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California Teachers Unions Oppose Paying Teachers More Because It Would Introduce Too Much Competition Into Public Schools

One union official told The Sacramento Bee that “education should not be a competitive endeavor.” Because competition never improved anything, right?

If you're looking for a stellar example of teachers' unions ongoing commitment to mediocrity or worse, then you need only look at their reaction to now-defeated California GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox's idea last month of paying top-notch teachers much higher salaries—perhaps even rivalling those earned by ballplayers and rock stars.

The unions, of course, pan the idea. One union official told The Sacramento Bee that "education should not be a competitive endeavor."

Cox seemed to suggest in a statement to the newspaper that he engaged in some hyperbole: "Of course our teachers will never approach the pay of a Beyonce or a Lebron, but quite frankly, our classroom teachers influence, inspire and change the arc of more lives than even these music and athletic superstars."

His idea of instituting a form of merit pay makes a lot of sense. Despite the naysaying, every successful enterprise is, to some degree, competitive.

Merit pay is a simple concept. It allows school administrators to pay good, effective teachers more than mediocre or poor-performing teachers. It allows signing bonuses and performance-based rewards. The obvious corollary is that it also allows them to pay bad or incompetent teachers lower salaries. In a truly competitive educational model that goes beyond this simple idea, school officials could even—get this—demote, discipline, or fire teachers who aren't making the grade. That's how it works in almost any private business, and even private schools.

In the current public-school system, however, pay is based on seniority. A school teacher who has been just occupying a chair for decades, must be paid better than a young go-getter. A teacher who is willing to ply his or her skills in a tough, low-performing urban school must be paid the same as a teacher on autopilot in a wealthy suburban district, where the challenges are less severe and the stakes not as high. In times of layoffs, that tough and energetic teacher working a hard gig must be laid off before any teacher with greater seniority in the union, thanks to something known as LIFO, or "Last In, First Out."

In the current, union-controlled monopoly system, school administrators are not free to recruit the best and brightest talent from other industries because, well, they can't pay enough to lure them out of more lucrative fields. And anyone who wants to be a regular, full-time teacher in California's public schools must go through the long, expensive and mind-numbing process of getting an education degree. (Did I mention that those who receive such degrees tend to come from the bottom rungs of the academic ladder, according to numerous studies?)

To make matters worse, it's nearly impossible to fire public-school teachers provided they show up for the job. School districts have "rubber rooms," where teachers deemed unfit for the classroom twiddle their thumbs and collect full pay and benefits while their cases are adjudicated for months and even years given all the union protections against firing. It can cost school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars to go through the firing process, so most don't bother.

That leads to an annual, cynical process called the "dance of the lemons." As Peter Schweizer explained for the Hoover Institution, "Often, as a way to save time and money, an administrator will cut a deal with the union in which he agrees to give a bad teacher a satisfactory rating in return for union help in transferring the teacher to another district. The problem teacher gets quietly passed along to someone else. Administrators call it 'the dance of the lemons' or 'passing the trash.'"

These cases usually involve teachers accused of some terrible action, but it's functionally impossible to get rid of or pass along teachers who are merely incompetent. I recall when John Stossel showed a long flow chart of how to fire a teacher in New York City. The audience was stunned. Then Stossel, held up more pages of the chart. It's crazy and the results are insane.

In 2012, nine California public-school students filed a lawsuit against California and the CTA arguing that the state's system of teacher protections violates the state constitution's promise of an "effective" education. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled on behalf of the students. He invalidated teacher tenure and other work rules because they assured that a percentage of "grossly ineffective" teachers would be left in the classroom, wreaking havoc on the future of many thousands of students, especially those in poor school districts.

In his decision, Treu noted that "an expert called by (California school administrators), testified that 1-3 percent of teachers in California are grossly ineffective. Given that the evidence showed roughly 275,000 active teachers in this state, the extrapolated number of grossly ineffective teachers ranges from 2,750 to 8,250."

That's a lot of bad teachers, and a depressing number of students who suffer in their classrooms. But Treu's decision was overturned on appeal, and the appeal was upheld by the California Supreme Court. But the facts are the facts, even if the court was unwilling to back a decision to shake up the state's public-education system.

This is what happens when the educational system is not a "competitive endeavor," but rather a union-controlled, government monopoly. It means that good teachers cannot be rewarded. Great teachers cannot easily be recruited. Grossly ineffective teachers cannot easily be removed. And mediocre ones have few incentives to improve. Imagine how this system would work in your particular profession or business. How well would it do if the worst are protected, the best are neglected and the so-so ones are rewarded?

In the news story, Cox didn't get into the details of the hiring/firing process, but his merit-pay idea should have been widely applauded, although it's surely dead-on-arrival after the election results. Yet on its website, the California Teachers' Association says that "merit pay is flawed in concept. Where it has been tried, it has proved to be a detriment rather than a stimulus to better education. CTA is open to consideration of alternative pay plans as determined by the local associations through the collective bargaining process."

