Is merit pay really the panacea various school reformers make it out to be?

‘The Orlando Sentinel article below discusses merit pay provisions of Obama’s “Race To The Top.” Such “merit” plans or “pay for performance” schemes have been discussed for quite a while. Some school reformers argue that merit pay will improve teacher performance, and education as a whole. One education writer, and former AFT union negotiator, (Liberman 2007) claims that said reformers are naive or misguided for five reasons:

1) School administrators don’t want merit pay
because it means more evaluations of teachers. Negative evaluations will almost certainly be challenged and be subject to union grievances, an outcome most administrators want to avoid. Merit pay will also mean more work for administrators, and in the case of negative evaluations, will sour personal relationships between principals and their faculties. Many blame the unions for merit pay opposition, but there is substantial opposition by school bureaucrats as well.It should be noted that in states that do not have collective bargaining (teacher unionism), merit pay implementations are weak, again suggesting administrator opposition, even where there is no “union” to battle.

2) Teacher’s unions don’t want merit pay because it will mean additional scrutiny of union members, and trigger discontent within the ranks from those who feel they have been unfairly denied the extra cash. It is much less hassle to go by a seniority system.

3) Few school board want the hassles of merit pay, because the bulk of public school teachers are represented by unions that fiercely resist it. Implementing merit pay would mean renegotiating multi-year workforce contracts and trigger bruising battles with local unions, a process few school board have the stomach for.

4) Merit pay calculation formulas have several problems, especially if test scores are used as the grand measure of performance. There are so many factors that may cause test scores to vary that their use as a sole measure are fraught with instability. Yet another problem is how different subject areas are to be weighed- should high demand math and science teachers get more money, or would this be “unfair” to other teachers? Will merit money be distributed evenly among all teachers, or will those with seniority get first claim on the cash? Is seniority is the guide, then those with less seniority lose out, compared to what they would have gotten under an even distribution. Just such a scenario happened in the Los Angeles Unified School District in California, in the early 2000s.

5) Interestingly enough, in some countries that outperform the US academically, such as South Korea, or Japan, there are few significant merit pay plans for teachers. If high performers are doing well without merit pay, why should lesser ranked nations like the US undertake merit pay?

Given the immense structural problems of implementing merit pay, including opposition by both school bureaucrats and unions, Liberman argues that it is indeed naive for conservatives to keep betting money on this losing horse. He is especially critical of the Bush administration “shoveling” money into assorted merit pay plans. If he is right, Obama’s “Race to The Top” scheme, will merely be another cosmetic exercise, that allows cash to be funneled forward. A second possibility hinted at by Lieberman is for standards to be eased by various states and/or districts depending on jurisdictional powers, allowing more students to be graded as “Proficient.” This allows additional “merit” monies to be pocketed by both districts and teachers, without some of the hassles above.

 Excerpt- Orlando Sentinel:

Racing to the top: Now the hard part begins for unions, educators
Hashing out a merit-pay plan for teachers is the biggest challenge, as the state tries to meet federal deadlines

September 05, 2010|By Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel

Florida’s victory in the federal Race to the Top education competition was barely a day old when school superintendents learned the grant program’s clock was running down — and fast. If they wanted their share of the money, their first chunk of work needed to be wrapped up within two months. That blueprint for carrying out Race to the Top reforms must include at least a conceptual plan for overhauling how Florida’s more than 167,000 teachers are evaluated and paid so that student performance, for the first time, becomes a key factor.

“The real fun begins now,” said Andy Ford, president of Florida Education Association, the state teachers union.

Florida learned two weeks ago that it was one of 10 winners in the second round of the national reform competition. The state expects it will get about $700 million. Half of that is to be shared among the 65 participating school districts, if they can work out their local plans — and, mostly notably, deal with merit pay — with their teachers unions.

Merit pay for teachers is a contentious issue across the country, and especially in Florida, where unions have battled past attempts to change how teachers are evaluated and paid.

Despite that history, and the short timeline, Ford and other key players sound confident — with notable qualifiers — Florida can make needed headway.  “I think we’re going in the right direction, that’s for sure,” Ford said. Florida’s second effort to win millions of dollars in Race to the Top money was accomplished with union help absent the first time.

