Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Maryland school system offers merit pay in accordance with NCLB, with union's blessing

Prince Georges County, Maryland, east of Washington DC, has agreed to implement a "pay for performance" system for teachers that will take into account both teaching hard-to-fill subjects and improving standard test scores. The system was approved by teacher’s unions despite fears that it could undermine teacher union “solidarity.” Some of the program is voluntary and involves various components, submitting to evaluation and performance improvement programs. There are reasonable concerns that any performance pay system linked to standardized test scores encourages teaching schemes involving a lot of drill and focus on multiple choice test taking techniques and on very basic curricula.

Around the nation, school systems face budget cuts and in some areas layoff because of the subprime crisis. At the same time, fewer people may go into teaching or be willing to invest in “career switcher” programs at mid-career or early retirement. As a result, many school districts around the country will have more difficulty in maintaining properly certified staff, as required by the “No Child Left Behind” law. This point was well illustrated in the recent HBO film “Hard Times at Douglas High” (reviewed on my movies blog June 23 2008 – check my Profile).

The Washington Post story appeared on the Front Page this morning and is by Nelson Hernandez, and is called “Teacher Bonuses Get Unions’ Blessing: Pr. Georges offers rewards up to $10000 linked to test scores, evaluations”, link here.

Update: July 2:

The Washington Post ran a major editorial on the eagerness of Prince Georges County teachers and administrators and unions to accept new pay-for-performance models, on p A14, here.

Update: July 8

The Post today ran a similar editorial about a merit pay plan in the District of Columbia, where older teachers would have the option of surrendering tenure for more merit pay based on student performance, while the plan would be mandatory for new teachers. The editorial is called "Reform With Rewards: The District proposes a bold new way to pay teachers" on p A14, link here.

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