As a final note, the debate over merit pay reinforces the wisdom of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent Janus decision, which declared that teachers and other public employees are not required to pay union dues even to support collective-bargaining purposes. Justice Samuel Alito, wrote for the majority that such bargaining often involved "fundamental questions of education policy," so it's antithetical to the First Amendment to compel people to support ideas to which they don't agree.

"Should teacher pay be based on seniority, the better to retain experienced teachers?" Justice Alito asked. "Or should schools adopt merit-pay systems to encourage teachers to get the best results out of their students?" Public-school teachers no longer are forced to subsidize the opposition to merit pay and to reforms to the current tenure and seniority based system, but there's still a long process ahead to move toward the idea that Cox touted.

This column was first published by the California Policy Center.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

Photo Credit: Ingram Publishing/Newscom

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  • Remember to keep it all polit||

    I can't think of any words capable of expressing my disgust at public employee unions, and this guy takes it to new levels.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    In times of layoffs, that tough and energetic teacher working a hard gig must be laid off before any teacher with greater seniority in the union, thanks to something known as LIFO, or "Last In, First Out."

    Sounds like their IT guy only knew how to implement a stack.

  • Rat on a train||

    The "rubber rooms" make is sound more like a heap with failed garbage collection.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    In IT for me it is HPFUMSLIFO.

    high priority first unless manager says last in first out.

    I'm kidding, however. Everything is priority one. EVERYTHING.

  • perlchpr||

    Everything is priority one. EVERYTHING.

    Oh, yeah, I used to work for that bitch, too.

  • Rat on a train||

    I remember a "dance of the lemons" back when I was in a joint military-civilian office. The higher echelons reorganized the hierarchy and billet allotments at least once each year. Normally managers don't like losing billets, but a lost billet was a way to get rid of your non-productive employees.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    If you're looking for a stellar example of teachers' unions ongoing commitment to mediocrity or worse

    Conservatives should love this, because they love 'mediocre or worse.'

    They live in -- and love -- shambling, can't-keep-up backwaters.

    They can't stand modern, successful, educated, accomplished communities and citizens.

    They turn hundreds of campuses -- just about every campus they control -- into fourth-tier, nonsense-teaching, censorship-shackled, science-disdaining yahoo farms.

    They despise our strongest colleges and universities.

    They push affirmative action for right-wing academics.

    They rail against accomplished, educated, reasoning, skilled "elites."

    They celebrate the structural amplification of rural voices in our system.

    Right-wingers can't get enough mediocrity and worse.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    And that's why conservatives are the most strident and vocal supporters of teachers unions, right?

    And speaking of these conservatives you know so well, you do realize this is a libertarian forum, right? There are some conservatives here, but they are a distinct minority, especially among the editors but also in the commentariat.

  • Eddy||

    A conservative, by Art's definition, is a stupid, toothless, science-denying white Southern evangelical Christian redneck who lives in a trailer with his pack of hound dogs and watches Fox while taking meth.

    I would imagine that only about a third of the commenters meet that definition. Ha ha, I mean only a seventh at most.

  • JesseAz||

    I was told there would be no meth.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    When you trick or treat you to that risk

  • DesigNate||

    Rev is a huge fucking bigot, so he see's conservatives everywhere.

  • Sevo||

    Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland|11.9.18 @ 9:11AM|#
    "Conservatives should love this, because they love 'mediocre or worse.'"

    In which case, you're a star with the concervs, assshole. Few here match you in 'worse than mediocre'.
    Fuck off.

  • Jack Klompus Magic Ink||

    You should have your retard face repeatedly stomped into dust.

  • LinoleumBlownApart||

    So basically you're calling them deplorable. I guess if you have a proven plan, stick with it.

  • Eddy||

    Since this is California, I would imagine that the guy's merit-pay proposal involved increasing funding for the good teachers while leaving the pay of the mediocre/bad/awful teachers unaffected.

    Thus, technically, the mediocre/bad/awful teachers, the union's constituents, would have nothing to lose, right, except the opportunity to gloat over the fact that better teachers are treated no better than them?

  • Cy||

    Government Union = Paid Democratic Voters

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Merit pay defeats the entire underpinnings of the Union. Never going to happen.

  • ||

    ^ This. Merit pay is what happens naturally. Working to stop merit pay is the whole point of unions.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Solidarity (and forced dues) is the only way for unions to survive

  • Skyhawk||

    Public schools are an obsolete, part-time, seasonal make-work program for the mediocre.
    With every piece of human knowledge abailable at nearly everyone's fingertips, on demand, the public schools system has outlived it's usefulness and it's time to move on.

  • JasonT20||

    What do you plan to replace public schools with? Private schools only with vouchers for all? Something else?

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Work farms.

  • Harvard||

    Vouchers, vouchers, vouchers, vouchers, vouchers, vouchers, vouchers . Oh, and, build the wall. Two simple, effective solutions to simple issues

  • ||

    Vouchers, vouchers, vouchers, vouchers, vouchers, vouchers, vouchers

    Yes.

