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

Sunday, 18 November 2012

My First Time!

I read about the Newark teacher's settlement today in the Ledger.

One of the statements made was "implementing a system known as merit pay for the first time in New Jersey".

 I beg to differ!

Way back in 1965 when I first began teaching I worked at New Providence High School in Union County as a chemistry teacher.

At that time there was a "merit pay" system in place. I was not part of it because it only applied to tenured staff and I was a first year teacher (just out of college) but I did see how it worked.

The highest possible "score" that could be obtained by a teacher was a five which of course yielded the largest "bonus".

All teachers were evaluated and scored by their department heads, the principal, the superintendent and I seem to remember the vice principal being involved too.

The evaluations were very subjective and to me seemed whimsical.

Those in the English department rarely if ever received a rating of five from their department head. When I asked why, I was told that it was her feeling that no one was a teacher as good as she and therefore no one could ever be rated superior. (I don't really know if that was the true reason but I do know fives were rare if ever for the English staff.)

The people in the math department by contrast, were consistently rated five by their supervisor. When I asked why, I was told that he often said that he would never have hired a less than superior teacher and therefore all were given fives.

As for the superintendent I am not sure what his rating were based on. I rarely saw him in the building and never saw or heard of him observing a class. When I asked how he could possibly rate teachers without actually seeing them perform, the answer was "he knows!"

I could never really understand that answer. I must surmise it was that he had  clairvoyance or ESP going for him.

The end result of all this was low morale (except for the people who routinely kissed up and got fives) and dissension.

 Additionally, I don't think that it improved instruction one iota. Most of the people I met were there doing the best possible job they could because of their professionalism and their concern for the kids, not for the "five".

This is my experience with the "merit pay" system. I realize it was a very limited experience and obtained many, many years ago but it has stuck with me and caused me to view any similar system with grave suspicion.

I certainly hope that which is implemented in Newark shows me that my suspicions are misplaced but I'm not so sure that will be true.

My honest opinion is that  the new Newark contract is just another step towards the privatization of public education. Again I hope I'm wrong!


I don't know when the "merit pay" system was abandoned in New Providence or how long it lasted. I left the system in 1967.

However it must have been eliminated, otherwise its proponents surely would now be pointing to its success.

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