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Vincent Marsala, a National Board Certified Teacher in Ohio, explains what our politicians don’t understand: merit pay and stack ranking don’t work. They don’t work in business and they don’t work in schools.
First, teachers will be forced to compete against each other based on student test scores. Eventually, teachers may resent having a special needs/low performing child in class because a student’s inability to do well on tests will reflect poorly on a teacher. Adding the idea of merit pay based on test scores/evaluations, and teachers may resent these students even more. Next, when teachers work together, kids win, but teachers, just like the workers at Microsoft, are human, too. Teachers competing for the highest test score and biggest bonus will in-fight, not collaborate, and instead of freely sharing ideas, teachers, will hide them from each other and ultimately students.
All of these misguided reforms are now hurting students and things will soon get worse. Students are about to be tested more than ever, just so we can get the data needed to stack rank teachers and schools. PARCC’s newly released testing guidance to schools calls for 9¾ hours testing time for third grade, 10 hours for grades 4-5 , 10¾ hours for grades 6-8 and 11 to 11¼ hours for grades 9-12. Of course, this testing schedule does not even account for teacher created tests.
Dealing with this obvious over-testing has brought on a nonsensical answer from Ohio State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Richard A. Ross. In order to reduce testing time, schools may do something that his own department does not recommend. His solution is shared attribution for teachers of art, music, foreign languages and some years of science and social studies. In simple terms, up to 50 percent of these teachers’ ratings, plus pay and hiring and firing decisions may be based on student tests in other subject areas, on students these teachers may have never even seen. Meanwhile, some of these subjects may no longer be taught by certified teachers if the Ohio State Board of Education has its way. The Board wants to eliminate the 5 of 8 rule that demands that school districts hire five full-time teachers in eight areas, including music, art, physical education, library science, nursing and social work, for every 1,000 students. With the dysfunction occurring at the state level because of these types of misguided reforms, is it any wonder why young people are bailing on the profession? According to the U.S. Department of Education’s estimates, teacher-preparation programs enrollments have shrunk by about 10 percent from 2004 to 2012, with California losing approximately 22,000 teacher-prep enrollments, or 53 percent, between 2008-09 and 2012-13.
Teaching is not a simple task that can be easily assessed. While on paper, stack ranking and merit pay sound fine and easy to devise, it will be a debacle. American schools are not in crisis, and collaborating, student-focused teachers are already working hard and producing great results for children every day.