Friday, November 6, 2009

Is YOUR pay based on measurable outcomes?

While I’m not in the business of advocating policy positions, I’m on record as supporting some form of merit pay for teachers. But I would never, ever promote it using one justification you hear often from proponents of primarily test-score-based performance pay: that in the real world, workers are paid based on measurable outcomes. Really? Sure, salesmen get commissions. But lawyers, doctors, accountants, consultants, journalists, politicians, policy makers? Bosses judge how valuable their skilled employees are using subjective judgments about effectiveness and pay accordingly.

Quantifiable measures rarely form the basis of that calculus, unless you blog at Gawker (and even they seem to have abandoned the model). So can we put a halt to that rhetorical fallacy? And why not revisit the blanket opposition to subjectivity playing a role in rewarding great teachers, the way it does in so many other professions? “My principal might have it out for me” does not convince me.


  1. Every journalist who endorses tying teacher pay to test scores (we're pretty much talking about editorial writers and columnists, not education writers) has a moral obligation to call for tying journalists' pay to circulation and profits -- in the same paragraph.

  2. I think you're right, Linda. For most salaried people, specific measurable outcomes isn't tied to pay, but to continued employment. :) I don't know anyone whose paycheck is based on lines of code written or scripts deployed, f'rinstance.

  3. And sorry, I should clarify that those figures are as of June 2008.

    So this incident raises the question of whether journalists' pay should be tied not only to circulation and the employer's profitability, but also to the accuracy of their copy.

  4. I don't care for merit pay, but that's not the issue. The older generations of teachers who've seen how it has failed in the past are being replaced by a new generation that apparently wants it. So, its the job of Baby Boomers to protect educational values as we enter into new experiments in Market-oriented compensation.

    Any Value Added Model for evaluation purposes is a loaded gun when placed in the hands of management. But if we move towards peer review and collaboration, then we'll always be using imperfect information to make policy decisions.

    I suspect we'll get a much much larger bang for the buck by using evidence-driven evalutions through peer review to remove the lowest performing teachers, while programs like TAP seem to be the best performance pay system. In TAP, I bet its the investments in collaboration that produce the gains.

    Frankly, I wish we didn't have to go down this risky path, but Baby Boomers like me who were so good at telling our parents' generation what they did wrong, won't be able run schools for the next generation.

  5. How can anyone be opposed to "Merit pay?" Only a person who believes children should be left behind, those who believe we should be racing to the bottom, and those who believe teachers should be unqualified.

    The only groups who endorse these silly deforms are teachers unions--or so everyone is led to believe. It's very effective propaganda, but hardly effective leadership.

    Posing the issue as "for or against" doesn't promote consideration of "how." And mandating that student test score on standardized tests "not be excluded" doesn't promote consideration of what should be included. When this mandate is coupled with "national standards" masked as "common core" and more charter schools, the agenda is much larger than teacher merit pay."

    The National Academy of Sciences has warned of the dangers involved in each of the "pillars" of the "Race to the Top":

    Who are you going to listen to?