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Thompson: Support, Not Merit Pay, Is What Teachers Need

Moneyoption Tom Kane of the Gates Foundation told Rick Hess that the Vanderbilt merit pay study did an excellent job of explaining why incentives did not improve student performance.  Kane said the purpose of merit pay is not encouraging teachers to work harder, but to recruit and keep teaching talent.  But above all, teachers want to teach successfully.  While effective reforms will help retain the best educators, why would ineffective programs be attractive to them?  Worse, an effective performance pay system could encourage an exodus of top teachers from high-needs schools to the suburbs where it is easier to increase test scores.  The best way to entice great talent to the inner city would be to replace the indignity of high-stakes testing with proven support systems, so that teams of teachers could be effective.   Kane seems to believe the old dictum, "we lose money on everything we sell but make it up on volume."  He must think that urban teachers would be flattered by dumping of another expensive program on us. - JT


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OK, whoa. Not all teachers want to be good, and some teachers' definitions of "good" do not fit my own; for example, some of them think that failing students means they're a good teacher. Many teachers reject support when it's offered; ask any number of reading coaches how often they're invited to work with teachers whose students are failing. Not to mention, we have a ton of kids who are either dropping out or failing - and that has real consequences for them. Where are the consequences for teachers? And if we swap out testing for support, what do we use to measure success (however poor a measure current tests are). What's wrong with testing AND supporting?

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