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The value system of many teachers is typically against merit pay and there is nothing wrong with that. However, what many people fail to realize is that teachers salaries can vary substantially based on the resources in a local community and the way the salaries are structured in a state. In my state, we pay teachers the most in the communities with the highest income and tax base and the students who are most likely to have a stable home structure and require less work. Starting pay does need to come up but in most areas, the average pay is on par with the average for comparable occupations. The problem is that the union members with the most power also have the most seniority, and so the increases over time are more substantial than they need to be. If we increase starting pay, then we need to lower the annual increases, or allow teachers to reach maximum pay at an earlier point of seniority, and right now we cannot get widespread agreement with those changes. I am a middle-class parent with two kids in public school, one who learns fairly easily and one who struggles. After my son received poor grades in math for the first half of the year, we hired a tutor at a large expense to work with him one-on-one for the rest of the year. He received an A in the class; however, he then failed the annual assessment. We did everything possible to work to succeed, and these resources are not available to a lot of families. I will argue that the biggest problem facing public education is the lack of ability to let go of poor performers. There is no shortage of applicants, which is counter to the argument that we need to raise salaries at all. But we put the needs of the adults ahead of the needs of the children when we don't allow, encourage, or require a school to lay off a teacher who isn't performing. Make the evaluation a 360 degree process, and find out who isn't up to the job based on what parents, students, and other teachers think, in addition to the administration. It's not fair to the other teachers to have to make up lost ground for a teacher who didn't make progress with the students, and it's morally unjustifiable to make students suffer in their education with a teacher who shouldn't be there.
Toggle Commented Oct 2, 2012 on Rating Teachers—Posner at The Becker-Posner Blog
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Can someone please acknowledge that there is subjectivity in evaluations for all other jobs? And surprise, it isn't always fair. There is a fundamental problem with our public schools when so many teachers have such distrust of administrators, especially when they always come from the ranks of teaching. Aordover, most classes don't have standardized testing but would you want to be evaluated on the performance of your entire peer group? In my job, we work just fine as a team but my performance is my own. In theory, if someone goes into the teaching profession, one hopes they are passionate about the success of students and will be willing to lend a hand to support other members of the school staff in order to have a fabulous and successful school. Jdwalton, of course good parents make teaching a lot more efficient but I don't think our society is ready to put any type of requirements onto parents - then we end up punishing the students for the failings of their parents, and if a kid has parents who don't care, haven't they already been punished? To use a military analogy, no one joins the military these days thinking they will never go to war, and no one should go into teaching thinking it will be utopia. It's a tough job but the rewards are better than just about any other job out there.
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Oct 1, 2012