Obama Wants to Pay Teachers What They're Worth

It sounds as if Barack Obama has been listening to some economists (maybe even Austan Goolsbee): he has come out in favor of merit pay for schoolteachers. From an A.P. article:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told the largest teachers union Thursday that performance-based merit pay ought to be considered in public schools.

Teachers at the National Education Association’s annual convention have expressed concerns about merit pay, which is gaining favor with lawmakers, including those currently rewriting the No Child Left Behind law.

Teachers say they worry that linking their pay to their students’ test scores would be unfair to teachers who have students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Teachers also say it isn’t fair to offer merit pay only to people who teach courses that are tested, like reading and math, but not to those who teach subjects like music or art.

Obama said teachers’ salaries should be increased across the board, but he also said there should be fair ways of measuring teacher performance and compensating teachers accordingly.

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 118

View All Comments »
  1. Sciolist says:

    One obvious disadvantage is that you are assuming that test scores at different ages accurately reflect the quality of the teaching. I should think that all it tells you is how well the teacher prepares you for the test.

    If it does happen though, a large component of it should consist of improvements on last year, not absolute scores.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  2. Sciolist says:

    One obvious disadvantage is that you are assuming that test scores at different ages accurately reflect the quality of the teaching. I should think that all it tells you is how well the teacher prepares you for the test.

    If it does happen though, a large component of it should consist of improvements on last year, not absolute scores.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. Judging by experiences on this side of the pond (i.e. the UK), this is a bad idea. Performance-related pay means the introduction of some method for measuring teacher performance, which inevitably means that the teacher starts doing whatever is necessary to increase the measurement, rather than what is best for the child. This could have all kinds of unintended side effects.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Judging by experiences on this side of the pond (i.e. the UK), this is a bad idea. Performance-related pay means the introduction of some method for measuring teacher performance, which inevitably means that the teacher starts doing whatever is necessary to increase the measurement, rather than what is best for the child. This could have all kinds of unintended side effects.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. Philk says:

    No no no. Test scores are an inherently flawed way of measuring student intelligence (they’re great at measuring regurgitation skills though!). Basing teacher performance on how well our children can recite facts is only going to make things worse. Education needs to be completely restructured to teach children how to learn and the joy of knowledge rather than beating creativity and curiosity out of them by forced memorization exercises and busy work.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  6. Philk says:

    No no no. Test scores are an inherently flawed way of measuring student intelligence (they’re great at measuring regurgitation skills though!). Basing teacher performance on how well our children can recite facts is only going to make things worse. Education needs to be completely restructured to teach children how to learn and the joy of knowledge rather than beating creativity and curiosity out of them by forced memorization exercises and busy work.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. psteinx says:

    I agree with #1 and #2.

    There are two basic ways to do performance based compensation (in more or less any profession):

    1) The boss judges performance.
    2) Performance is evaluated by numeric goals.

    #1 allows for a great deal of subtlety in evaluation – the boss can pick up many small things that the employee does well (or poorly) that a numeric system would miss. But I suspect that this would not work very well in the educational system, as personal and political factors might override true evaluation (or at least, those who got the short end of the stick would THINK that the evaluation was unfair, which is almost as bad.

    #2 also seems impractical to me. My memories of my best teachers are that they taught a little bit about a lot of things – teaching not only the subjects at hand, but other academic and life skills along the way. Implementing #2 would create a very strong ‘teach to the test’ incentive, that I suspect would do more harm than good.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. psteinx says:

    I agree with #1 and #2.

    There are two basic ways to do performance based compensation (in more or less any profession):

    1) The boss judges performance.
    2) Performance is evaluated by numeric goals.

    #1 allows for a great deal of subtlety in evaluation – the boss can pick up many small things that the employee does well (or poorly) that a numeric system would miss. But I suspect that this would not work very well in the educational system, as personal and political factors might override true evaluation (or at least, those who got the short end of the stick would THINK that the evaluation was unfair, which is almost as bad.

    #2 also seems impractical to me. My memories of my best teachers are that they taught a little bit about a lot of things – teaching not only the subjects at hand, but other academic and life skills along the way. Implementing #2 would create a very strong ‘teach to the test’ incentive, that I suspect would do more harm than good.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0