Tuesday, March 8, 2011


One of the biggest debates in education today is the idea that teachers should be paid based on performance. On paper, it sounds good, right?  But for teachers, pay for performance doesn’t mean that we are paid based on how well we do, but rather, how well our students do on standardized tests.
We all know that person in the workplace, the one who absolutely nothing. Getting work from these individuals is like pulling teeth. There are students like that….not ones who don’t do the work because they can’t, but simply because they don’t want to.
Should my pay be docked simply because a student doesn’t want to do the work necessary to be successful on the state tests? Or because a parent doesn’t stress education enough so their student doesn’t care?
Even worse, should my pay and my ability to care for my family suffer because a student can’t be successful on the test due to language or learning issues? When it comes to pay for performance for teachers, how do you account for Special Education or English as a Second Language students and teachers?
Most of these students are in these programs because of their inability to succeed like their peers. If we start penalizing the teachers who devote their lives to these students by taking away their pay when the students don’t perform, then we won’t have any teachers to take care of the different needs of Special Ed and ESL students.
On the other end, what about teachers who teach only talented & gifted students or honors students? Should these teachers get big bonuses on their paychecks simply because they lucked into getting the brightest, best, and most motivated students? And what about students who simply have a bad testing day?
Then there’s the question of where the extra pay will come from, and how we will know which teachers have students who perform better.
CMS has a solution- up to 25% of each teacher’s pay will be put into a pool, out of which bonuses will be taken and paid to the high-performing teachers. This means that teachers (who are already paid less than equally educated workers in other fields) who struggle to make ends meet on their paltry salaries are going to be expected to give away 25% of their pay. 
The average teacher in the United States, according to payscale.com, is making about $40,000 per year, so let’s do some math. 25% of $40,000 is $10,000, which the teacher is expected to give away under CMS's plan. Take another 15% (at least) for state, local and federal taxes, and the teacher is now making $26,000 per year. In CMS, 6% of pay goes to state retirement, which would bring the teacher’s salary down to $23,600 per year. Remember, new teachers make even less than the average. No wonder teachers are nervous.
Even more astounding, In order to better determine who those “high performing” teachers are, according to the Charlotte Observer, CMS is spending nearly $2 million to create 52 new district-wide assessments covering everything from Kindergarten skills to high school Journalism. These new tests will be used to determine which teachers are having the greatest impact on student achievement. So now, not only will teachers be affected by pay for performance, but students will be impacted also. Will adding more stressful testing days to the school calendar really benefit our students?
Teachers, parents and administrators need to band together to make our voices heard. Teachers (and students) across the country in places like Florida and Idaho are protesting education cuts right now. Unfortunately for teachers in CMS, without a union to speak up for them, and reductions in force looming on the horizon, many are afraid to speak up.
In order to improve education in our country, it is important to consider what is best for both teachers and students. I believe that pay-for-performance will drive teachers out of the profession, place unnecessary extra stress on students, and cost districts millions of dollars. Of course, I'm only a lowly, over-paid teacher....what do I know?
Read what Charlotte's Creative Loafing says about CMS's particular situation.

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