Washington Post education blog post features NC teacher explaining absurd merit-pay plan

Posted on January 23, 2014 

The Washington Post’s education reporter has an item on her blog headlined “Bad news for teachers comes in an automated phone call” that features a piece from a North Carolina teacher. Reporter Valerie Strauss says, “Despite decades of failure, merit-pay schemes for teachers continue to be pushed in states and school districts around the country. In this post, Chris Gilbert, who teaches English at a high school and community college in North Carolina, explains a new scheme in North Carolina that involves merit pay for teachers and a loss of tenure rights.”

Excerpts from Gilbert’s piece:

There are misguided assumptions behind this (merit-pay) policy, and many of these transcend the borders of North Carolina. Sadly, these beliefs inform corporate-based reform attempts throughout the country.

First, this policy reflects the view that teachers are inadequately motivated to do their jobs. If teachers simply increase effort, educational ills will be solved and student achievement will increase. This idea is incorrect, as the majority of teachers are dedicated, professional individuals who already give maximum effort. Dangling a monetary carrot in front of teachers will not magically enable them to overcome, or “teach through,” the innumerable challenges they currently face. Powerful teaching occurs when educators recognize they are valued, are provided continual opportunities to evolve and work within systems that are functional and sufficiently resourced.

Second, if incentives are offered, they should be given to all educators, as limiting raises to the “top 25%” is a slap in the face to all other exemplary teachers who plan lessons, deliver instruction and nurture both the emotional and cognitive growth of students. These educators have worked, and continue to work, in an environment subjected to the damaging policies mentioned above. To suggest that only 25% of a district’s teachers deserve a raise is to imply that the remaining 75% do an inadequate job. There is no evidence to substantiate this assumption.

Third, offering such contracts to the top 25% encourages a culture of competition and kills the collaboration that is integral to effective education. The idea that a single teacher’s influence can be isolated is absurd.

Read more here.

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