    Oh, and, build the wall.

    No. Building the wall solves exactly no issues.

  • Harvard||

    Of course you're right. We'd still have shit stains such as yourself who'd bitch about the vetting questions.

  • ||

    We were actually able to get rid of a teacher at my daughter's school.

    She was one of the most incompetent teachers I have ever seen. She had been teaching sixth grade, but could not control the classroom to save her life, and so she was bumped down to kindergarten, which is where my daughter had her.

    Thirty years of "experience" and she was still constantly frazzled - couldn't handle even the most basic tasks or plan ahead by even one day. She had a clear and well-known hatred of little boys in particular, and a reputation for actually physically smacking kids in class. Half the things I overheard her "teaching" were just plain wrong. Basic grammar - couldn't handle it.

    Since she was the most senior teacher on campus, the union went to the mat for her over and over. It took the principal directly witnessing her striking a kid to get her removed.

    One of the more pernicious hidden costs to this system is that it's not the best teachers who stick around and earn their seniority - it's the worst, most incompetent ones whose lives literally depend on holding onto a job that requires no skills and from which you can't get fired. When they are 100% burned out and doing far more harm than good is precisely when they are of the greatest value to the union - the higher the salary the more dues they collect. It is literally the one and only thing the union cares about.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    I would guess that 90% of my friends who are teachers fall in the bottom 50th percentile in grammar skills. It is frightening.

  • soldiermedic76||

    Science teachers scare me. Luckily my kids' science teacher is pretty good, but the one my nephew has seems incapable of understanding even basic science. When I was a grad student and working as a TA, it was simply depressing the scientific illiteracy of many freshman. This was in a science department, I shudder to think of the level of knowledge in the humanity departments.

  • JasonT20||

    I've taught high school science for 15 years (M.S. physics) in four different schools, and I've seen only a couple colleagues that I would rate the way you rate your nephew's science teacher. And no, they didn't last.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Funny you say that. A friend of mine who attends the same gym is a professor of chemistry at one of the WA State colleges. I see him about three times a week and he always has some new story about how the kids in his undergraduate chemistry course have no idea how to study, no problem solving skills, inferior writing skills, etc..

    Keep in mind that he is teaching the version of the course intended for those pursuing science based degrees. Pre med, engineers, etc., and these kids are just largely unprepared to attempt this level of course work. He even explains in detail how to do well in his course, and they don't listen to him.

    I see examples of this when I hire people. They can't write, reading comprehension is often lacking, and mathematical prowess just isn't there. So I'm not shocked at what he tells me.

    If I have any more kids, no way in Hell are they attending public school.

  • JasonT20||

    "He even explains in detail how to do well in his course, and they don't listen to him."

    I see this often in high school as well. Today's teens have basically grown up with information readily available. Some just don't see the value in knowing things that you can look up on the internet. Those that think this way won't do homework and won't study. Even the ones that do get good grades don't work as hard as I did when I was in school.

    Basically, your anecdote is not necessarily evidence of poor performance on the part of the teachers, when it could also be explained by the current generation not learning the value of hard work at home. Too much comes too easily for them.

  • JasonT20||

    You lost me when you talked about teaching as if it "requires no skills".

  • Spiritus Mundi||

    Meritocracy cannot be allowed as it disadvantages minorities.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Whom do we trust to determine which teachers merit a raise?

  • H. Farnham||

    Ultimately, you trust the voters in a given school district. They determine school board members, board members determine administrators, and administration determines merit-based pay. Of course, this opens the door to more opportunities for grift, favoritism, and corruption... that's the trade-off. As someone with quite a bit of skin in the game (I've got two young kids and my wife is a public school teacher), I think it would be worth the trade-off and could make public education much more effective overall. I know my wife would prefer merit-based pay.

  • Ben of Houston||

    Sorry, but Bubba's right. Any sort of merit pay system is rife for abuse in government. The reason is that in a company, you have feedback mechanisms. You'd love to pay extra for having your incompetent cousin come in or that pretty but useless secretary. However, the work still needs to get done and money still needs to be made. It happens all the time, but there's a push-back when it goes too far.

    In government, there is no feedback since the money comes in no matter how bad a job you do. Corruption, nepotism, and favoritism goes to extremes because it's only at the most extreme that voters hear about it and can take action.

    While our system has problems, we need to acknowledge that government is fundamentally different than business.

  • H. Farnham||

    I acknowledge the likely issues of abuse and corruption. However, it's not like those issues aren't already present. Instead of nepotism or quid pro quo leading to increased merit-pay for undeserving employees, the current corruption leads to tenure and increased experience-pay for underperforming employees.

    That's why it's important to keep education policy and action as local as possible. Parents are the primary impetus behind the feedback to drive effectiveness. The more involved federal or even state level government becomes, the more obfuscated the signals and efficiency become.

    It ties into school-choice. If school district administrators and board members are rewarding sub-par performance and results, the effects will be apparent, and parents should then be able to take their children elsewhere. Merit-based pay might potentially lower the floor, but I'm convinced that it would raise the ceiling more than enough to make up for it.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    The students usually know who is good. It isn't hard to figure out.

