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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Vitti’s very risky merit pay gamble

After a week of details being dripped out about his merit pay plan the details of the plan finally spilled out.

The nuts are:

20k guaranteed to teachers with high VAM scores at 36 schools with poor test results to stay at them the first year, with an opportunity to make that, half that or nothing depending on test results over the next two additional years.

17k guaranteed the first year for teachers with high VAM scores to transfer to one of the 36 schools with an opportunity to make that, half that or nothing depending on test results over the next two years.

That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot more than what I reported before, 20k over 3 years and what was given in the Transfer Incentives for High Performing Teachers study, which was 20 k over two years.

This is an incredibly risky gamble.

First it uses VAM scores, which have been highly criticized because of all the variation that may occur. 

Next there is no evidence that says transfers to middle schools are effective and transfers to high schools have never been studied. It seemed to work well in elementary school but that’s it.

How is this money going to affect teamwork and collaboration? I have to tell you if you were doing the same job as me and making 20 k more I think it would piss me off especially if the difference between us were a percentage point or two and the distance was a wall.  

Merit pay has worked in one kind of questionable study and then just on the elementary grade level.

Finally how can Vitti talk about the need to get our best, brightest and most experienced to our needy schools and still bring in a hundred TFA teachers? It doesn’t make sense. Okay that’s a little off topic but it is a head scratcher.

That’s a big gamble for Vitti and the district to make but to be honest I don’t see a huge down side, we really do need to get our most experienced teachers to our neediest schools and where I would have rather seen the district put in place supports like smaller classes, behavioral support, discipline back up along with a few other things, this amount of money will see a fair amount of great teachers roll the dice. The problem is I don’t see the upside being too high. I ultimately think at best results will be mixed unless we put in supports for kids and teachers alike and commit to keeping them there because if we don’t whatever gains the schools experience they will lose and be right back in the same position in four years as the best teachers flee the second the money is turned off. 


  1. VAM scores are a joke. Last year, I was the only teacher in my school to "need improvement." Why? My principal coded my class incorrectly, and I was judged by the wrong test. I was told to teach Intensive Algebra. However, my VAM came from FCAT. My students rocked their Algebra EOC. It's sad that my evaluation didn't reflect it.

  2. This is ludicrous. I don't work harder because of money. I, and most of the teachers I teach with, work hard all of the time. Seriously, the VAM cutoff is ridiculous. 25% higher than the average is required. I don't know of a single teacher with 25% higher than the average in the reading category. Traditionally, the average is like 40-50%. I know of no one, except for maybe some elementary or ESOL teachers with 65-75% growth scores in reading. Students tend to make smaller gains in the middle/high schools, because we as a society only speak at a 9th/10th grade level, if that. There are few teachers who could even meet that minimum who would actually choose to work in a more struggling school. At some point, Vitti is going to have to rethink this plan, as few would make the cutoff or choose to move.
    How about making the classes much smaller, so students could have more one-on-one time with the teachers? How about requiring extra tutoring and using that extra money to pay for it? How about mandating extra summer schooling for those struggling students? How about teaching parents to read to their kids before they even attend school, because many don't know to do this? How about requiring all students to attend every day, and enforcing the law so students have to attend? How about using the money to pay for more guidance counselors, so we don't have 450 students per counselor?
    In order for there to be real change, all of the teachers/principals/counselors would have to be really effective, not some. How long would they even stay once the money runs out? This is so frustrating, because I know it will not work.