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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Is superintendent Vitti tone deaf about his merit pay plan?

Superintendent Vitti is out selling his plan to pay top performing teachers to stay at or go to our underperforming (re do poorly on standardized tests) schools. He calls the 20k being proposed a life style change. It’s not.

First the money is to be paid out over three years. Now 6,700 dollars a year is a nice chunk of change but it is hardly lifestyle changing. I know this because when many of our struggling schools had sig grants they were paying teachers an extra 5,000 dollars a year and unless I have missed something we are in the exact same spot.  

We have tried other financial inducements too, like 3000 dollars one year and a free masters degree the next, which also did not work.

These types of scams are often referred to as merit pay and have been tried over and over again by districts and not one has worked, until miraculously the Department of Education funded the Transfer Incentives for High Performing Teachers study.

It found that high performing teachers paid 20k over two years to transfer to our struggling schools made a huge difference. That’s the headline however when you look into the study huge problems were easy to find.
First teachers that transferred to middle schools made absolutely no difference. I was stunned too but the report said high performing teachers did as well as teachers hired through the normal applicant process in middle schools.

Next let’s compare high performing transfer teachers to teachers hired through the normal applicant process. The normal applicant process especially at our struggling schools consists for the most part of recent grads, novice teachers and people from other fields looking to start their careers because due to high turnover at those schools that’s where the jobs are.  So the study in essence said more experienced teachers do better than novice teachers.

Then according to the study even at 20,000 dollars over two years only 22% of teachers asked to apply did so and of those only five percent actually went. Now here we are offering even less per year money.

Finally only 60% of the transfer teachers remained the next year once the money was turned off. The study doesn’t say it but I imagine that percentage will drop precipitously in subsequent years and in short order the struggling schools will be right back where they started.

What’s being sold as a game changer, a lifestyle change is in effect just more of the same tried and failed plans.

At the end of the day no amount of money is going to make a difference unless we put in adequate supports for students and teachers and that instead of recycling what has already failed is what we should be doing.

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