Monday, February 8, 2010

Teacher Merit Pay and Teacher Merit.

The Globe and Mail had an article about teacher merit pay in their Saturday edition this weekend. The article was similar in many respects to Malcolm Gladwell's article "Most Likely to Succeed", minus the football comparison.

The Globe article highlighted many problems with merit pay, and I won't repeat them here, since I have already blogged on that topic.

One point that I felt that the Globe article missed was that teacher merit is, in the end, about teacher merit. Which teachers are truly helping the majority of students learn and succeed? Those teachers need to be encouraged and rewarded (although not necessarily with money). Which teachers are failing to help and teach the majority of their students? Those teachers need to be helped so that they can improve, or, if they cannot improve enough, they should be gently removed from the profession.

The problem with the idea of teacher merit is that I don't think that a good definition of teacher merit in terms of measurable quantities currently exists. Gladwell and the Globe article discuss the idea of evaluating teacher performance by looking at standardized test results over several years, but there are no specifics. Between the lack of specifics, human inertia, and teacher union resistance, I suspect that a good definition of teacher merit through measurable values is several decades away.

So, until we have that definition, I fear that we are stuck with the status quo. Too bad. I, for one, would be happy to know whether I am actually doing a good job of teaching or whether I just think that I am doing a good job.

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