  • Gasman||

    Everyone else with a job has their worth evaluated. Why are teachers special that their evaluation is cannot be entrusted to anyone. Is it because teachers are 'professionals' and have too many soft skills that cannot be measured? Well then join the ranks of professionals, where everyone, engineers, physicians, lawyers, get evaluated daily on their worth, and take home something proportionate to what they produce.

    Time for teachers to start acting like the 'professionals' that they wish to claim to be.

  • Jerryskids||

    I'm sure the unions fully support merit pay whereby the better teachers get higher pay than the worse teachers but they also support equal pay whereby the worse teachers get the same pay as the better teachers. Look, if 93% of our county's teachers can get bonuses based on their above-average performance, why can't we just round it up to an even 100% and certify them all as belonging to the elite group of better teachers?

  • Len Bias||

    "A school teacher who has been just occupying a chair for decades, must be paid better than a young go-getter. A teacher who is willing to ply his or her skills in a tough, low-performing urban school must be paid the same as a teacher on autopilot in a wealthy suburban district, where the challenges are less severe and the stakes not as high. It means that good teachers cannot be rewarded. Great teachers cannot easily be recruited. Grossly ineffective teachers cannot easily be removed. And mediocre ones have few incentives to improve."

    Wait, why is this a bad thing?

  • Robert||

    The fear of merit pay is of the serious possibility that evaluations will become political and/or corrupt. Therefore seniority is adopted as an objective proxy for merit, on the reasonable assumption that skill develops with experience.

  • H. Farnham||

    I won't go into detail, but the assertion in your last sentence that it's a reasonable assumption is why that argument gets no traction with me.

  • JasonT20||

    What, does experience mean little in the private sector?

  • Sevo||

    JasonT20|11.10.18 @ 3:12PM|#
    "What, does experience mean little in the private sector?"

    In the private sector, seniority means a lot. If you are in a union.
    If you are judged (and rewarded) by performance, experience means nothing to an employer; results do.

  • JasonT20||

    And how do people get the skills and knowledge to outperform their colleagues? Experience certainly plays a role in that.

  • LinoleumBlownApart||

    Oh yes. Better to have the current, corrupt, failing system than have another that allows the possibility that job evaluations might get "political". Fer fux sake, would ya stop for a sec and listen to yourself? LOL

  • Gasman||

    What is the evidence that politics would intervene.

    Merit pay must be at all levels. The principal's pay is tied to student achievement, and thus the principal is incentivized to use his teacher salary budget for the specific goal of maximizing student achievement through his ability to improve the overall quality of his employees (the teachers.)

    Those who can teach, will. Those who cannot, will be shown the door.

  • JasonT20||

    "The principal's pay is tied to student achievement..."

    What measures of student achievement do you think they should use? Test scores? Graduation rate (for high school)? What about subjects that aren't tested, like art, music, PE, social studies, and even most sciences? How will these measures account for differences in demographics?

    This is my biggest problem with merit pay, as a teacher. I just don't see a way to make it based on something relevant to desired learning outcomes and simultaneously something that applies to all teachers equally, whatever they teach and whatever the demographics of their students.

  • No Longer Amused||

    Of course they come from "the bottom rungs" - the purpose of public schools is to ensure that education takes a back seat to indoctrination and disinformation.

  • JasonT20||

    I'm not amused either when I see this kind of garbage. I have been in public education for 15 years (high school science), and I never see this so-called indoctrination. Unless you count actually teaching the science behind evolution as being indoctrination like the creationists do.

    If education majors have lower SAT scores and high school GPAs than average for college students, maybe it is because higher performers can earn much better pay over a career than in teaching? It is strange that people will talk about how 'good' teachers have it and yet also point out how few top performing students go into teaching. Do none of you see the disconnect there?

  • Sevo||

    JasonT20|11.10.18 @ 3:11PM|#
    "I'm not amused either when I see this kind of garbage. I have been in public education for 15 years (high school science), and I never see this so-called indoctrination."

    "More than 1,000 SF students walk out of school in protest of Trump"
    http://www.sfexaminer.com/1000
    -sf-students-walk-school-protest-trump/

    Of course, the teachers had nothing to do with this, right?
    BTW, the Vietnamese woman who cuts my hair told me she found that her grammar-school kids 'marched against Trump' the teachers took them out of class to do so.

  • JasonT20||

    In the SF case your assumption that teachers were involved in the anti-Trump protest is an argument from incredulity, not one based on evidence. Even so, this is San Francisco were talking about. The kids' parents were probably cheering this on, so their 'indoctrination' into being anti-Trump is probably stronger at home than anything they'd hear from teachers.

    Not that any such political or religious bias or pressure is right in a public school mind you. I would agree that teachers should remain neutral on such topics. When students ask me directly about my religious or political views, I avoid answering, telling them that it isn't professional for me to push my views on students.

