CURMUDGUCATION: Problems with Performance-Based Compensation

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Problems with Performance-Based Compensation

Bellwether Education Partners want to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of performance-based compensation (aka “merit pay” aka “fun ways to reduce total personnel costs for a school district”). But if you want writer Jen Bolson Meer’s fancy definition, that’s “Performance-based compensation is an approach where some or all monetary compensation is related to how employee performance is assessed relative to stated criteria.”

Meer takes a moment to attack the traditional steps and lanes payment system. Advanced degrees and years of experience, she says, do not make teachers any better. And by “better” we mean “correlated to higher student scores on a narrow, invalid Big Standardized Test.” That’s pretty much the only way we could hope to make the absurd argument that neither additional education nor years of experience make teachers any better at our jobs.

That argument poorly made, Meer is on to her main point. Why is there no model, no “playbook” for PBC in the teaching world. Meer says that’s because in all versions, there are winners and losers. She has three possible versions of PBC

1) Stick with a traditional “step and lanes” system, but teachers only move up a step if they meet a minimum specified level of performance

Nobody gets a raise unless she makes her numbers; “ineffective” teachers would stay stalled on a single step for years, just like all of the teachers in places like North Carolina. Meer says that winners would be programs that benefitted from  the “freed up” money saved  by all the people not getting raises.

There are two problems with that. One is that money would be “freed up” which h is an idea carried over from industry, where merit pay systems are based on the amount of money that the business made in that year. That is not how public school systems work– we do not have an annual “profit” to divvy up.

Second, the system assumes, as do all PBC systems, that there is a bunch of Bad Teachers out there that we will just root out and pay less money. After years of various evaluation systems that keep saying that 98% of teachers bare just fine, reformers are wedded to the theory that the results prove that the evaluation systems are messed up, and not that most teachers are just fine.

Meer says the losers here are the high-performing teachers who wouldn’t get the Big Bucks because the well-reviewed crappy teachers would be glomming up all the money. Which highlights another problem with PBC systems– the amount of merit pay would be based not on actual quality, but on the amount of money the district budgeted for teacher pay. I’ve read many merit-based policy ideas and not one has ever said, “And at this point, if it turns out that the district has a plethora of great teachers, they’ll just have to raise taxes to meet the merit payroll.”

2. Earn one-time incentives such as bonuses

As a teacher, you basically take a cut in your base pay so that you might one year get a one-time lump sum. Meer says the winners would be teachers who actually get the bonuses, “especially teachers who find particular meaning and recognition in one-time ‘gifts.'” and I do not even know what that means. Somewhere there are teachers who say, “I don’t want a dependable, predictable salary. Just surprise me with a wad of cash every several years. My family will take ‘surprise’ vacations.”

And Meer acknowledges that if districts go cheap with these bonuses, they won’t actually motivate anybody to do anything like, say, stick around in a district with crappy pay.

3. Adjust base salary based on performance

Meer notes that this system is supported by people who feel they’ll beat it, and opposed by people who think it will beat them. She even acknowledges that this confidence may be rooted in faith in the system, not just teacherly self-confidence. Her language acknowledges another issue with PBC– that such a system is built to measure a teacher’s built-in awesomeness, assuming that such a quality is a solid state hard-wired feature of each educator, and not a quality that ebbs and flows over decades.

Discussions about performance-based compensation are hard because there will be winners and losers with any approach, and defining high and low performance can be challenging and controversial

It’s a start to admit that any PBC system must have winners and losers, but it skips over the question of why we need a system with winners and losers. There are all sorts of assumptions embedded here, from flushing out the Secret Society of Terrible Teachers noted above to the Motivate the Lazy fallacy– the notion that teachers could be teaching students well, but just don’t bother because we haven’t been sufficiently bribed or threatened. This is not only hugely insulting (Yes, I could teach the children better in this profession that I’ve made my life’s work, but I choose not to just to be a dick) but it reveals a profound lack of understanding of what a classroom is like. Teaching badly is hard– it’s exhausting and stressful and the students will punish us much more in that moment than any reformster ever dreamed of.

But even if the perfect plan is elusive,  a “works for us” compensation approach doesn’t have to be, whether it’s a variation of one of the categories above or another creative approach.

Yes, actually, it does have to be. Because the biggest weak point of all of these systems, beyond the funding of them or the insulting nature of them or the tendency to turn colleagues against each other as they fight for that money or even the dishonesty behind systems that aren’t about paying more for the best as much as they’re about finding ways to pay less for average teachers– beyond all of that is the problem of measuring teacher performance.

We can’t do it.

We have no reliable, valid, tested, proven method of definitively distinguishing good teachers from mediocre teachers. And we must choose the method carefully, not merely because of justice and fairness, but because of what that system will do to the work of the school.

We have ample evidence of what happens when you tie the definition of “effective” to the scores on a crappy standardized test– education is re-organized around teaching to that test. And nobody– nobody– has jumped up in the last decade to say, “This is working awesome!”

A performance based compensation system is another way to tell your staff, “This– and just this– is what we’re paying you for. This is what matters.” So before you install any such system, you’d better be damned sure that you have c hosen well. Otherwise all you’re doing is installing a system of perverse incentives. So no– a “works for us” or “good enough” or “close enough for jazz” system is not easy or okay.

The obstacles to all PBC systems are many, and largely unacknowledged by the people pushing them. Meer has scratched the surface.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Problems with Performance-Based Compensation

Rockford Construction has been working on the Southtown Development Project since at least 2014

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

In our ongoing coverage of DeVos-led AmplifyGR group and their partner, Rockford Construction, we want to continue to ask relevant questions and raise the level of awareness about those who are part of the local power structure are planning to do in neighborhoods across the city.

