handwriting in crayon was quite neat and legible.
The Jenius Has Spoken.
[Note: 10 March 2010: From Newsweek, Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers. Short version: accountability and children's futures.]