    But we are arguing with anecdotes here, not conducting a systematic study of political bias. If you want to see anecdotal evidence of religious indoctrination in public schools, it isn't hard to find.

    Google "Mom sues schools alleging promotion of Christianity" (I couldn't get this to post with the link in there.)

    Frequently in the Bible Belt states (and occasionally outside of it) such things turn up in the news and courts. Look at Kitzmiller v Dover as an example of efforts by school boards to push creationism.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Jason, education is full of left leaning to outright full blown progressives. My teachers were like that when I attended school and the people I know the are teachers and administrators now are almost exclusively democrats. The teacher's union is also a huge donor to the democrat party.

    And please down cry to me about how unfair teacher pay is. It isn't any worse than many other professions requiring more difficult degrees, yet requires less working hours, offers better benefits, and far greater job security.

    Teachers work about 1,500-1,600 hours per year. A full time job with no paid time off is 2,000 hours per year. Most jobs do not offer every holiday off plus 8 weeks in the summer, and a week or more off at Christmas, plus additional paid time off.

    Teacher's may be less lefty and activist where you teach, but that isn't true about most of the country.

  • JasonT20||

    Where you live can make a huge difference. I would expect teachers to usually reflect the area they live in as far as their general political leanings go. But as far as which party teachers will agree with on education policy, there is no doubt that it is the Democrats. I've registered Republican my whole life (though I'm more of an independent that has voted both sides in the past), but the education policies Republicans have pushed over the last 20 years or so frustrate me to no end.

    In particular, the 'test-and-punish' accountability that they then use as justification for 'school choice' measures that don't always apply the same accountability. Florida's voucher system is notoriously lax when it comes to accountability. Just look for the Orlando Sentinel's "Schools without Rules" series if you want to see what goes on in some of Florida's voucher schools.

    "Teacher's may be less lefty and activist where you teach, but that isn't true about most of the country."

    Neither you nor Sevo have shown this to be true. General political trends are for big differences between urban centers, suburbs, and rural areas. Teachers in urban school districts, I would expect to be left-leaning. Teachers in rural areas, I would expect to be right-leaning. And teachers in rural areas, I would expect to be a mix. You've given me nothing to alter my expectations.

  • Benitacanova||

    They have mediocre teachers in private schools too. Oh wait, they were nuns.

  • CDRSchafer||

    Did they teach you how to use present tense and past tense?

  • JasonT20||

    "Merit pay is a simple concept."

    Of course it is. In order for it to do any good, though, you need to be able to accurately and fairly separate the "teacher effect" from everything else that determines student performance. Your student performance measures need to have accuracy and validity at measuring the desired outcomes, as well. Standardized tests are limited in what they can measure and the subjects tested are limited mainly to math and reading.

    After 15 years teaching science in public high schools in Florida, I have little confidence that all of the emphasis on high-stakes testing is actually doing students more good than harm. "Teaching to the test" takes time away from more authentic and engaging learning experiences as students endlessly practice the skills that a standardized tests can measure. The assumption continues that more time is needed in the school day to be spent on reading and math, so out goes time spent on other worthy subjects like music and art, recess, and even civics and science.

    While I agree that teacher training programs need a lot of work, I do not agree that it should be just a matter of having content area knowledge in order to walk into a classroom and expect to be successful. I have seen science teachers with no prior classroom experience (but degrees in science or engineering) quit their jobs early in a school year simply because they couldn't handle trying to manage 25+ immature teenagers.

  • JasonT20||

    Being a good teacher requires too many intangibles that don't show up on student test score results or even the rubrics administrators use to evaluate us during the two times a year that they come into our classrooms to watch us teach in order for me to believe that any merit pay scheme will be effective at boosting teacher performance. Republicans in Florida have tried poorly designed merit pay plans before, and all they did was frustrate us. I have lost confidence that the school reform advocates on the right either understand education or really care about public education.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Education needs something. There was a strong subset of teachers when I came up through school that were clearly burnouts just counting down to their pension.

  • Sevo||

    JasonT20|11.10.18 @ 3:01PM|#
    "Being a good teacher requires too many intangibles that don't show up on student test score results or even the rubrics administrators use to evaluate us during the two times a year that they come into our classrooms to watch us teach in order for me to believe that any merit pay scheme will be effective at boosting teacher performance."
    Being a good salesperson requires too many intangibles that don't show up in orders sold...
    I'm calling bullshit special pleading. Your job is to teach the kids well enough that they can demonstrate a proficiency regarding the subject. If you can't do that, put a sock in it about "intangibles'.

    "Republicans in Florida have tried poorly designed merit pay plans before, and all they did was frustrate us. I have lost confidence that the school reform advocates on the right either understand education or really care about public education."
    And here you claim (above) there is no lefty indoctrination going on.
    Were you a hypocrite before, or did it take 15 years of 'teaching' to make you one?

  • JasonT20||

    "And here you claim (above) there is no lefty indoctrination going on.
    Were you a hypocrite before, or did it take 15 years of 'teaching' to make you one?"

