Thursday, October 05, 2006

Where's the Beef? Texas.

An article on merit pay in the Dallas Morning News here caught the eye of the Gadfly here. A few beefs. One, the condescension in the story is spread thick. Modestly paid teachers opting out of gobs of cash??! They must be crazy or communist or both!

Choice is built into the Texas law designed to send "cash" to low performing schools to reward core subjects teachers who improve. Schools may either accept or reject funding. Dallas Morning News cites around 2 percent of 1,161 eligible schools have rejected the money so far.

Speaking of bias, Gadfly annoys with a fatuous analogy likening teachers to pro sports players. I repeat, teachers to pro sports players. Gadfly is baffled by merit pay's detractors who cite their allegiance to teamwork and collegiality over competitive bonuses.

"This "teamwork" argument is oft-cited within the walls of the education system. But somehow players on professional sports teams manage to live with themselves--and create a winning spirit--even when the quarterback gets a bonus or the pitcher makes ungodly sums of money."

Brilliant! A rookie's minimum contract salary in the NFL is $275,000 in 2006. Many rookie teachers make less than $35,000. Maybe $275,000 helps to live with oneself, or maybe the conference title bonuses that arrive for winning teams helps. For profit, hyper competitive professional sports leagues are exceedingly different than schools. Also, last time I checked many professional sports teams lack that certain 'winning spirit' Gadfly assumes they all have. '03-'05 San Francisco 49ers anyone?

Teachers would do well to avoid using family similes. Teachers work in teams. I like families as much as the next guy, but talk about families connotes a homely, unprofessional, and soft vibe. Schools are organizations of professionals who in Texas have the option not to "take the money and run." Instead schools have the option to behave critically, act on principle, and make a choice, becoming of their institution.

Last beef I promise. I'll close with Gov. Perry's equivocal sales pitch for the Texas merit program. "It's time to start treating teachers as individual professionals and not as just a monolithic profession. When you reward excellence the same as mediocrity, all too often mediocrity becomes the standard." Perry falsely asserts that teachers have been rewarded for excellence in the past. To suggest that pay schemes based on undifferentiated performance amount to reward is a linguistic leap. Salary and reward are just not the same.


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