Wednesday, February 17, 2010


 As a teacher, I've always been torn with the pros and cons of merit pay. Universities, also in the business of educating, routinely pay professors salaries based on productivity. Then again, when is the last time a history professor's performance was impacted by how well her students scored on the GRE?
     But I do hate excuses.  
     Perhaps one of the best arguments I've read recently against merit pay is by Shafeen Charania of  synthesis. He refers to an article in Education Week, saying merit pay simply cannot work in an environment where the success of one teacher relies heavily on the input of so many others. "Merit pay ONLY succeeds in individual, competitive games; i.e. when you have to beat someone else to win," Charania writes. "It's really easy to motivate salespeople based on merit 'cause they control their destiny; they can only win when their employer wins; and when they win, their competition loses."
     Well, that certainly speaks to any of the schools where I've worked. We all have some form of child study team, a once-a-week gathering of administrators, classroom teachers, and specialists to discuss any student in the school.  Imagine if we were only rated on the success on the students specifically assigned to us? Would classroom teachers share lessons with one another?
     Collegiality and a shared passion, I've found, often set one school far above others. The adults join forces to teach, inspire, coach, and nurture their collective students; they then turn around and provide the very same for their colleagues.  
     When people point to a business model to emulate, they gloss over the problems businesses create for themselves -- the  cheating; the backbiting; the financial lying to stockholders; the serious product design flaws that are quietly hidden, then later main and kill innocents. 
     So let's not use business models to "improve" our nurturing schools. In fact, business has a lot to learn about humanity -- from teachers.
     No, there has to be something better.