    What are you talking about? I can't look objectively at Republican policies in Florida and conclude that they don't work? I can't look at all of the efforts to push test-and-punish accountability and school choice by Republican leaders in the state that have ties to the testing industry and charter management companies and conclude that they might not have the best interests of students in mind?

    As I said above, I was a political independent with some slight Republican leanings for most of my adult life. It isn't indoctrination that's pushed me away from them, but their policies.

  • Gasman||

    BS that teaching is an intangible. Everything has a measurable result. Teaching is not what you do, it's what you produce.

  • JasonT20||

    What I produce? What I produce is lessons for students to work through. What I produce is the guidance and coaching I give to my students as they work through these lessons. The actual learning is based on what they produce.

    I'm not making widgets. I am not the only factor that determines whether my students learn. There is a lot that determines whether they learn that I have no control over. Not least of which is that they are developing human beings with their own free will. I didn't have anything to do with their education prior to being in my class. I can't control their home life, or who their friends are.

    If you know how to measure my effect on their learning, separate from all of these other factors, then I'm all ears.

  • Gasman||

    BS that teaching is an intangible. Everything has a measurable result. Teaching is not what you do, it's what you produce.

  • LinoleumBlownApart||

    Well then it's settled. The entire idea of merit pay fails because there is simply no know way of accurately measuring what teacher deserves the merit. I knew it was too good to be true.

  • JasonT20||

    I didn't mean to go quite that far, but merit pay is definitely counter-productive if the employees don't have confidence that it is fair and accurate.

    Let me give you some examples of what Florida has tried to do in terms of merit pay:

    First was the 'Star' teacher program in the mid-2000's. It was based entirely on test scores. For teachers that taught subjects and students that took state tests (math, reading, and English teachers), those scores were used. But if you taught other subjects, or your students didn't take state tests (11th and 12th grade), districts were supposed to come up with tests to use. Oh, and they had something like 5 months to come up with these tests. I was teaching chemistry and physics at the time, with all 11th and 12th graders in my classes. I kid you not, 11th graders in my class were given a U.S. History test, and those were the scores used to determine my score.

    The next year, was the 'MAP' program, which changed things some. There, teachers were again evaluated based on test scores alone, but if you didn't get classroom level data from students taking state tests, your score was based on the whole school's test results. So, again, as a chemistry and physics teacher, I was judged on how well the 9th and 10th graders in my school did on the reading and math state tests.

  • JasonT20||

    Then, in 2011, they changed things yet again, introducing a new evaluation system based on observations by administrators, combined with test scores (still from the whole school for me on reading and math that I don't teach). If you are rated "highly effective" by this system, you got a raise of a couple hundred dollars more a year than other teachers. Thus, you might get a 3% raise instead of a 2% raise, for instance. That is, if the district had enough money to give any raises at all.

    Finally, a few years ago, they introduced the "Best and Brightest" plan. Teachers can get an actual sizable bonus (not a raise, though) of a few thousand dollars IF: they are rated highly effective AND they had SAT or ACT scores in the 80th percentile or better. If I could get rated highly effective, I would actually qualify for that, but 40% of my total evaluation score is based on student performance on reading and math tests, not science, let alone the science I teach.

    There you have it. Those are the attempts at merit pay I have seen from my Republican government in 15 years of teaching.

  • Alan@.4||

    One question here seems to go unasked, certainly unanswered, that being the following.How come teachers, or any public employees are unionized?

  • JasonT20||

    I'm a public school teacher and willing member of my union (Florida, a right-to-work state). As Ben of Houston said above, government doesn't really get the same level of feedback that would correct management that gets incompetent or corrupt. We are also more vulnerable to the whims of our 'customers' than employees of a business. Parents and students can sometimes push back against a teacher's judgement about grades, discipline, or even curriculum in unreasonable ways. Or, at worst, make false accusations against a teacher of serious misconduct.

    Without a union and union-negotiated contract, teachers are often on their own in these situations. Some administrators would cave to the pressure and not stand up for their teachers. In the worst situations, a union-less teacher would have to spend thousands of dollars on an attorney to defend them. At a minimum, being a union member gives me that kind of legal insurance that I need. The contract then also gives me due process protections if the administration were to cave to unreasonable parents or otherwise act unreasonably.

    There was a situation that shows why this matters. A teacher in my district was asked to falsely sign off on a roster that was manipulated to allow the school to claim that it was adhering to the class size rules of the state. She refused, and even with our contract, she was let go later under some other pretext because she didn't have tenure. The administration suffered no consequences.

  • Sevo||

    "As Ben of Houston said above, government doesn't really get the same level of feedback that would correct management that gets incompetent or corrupt."
    Presumes facts not in evidence.

    "We are also more vulnerable to the whims of our 'customers' than employees of a business."
    Dittop

    "Without a union and union-negotiated contract, teachers are often on their own in these situations."
    As are employees everywhere.

