Responding to the ridicule of teachers and the teaching profession by politicians and self proclaimed "experts"!
"Where is Albert Shanker now that we need him?" - Walt Sautter

Monday, November 21, 2011

An Unmeritorious System

I was going to write on another subject today but I happened to see a discussion of merit pay and tenure on News 12 – “12 In Our Schools” and immediately decided to change my topic.
I have had very limited experience with merit pay during my forty years of teaching however, very early in my career (back in the sixties) I did work in a district that used the merit system. I have always remembered the way in which it operated primarily because it was so absurd.
The system evaluated teachers on a one to five rating (five = best and one = poor I don't know if anyone ever got a zero?). Ratings were given by four administrators, the department chairman, the principal, the vice principal and the superintendent.
The rating from the department chairman was often a function of which department you happened to work. If you were in the math department the chairman's philosophy was “I would never hire a poor teacher” – everybody was five. If you were in the English department, well “Nobody was as gifted a teacher as the chairman”– everybody got less than a five.
The principal ruled with an iron hand and although I didn’t know his philosophy on merit ratings, I did know that the vice principal (a timid little man) always, somehow gave the same exact ratings as the principal.
The superintendent was rarely seen in the building. When I asked how he could possibly give a legitimate merit rating when he had never seen the teaching of many of those whom he rated, the answer was “He knows!”. I guess you had to have faith in his omnipotence.
That was the merit system as I experienced it. Not too good, from my standpoint anyway. I'm sure there are better systems (and probably some worse) but I certainly found it to be unfair, arbitrary, divisive and intimidating. Needless to say, I left that system at my first opportunity.
There is another interesting point about the evaluation system, not only at the school I have just mentioned but state wide. It is that a supervisor has the authority to evaluate any teacher in any area as long as he has proper certification. This means that if I had a certificate and was a chemistry teacher I could evaluate a French teacher. I don't even know how to say “French” in French! How could I possibly know if the teacher was even teaching the correct information much less teaching it well? I find this incredible but these are the rules that are currently in place.
In an article, “Up Pay for Math, Science Teachers, Christie Says – Governor: Give gym instructors less cash” in the Ledger the Governor indicates that he feels that gym teachers are less valuable than science teachers. I am mindful of the fact that many ex gym teachers become principals and supervisors. It is they who then become authorized to evaluate the math and science teachers!
The more I hear about “Educational Reform” the “curiouser and curiouser” it becomes?

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your article on merit pay. Too many supervisors are just pushing papers and aren't trying to evaluate good teaching. I think all supervisors, principals and superintendents should be actually teaching in the classroom and not just teaching the honor students. Once you are an administrator you don't want to be seen in the classroom, way to many everyday distractions, like making lesson plans, grading papers, handing out progress reports and emailing all the students parents about how "johnny" is doing. The reason why NJ has one of the best education systems in the country, they were willing to pay the teachers. Many systems are top heavy with to many high priced administrators. I do like the one thing governor has supported and that's
    reigning in the Superintendents salaries.


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