That change itself breathed new life into an idea once dead on arrival.

“I’m pretty optimistic that we can, over a period of a couple of years, make this thing work,” agreed Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association.

School districts must hash out the preliminary plans by Oct. 12. They can then take the next year to fully plan and phase in their reforms during the last three years of the four-year grant.

Still, no one thinks getting that will be easy, and local educators still have lots of questions and plenty of reservations.

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All-Kids-Are-First Old Schoolhouse needs your help!

The Old Schoolhouse of Espanola remembers when respect for elders, hard work, and the value of a dollar, and were the real deal. You can help us recapture the high ground, and help your business or organization at the same time. The school features:
·        No-nonsense “boot camp” tutoring
·        Innovative “hands on” learning for students that need more help.
·        Required participation in such projects as community cleanup.
·        Documentation of area culture and history
·        Character building using time-honored church and civic traditions
Five ways you can benefit:

  1. All contributions, in cash or in kind are fully deductible. The Old Schoolhouse is part of a 501(c)3 charitable organization. All are welcome.
  2. Your donation earns good advertising exposure in the community, including positive placement on websites, YouTube, blogs and Facebook.
  3. Special events (car washes, open houses, etc) will feature prominent logo placement and flyer distribution for your business
  4. Students help you or your organization personally- from lawn service to parking lot cleanup.
  5. Businesses that donate will be patronized first before others.
Three ways you can help
1.      Donate to help refurbish the old building – tile, hardware, doors, roofing material
2.      Donate to help purchase tutoring and school supplies, books, software, pens, ink
3.      If unable to donate cash, you can donate in-kind contributions: food snacks, craft supplies, printer ink, surplus items, or discounts on purchased items.
Give at whatever level you can!
·        Platinum level – $500 or more: Full advertising exposure on all web and printed media, and local events. Direct personal or business assistance from lawn service to parking lot cleanup.
·        Gold level – $300:  Full advertising credit/exposure on all web and printed media, and local events.
·        Silver level- $100: Full credit on web media and open house events and print.
·        Bronze Level – $50: Full credit on web media. Open house print credit.
·        Copper level – $10-$20. Open house credit.
Contact us!

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Espanola, Florida location:
Levon K. Williams
108 Knox Jones Road
Bunnell, FL 32110

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The All-Kids-Are-First School now a center of hope for youth


The All Kids Are First Old Schoolhouse is a remnant of the days of segregation, but now a center of hope. It is the first black schoolhouse in Flagler County, Florida, in the town of Espanola. This settlement was originally set up for logging and turpentine production. Back then, two legally separate societies lived. On this score, things have changed for the better. The Schoolhouse was rebuilt by Rev. Frank Giddens of the St. Paul’s Baptist Church, whose vision is to create an academic tutoring program, youth center and summer camp for the town’s disadvantaged youth.

The building has been restored in most essentials by the hard work of Espanola’s Rev. Frank Giddens, but still needs substantial work inside to make it a complete place of learning. Space is cramped, and there are no summer programs planned or given for the children there. Their peers elsewhere enjoy theme parks, field trips and other opportunities, transported by school district buses that never reach the small town. The Old Schoolhouse relies in part on the generosity of donors and sponsors who are able to break down economic barriers to help the children of the small, rural town.

 All deductions are fully tax deductible.


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What is All Kids Are First?

 Daytona Beach News-Journal Article- 2007

All Kids are First, Espanola, Florida, is a small non-profit school operation that seeks to promote educational engagement among at-risk youth, including youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders. It uses experimental methods including technology and modern media, joined to old school values. All kids, with or without autism can learn and have their horizons broadened. We seek to  encourage them to have community pride, motivate them to fulfill their dreams, inspire them to succeed, open up new vistas and opportunities for insight, and build a sense of belonging and self-worth.

All Kids are First is here to provide access to a range of encouragement- here to inspire, and empower. We are here to emphasize student success, and embrace excellence and make our children to be the best they want to be. We all would like to see success. Whatever your mind can conceive and believe it will be achieved. Dream great dreams, and make them come true. Do it today. You are very unique. In all the history of the world there was or is or will be anyone else like you. What you believe yourself to be, you are.

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