    "Some administrators would cave to the pressure and not stand up for their teachers. In the worst situations, a union-less teacher would have to spend thousands of dollars on an attorney to defend them. At a minimum, being a union member gives me that kind of legal insurance that I need. The contract then also gives me due process protections if the administration were to cave to unreasonable parents or otherwise act unreasonably."
    The same union which pretty much guarantees rotten teachers can't be fired? Sorry, the rest of us can also be unfairly accused.

    Pretty much special pleading from top to bottom. If we are to believe you, no non-union schools would attract or keep teachers. Not only do they, but they provide better outcomes for the kids.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Indeed. I attended a non-union prep school for two years of high school. It was far better the whole way around than the public school I attended the other two years. And that public school was a very good one.

  • JasonT20||

    "I attended a non-union prep school for two years of high school. It was far better the whole way around than the public school I attended the other two years."

    What, exactly, made it better?

  • Sevo||

    "What, exactly, made it better?"
    You weren't there, union apologist. He might have learned something other than 'pubsec unions are wonderful'.
    Fuck off.

  • JasonT20||

    Was that an unreasonable question to ask? It doesn't do education reform much good to just say that one school is better than another. We need to know why, so that we can use what works in the schools that aren't as good.

  • JasonT20||

    "The same union which pretty much guarantees rotten teachers can't be fired?"

    Another problem I have with the usual anti-union arguments is the implication that all states are like New York and California. A few states don't allow public school teachers to collectively bargain at all, and many others are right-to-work or have other restrictions on public employee unions that lessen their political influence. Florida has no "rubber rooms", for instance. Republicans have dominated state government for 20 years, despite it being a swing state, and are set to do so for another 4 years at least. They did away with tenure for new teachers a few years ago, and just how do you define a "rotten" teacher anyway?

    "Sorry, the rest of us can also be unfairly accused."

    So, you want everyone to suffer if you suffer, is that it?

  • Sevo||

    Oh, goody! A slimy union apologist willing to be beat about the head and shoulders! Jason, you fucking piece of shit, I'm more than happy to do so:

    "Another problem I have with the usual anti-union arguments is the implication that all states are like New York and California. A few states don't allow public school teachers to collectively bargain at all, and many others are right-to-work or have other restrictions on public employee unions that lessen their political influence. Florida has no "rubber rooms", for instance. Republicans have dominated state government for 20 years, despite it being a swing state, and are set to do so for another 4 years at least. They did away with tenure for new teachers a few years ago, and just how do you define a "rotten" teacher anyway?"
    Uh, outside of misdirection and general bullshit, what there a point buried there somewhere? What part of 'science' did you study? Was logic involved?

    "So, you want everyone to suffer if you suffer, is that it?"
    No, you pile of shit, I expect assholes like you to have to deliver the goods like the rest of us. I'm not sorry in demanding you do your goddam job to be paid by the taxpayers.

  • JasonT20||

    "Oh, goody! A slimy union apologist willing to be beat about the head and shoulders! Jason, you fucking piece of shit, I'm more than happy to do so:"

    Don't start with the profane name-calling and then question my ability to use logic. Check your emotions at the door before you post if you actually want to have a reasoned debate.

    My point, since you missed it, was in answer to your comment about unions "guarantee[ing] that rotten teachers can't be fired". I was simply pointing out the variation of union power from state to state (starting at basically zero in a few states and ending at CA and NY, with most states being in between). So it is factually incorrect to assert that "rotten" teachers can't be fired, certainly in most of the country.

    I was also asking how you determine whether a teacher is "rotten" in the first place. You'd want to be sure you were getting rid of actual rotten teachers that can't or won't improve, and not ones that might only look rotten because of the situation they were placed in. Maybe if you had a large pool of good teachers waiting for a job, then you could afford to fire some decent teachers along with the bad, but in many subjects (like science and math) in many states (like mine), you don't have much of any pool of teachers waiting for a job, let alone a large pool of good ones.

  • JasonT20||

    "If we are to believe you, no non-union schools would attract or keep teachers. Not only do they, but they provide better outcomes for the kids."

    Assumes facts not in evidence.

  • Sevo||

    JasonT20|11.11.18 @ 11:49PM|#
    "Assumes facts not in evidence."

    Gee, lame apologist for unions, that took .006 seconds:
    "Urban charter schools are doing better than public ones, but can't always close the achievement gap."
    https://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank
    /2015/03/19/new-study-shows-charter-schools-
    making-a-difference-in-cities

    You really are an asshole apologist, aren't you?
    Fuck off.

  • JasonT20||

    That opinion piece about the CREDO study from 2015 is definitely positive for charters in general (thought it was specifically about urban charter schools), but it also shows a pretty wide range of outcomes. It isn't like all charters are doing better than all public schools, far from it. Also, you should acknowledge that this is based entirely on test scores in math and reading. That some charters find ways to better prep students for tests isn't the only thing we should look for in education quality.

    Things are almost always more nuanced than a headline would suggest. While it took only ".006 seconds" to find the piece, I wonder if you read it and thought about it before you finished your post.

