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Monday, October 20, 2008

Teachers Should Be Paid On Performance

Posted by Matt Davis on Mon, Oct 20, 2008 at 2:32 PM

Reluctant as I am to engage with the critics of our endorsement of Measure 60, which proposes performance-based-pay for teachers, I've been watching Amy's defense of our endorsement with interest since last week, and felt the urge not to justify it per se, but to explain it a little more.

My mother was a teacher, and can tell countless tales of working with uncommitted, unqualified people whom she wished hadn't gone into the profession. Once there, it was all but impossible to fire the worst teachers, which would impact children negatively. I, personally, was taught by some lousy teachers at public school until I left for a private high school, where for the most part, the quality of teaching was exponentially higher thanks to the competitive salaries on offer for those who taught there. I know my parents would have preferred to send me to a public high school if the teaching had been better, but there was just no incentive for good teachers there.

Critics of our endorsement are, for the most part, arguing that the measure would lead to more standardized testing. I don't see that. In Cincinnati, unions shook hands on a performance-based salary model in 2000, that meant outstanding teachers could advance to the top pay grade within five years, while experienced teachers could lose pay for bad evaluations. Nowhere were tests mentioned. Nowhere are tests mentioned in this new measure.

People seem most concerned about our endorsement because Measure 60 was written by the father of four public school students, Bill Sizemore. But since when was politics about personalities over ideas? I know we like to elect people in Portland based on their looks, haircut, and whether or not they break their bike commute to shop at New Seasons, but this is a statewide measure. Try some statewide thinking, if you dare.

To be where he is in Oregon politics, I'm of the belief that Bill Sizemore must be a remarkably tough individual. I happen to disagree with him on most things, but I don't think he is a "corrupt pile of fetid dogshit," to quote one critic. Nor do I think it advances our discussion of these issues by referring to him as "Captain Douchy McFraudpants."

I get the sense that most opposition to the measure is by people who simply don't like the concept of merit pay. We do. End of story. The accusation that we'd somehow be endorsing a measure in order to "incite a discussion" is unfair. We met with both sides, and were more convinced by one than the other. You? Here's one critic:

Anyway, I am a public school teacher and I oppose this measure as do 99.9 % of teachers!!! Did you not notice that the teacher's union strongly opposes this measure?

Yes. And the cop union opposed and ultimately overturned the firing of Scott McCollister and Jeffrey Kaer.

This is not because we're a bunch of slackers.

I don't remember arguing that in our endorsement, but since you bring it up...

If you actually know any teachers you will know how hard we work and for how little money.

Join the club.

This measure will ensure that no teachers in Oregon ever get a significant raise again unless lawsuits are filed.

I'm really not with you here. We're suggesting that the legislature work out a system of rewarding better teachers, and paying them more.

Merit based pay? Which will undoubtedly be tied to student standardized test scores?

How many times? Tests aren't mentioned in the measure.

In a huge bureaucracy where teachers receive very little positive reinforcement and struggle with a daily landslide of issues beyond their control, this is not fair.

But it's fair to pay a washed up old teacher more than an energetic young one based on the number of years they've been in the job? I don't see that happening elsewhere, and where it is happening, I'm against it.

This is another step in the direction of complete erosion of the public school system, ensuring that only the rich will be educated. Do your homework next time; I give you a failing grade on this one. I might consider you redeemed if you ran a LARGE retraction of this immediately before some of your trusting readers make the mistake of taking your advice on this one!

On the contrary. I think Measure 60 could help the public school system attract teachers who would otherwise go private, and make sure the best teachers are rewarded where they're needed most. Remember: I'm not trying to "incite a discussion," here. Merely clarify our endorsement. So please consider carefully whether you have anything coherent to say before responding. Because I've said my piece, now. And that's the last of it. The voting decision is yours.

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