In our original story, we looked at what the AmplifyGR/Rockford Construction efforts were proposing in the Southtown area of Grand Rapids. We reported that over the past 6 months AmplifyGR and Rockford Construction have been meeting with city planners and people who make up part of the Southtown Corridor Improvement District committee.

In Part II of this series, we looked at the number of plots that Rockford Construction has already purchased in both the Boston Square Area and the Cottage Grove area. We made the point in this post that AmplifyGR is really a project that amplifies the voices of developers and…

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Trying to Sort Out All the Concerns about Charters and Vouchers

janresseger

After today, this blog will take a two week summer break.  Look for a new post on Tuesday, July 11.

I recently spent far too much time slogging through the over 80 pages of the new report on Charter Management Organizations from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes. Stanford CREDO is affiliated with the Hoover Institution. The study compares test score gains in four types of charter schools—the independent, stand-alone, charters; the charters run by Charter Management Organizations (that operate “at least three separate charter schools and the CMO is the charter holder for each school”); what CREDO calls Vendor Operated Schools (organizations which operate “at least three separate charter schools, but do not hold the charter for any school they serve”); and finally what CREDO calls hybrids (that “have aspects of both a CMO and a VOS).  After trying to sort through all these definitions plus…

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“Socialism? But Look at Venezuela!” Debunking Anti-Socialist Propaganda w/ Actual Logic »

“Socialism? But Look at Venezuela!” Debunking Anti-Socialist Propaganda w/ Actual Logic
by John Laurits
If you want an online socialist to feel exasperated, one of the best ways is to ask them “so, what do you think about Venezuela?” Then — before they type a response — say “checkmate!” That will usually do the trick. Any socialist or leftist with enough patience take up the cause on the interwebs has … Continue reading “Socialism? But Look at Venezuela!” Debunking Anti-Socialist Propaganda w/ Actual Logic

Read more of this post https://www.johnlaurits.com/2017/venezuela-socialism-propaganda-logic/

CURMUDGUCATION: Supremes Breaking Down Church State Wall

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Supremes Breaking Down Church State Wall

The basic question was minor. The implications are huge. The bottom line is that supporters of using public tax dollars to support private religious schools got some major support from the Supreme Court today.

A church in Missouri wanted a shot at some public monies to resurface a playground. The state said no. The trip up through the levels of US courts began. Five years later, here we are.

What matters in a case like this is the reasoning. Here’s the oft-quoted excerpt from the majority:

“The exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution … and cannot stand,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

As Bloomberg notes, this is a big deal:

It’s the first time the court has used the free exercise clause of the Constitution to require a direct transfer of taxpayers’ money to a church. In other words, the free exercise clause has trumped the establishment clause, which was created precisely to stop government money going to religious purposes. Somewhere, James Madison is shaking his head in disbelief.

A portion of the majority made an attempt to mitigate the effects of the decision with a small footnote (the full opinion is here).

That note may be meant to indicate that the ruling is meant to be narrow– but not all of the seven justices who ruled against the state signed off on this footnote.
Reading through the decision leaves little mystery about where the majority are headed. The church argued that it was being disqualified from a public benefit for which it was otherwise qualified. The majority agrees:
The State has pursued its preferred policy to the point of expressly denying a qualified religious entity a public benefit solely because of its religious quality. Under our precedents, that goes too far.
 
And just in case that’s not clear enough, here’s Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justice Thomas, explaining why they don’t agree with footnote three. They argue that there is no point in distinguishing between religious purposes and activities, and that the exercise clause does not care, either.
…the general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise– whether on the playground or anywhere else.
 
In other words, giving public tax dollars to a church-run private school would be just fine. In fact, it’s hard to know exactly where the court would draw the line. If an organization is in the community, competing for community funds for an activity, you can’t rule them out just because they are a religious organization. If a church wants money to pave a playground or run a school, you can’t deny them just because they’re a church.
The dissenting opinion sees this pretty clearly:
 
To hear the Court tell it, this is a simple case about recycling tires to resurface a playground.  The stakes are higher. This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government—that is, between church and state.  The Court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church.
 
That sounds about right. With this decision, the wall between church and state is pretty well shot, and there is nothing to stand in the way of, say, a federally-financed multi-billion dollar program that would funnel money to private religious schools. Trump and DeVos could not have a brighter green light for their voucher program.
I’ll argue, as always, that churches will rue the day the wall is taken down. The separation of church and state doesn’t just protect the state– it protects the church, too. When you mix religion and politics, you get politics. And where federal money goes, federal strings follow. Sooner or later the right combination of misbehavior and people in federal power will result in a call for accountability for private schools that get federal money– even religious schools. And as the requests for private religious vouchers roll in, folks will be shocked and surprised to find that Muslim and satanic and flying spaghetti monster houses of worship will line up for money, then the feds will have to come up with a mechanism for determining “legitimacy” and voila! That’s how you get the federal department of church oversight. Of course, this will only happen once we’re finally tired of the idea that charter and voucher schools don’t have to be accountable for anything to anyone.
But that’s further down the road. For right now, what we know is that the Supremes just punched a huge hole in the wall and a bunch of voucher-loving religious private schools are about to start sucking up public tax money through that breach. A bunch of public tax money is about to disappear into a black hole, and we won’t know where it went or how it was used. Education, religion, law, and American society will all be a little bit worse for it.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Supremes Breaking Down Church State Wall