    I put a lot of thought and time into these posts. If you just want to call me "an asshole apologist", I'll stop wasting my time.

  • mariealaura||

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  • ||

    Reason is great, but sometimes their articles can make you feel just downright depressed.

  • CDRSchafer||

    Most RNs I've known only do patient care for so long. Eventually they get tired of taking care of sick people and move into administration or some other way to avoid patient care. Eventually, many teachers burn out as well. I had a few in my public school experience. Unions provide incentives dead wood employees in the teaching profession when for the most part, they should be moving on to something else. My children's public charter school is non-union and has done a great job attracting young, enthusiastic teachers who do an excellent job.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    Merit pay is a simple concept. It allows school administrators to pay good, effective teachers more than mediocre or poor-performing teachers. It allows signing bonuses and performance-based rewards.

    In a public school system, merit pay will simply be used to make the system even more corrupt.

  • Sevo||

    "In a public school system, merit pay will simply be used to make the system even more corrupt."
    Claimed facts not in evidence.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    I didn't claim any "facts"; you logically can't have facts about policies that haven't been implemented yet. That's why we need to use reason. And reason tells us that there is no benefit to the people deciding "merit"-based pay to actually decide on the basis of merit. On the other hand, there is a significant benefit to them to use variable pay to surround themselves by people who are in debt to them. We can also look at how variable pay is used in other public sector professions (firefighters, police, etc.) and reason by analogy.

    Reason! You should try it some time, Sevo!

  • LinoleumBlownApart||

    Rational Exuberance is right. We must privatize all schools so there will be no corruption.

  • Sevo||

    That would be a good goal, but we can start by at least making it possible to fire the bad ones and give raises to the good ones.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    I have a lot of family friends who are in their twenties and thirties. Some of them are in education and are resistant to these proposals as well as talk of de-unionization, and/or charter schools.

    I typically win them over to some degree when I explain that a union less environment with backpack style vouchers would increase demand for teachers, lower class sizes, and that merit pay would go to the go getters and innovators. Which most of these people are. As opposed to giving the money to hacks who have been around longer. And they all know teachers that are lazy hacks.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    The two are inseparable. Private businesses fire bad employees and reward good employees because they are driven by the profit motive. Public sector employers have no motivation to use the power to hire/fire/reward based on performance because public sector employers are not subject to market forces. Therefore, giving them this power isn't going to help, it's going to hurt.

  • Gasman||

    "In a public school system, merit pay will simply be used to make the system even more corrupt."

    Find me a business with more transparent finances. My public school district has the salary of every employee available for all to see online. I know what they spend on every contract, know their business liabilities, age and depreciation on facilities, gross tax receipts, interest payments on debt...

    It is as if teachers have not heard of the internet, or sunshine laws. This stuff is all available, and ensuring that administration knows it is the best way to ensure that everything is above board.

  • Art Gecko||

    Even in the rare case when a government official does have a good idea, it always turns out to be a bad idea. The end result of merit pay can only be that they hire even worse teachers than they have now, in order to save money when budgets get tight.

  • LinoleumBlownApart||

    Except in this case, the "good idea" that turned out to be a "bad idea" was the original one of basing a teachers pay on seniority.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    The military does that too, but the bigger factor is rank. Longevity pay should be limited.

  • Gasman||

    I teach, among my responsibilities, as a physician at at teaching hospital. For this we have merit pay, with the teaching bonus ranging from $0 to about $25,000, with a median of about $5,000.
    Top performers are few, and well rewarded. Most have some bonus, but a small fraction of the top end, and a few get nothing.
    Teaching is quantifiable. 1) what do my residents learn; there are tests for that. 2) what do my residents think of my teaching, they complete anonymous surveys, 3) what teaching programs have I developed over the past year that advance resident skills; skills that can be measured.

    If teaching does not produce results, then one is not teaching.

  • JasonT20||

    Gasman,

    How well would your merit pay system translate to K-12 education? That is an important question.

    1) If your residents take tests that are valid and accurate measures of what you want them to learn, then that's great. It sounds like you have one component of what you need to determine merit. One question, is the bonus competitive with other physicians, or is it based on set criteria?

    My concern about how this translates to K-12 is that kids take a lot of tests just for math and reading. Having one for every subject, especially in high school, so that every teacher is getting judged on test results for their students in their content area, would likely result in test fatigue. Also, teachers should be judged on their contribution, not just the end result. We wouldn't want a competitive system that makes teaching the 'good' kids an advantage.

    2) Your residents are high-achieving adults, so I would certainly expect them to be fair in their surveys. Do you think that would work in a general population of a K-12 school?

    3) Demonstrating innovation in teaching should definitely be included in a teacher's evaluation, merit pay or not.

    Basically, your merit pay plan works because you have a lot of confidence that it is fair and accurate. I wouldn't expect you to feel positively about it if it wasn't. As a K-12 public school teacher, my concern is that merit pay programs wouldn't be fair or accurate, meaning that they would do more harm than good.

  • Bessie54||

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