Is Merit Pay Inevitable? The Enigma of Multiple Measures of Teacher Evalaution and “Scoring” Teachers, but, Will Merit Pay Impact Student Achievement?

 Over fifty recently negotiated teacher contracts and state legislatures are requiring student standardized test score data to be used as one of a number of multiple measures in the evaluation of teachers
If union contracts and/or legislation require the “grading” of teachers utilizing student achievement data can merit pay be far behind?
Arne Duncan has spent the last year dangling federal dollars and dancing around the issue of merit pay.
… let’s also be honest: school systems pay teachers billions of dollars more each year for earning PD (professional development) credentials that do very little to improve the quality of teaching.

At the same time, many schools give nothing at all to the teachers who go the extra mile and make all the difference in students’ lives. Excellence matters and we should honor it—fairly, transparently, and on terms teachers can embrace. (Duncan at the 2009 NEA Convention in San Diego).

 Let’s take a look at how teachers are currently paid.
Teacher compensation schedules are built upon a combination of
* salary steps, annual increases in compensation,
* differentials, additional pay for additional college courses and/or degrees, and
* longevity raises based upon years of service.
In New York City the salary schedule begins at $45,530 and, after 22 years increases to $100,049.
In the past teachers have been paid on differing salary schedules. Certain categories of special education teachers were paid a few hundred dollars more a year, guidance counselor worked a longer school day and their schedule was greater than a teachers.
Teachers in the Chancellors District (lowest performing schools) worked a longer school day and year with additional compensation. Currently, in NYC, Lead teachers receive an additional $10,000 a year and two categories in the eleven “turnaround schools,” Master teachers and Turnaround teachers  will receive additional compensation.
For the lack of a better term we can call this “differentiated compensation,” different remuneration for different roles.
A form of merit pay, pay for student performance is embedded in the UFT contract for schools, not individuals. In 2005 the UFT-Department Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) included a School Wide Bonus Agreement (see text here). Staff in the 200 “highest need schools” are eligible to participate through the School-Based Option (SBO) process (a vote of 55% of the staff).
Each Participant School will be eligible for a dollar award (“the pool”), which will be distributed to the school as a whole on the basis of the Progress Report or some other neutral criterion derived from the Progress Report.
In consultation with the UFT, the BOE will set the criteria for awarding funds to schools.  The criteria will provide objective standards/benchmarks aligned with Progress Report factors and the specific details of those standards/benchmarks will be communicated to schools when the program is announced.  All Participant Schools that achieve the announced standards/benchmarks shall receive the applicable money award.
The distribution of the bonus is decided by the staff in a collaborative fashion.
Each Participant School will form a compensation committee composed of the principal and a principal’s designee (e.g., an assistant principal) and two UFT-represented staff members elected in a Chapter supervised election by the UFT-represented staff on an annual basis from among volunteers. The compensation committee will determine, by consensus, matters related to both eligibility for and the size of individual awards to UFT-represented staff members. 
The bonus plan was headline news at the time of negotiation, I am not aware if any research is in progress; there are many questions: did eligible schools that chose not to participate do as well as schools in the bonus program? Were the gains in the “winning” schools sustained in the second and subsequent years?
The Chicago school bonus plan, negotiated during the Duncan tenure as school system leader, has received a sharply negative evaluation by a well regarded research organization (see Report here)
Teachers and teacher unions vehemently oppose any merit pay for individual teachers and are sharply critical of Value-Added Modeling (VAM) as the sole means of evaluating teachers,
AFT’s position that a single assessment–even using sophisticated value-added modeling–should not be used as the predominant measure of a teacher’s effectiveness. While an improvement over some other methods, value-added modeling is still inaccurate, so test scores should not dominate the information used by school officials in making high-stakes decisions about the evaluation, discipline and compensation of teachers,
Unions have supported using student achievement data (utilizing VAM methodologies) as one of a number of multiple measures. In New York State the teacher union supported legislation that will include VAM data in the assessment mix. The State Education Department describes the process,
   … teachers and principals would receive one of four ratings:  “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing,” or “ineffective.”  The evaluations would play a significant role in a wide array of employment decisions, including professional development, tenure determinations, selection for leadership opportunities, supplemental compensation based on a career ladder, and termination. The goal is to construct an evaluation system that can be customized to the professional development needs of every teacher.

Teachers and principals with a pattern of ineffective teaching or performance – defined as two consecutive “ineffective” ratings – could be charged with incompetence and considered for termination through an expedited hearing: 

Under the proposal, 40 percent of the evaluation score would be based on student achievement measures, with the portion (20% in year one) based on student growth

The law (see text here) grants the commissioner substantial authority under the law,

The annual professional performance reviews conducted pursuant
  to this section for classroom teachers  and  building  principals  shall
  differentiate  teacher  and  principal effectiveness using the following
  quality rating categories: highly effective, effective,  developing  and
with  explicit minimum and maximum scoring ranges for each
  category, as prescribed in the regulations  of  the  commissioner
.  Such
  annual  professional  performance  reviews  shall  result  in  a 
  composite teacher or principal effectiveness score
,  which  incorporates
  multiple  measures  of effectiveness related to the criteria included in
  the regulations of the  commissioner.

 A crucial question will be how will the commissioner define “explicit minimum and maximum scoring ranges” in order define the four categories?
For example: the normal one standard deviation bell curve (16-67-16)? or, two standard deviations above below the mean? (2-96-2)? The commissioner will make what is essentially a subjective judgment, defining and attributing numerical scores to the four categories.
The law does not address the issue of teachers who do not teach subjects measured by standardized tests (teachers of grades pre-K -2, cluster and specialty teachers in elementary schools, teachers other than ELA and Math in middle schools and all high school teachers). These decisions are in the domain of the commissioner.
All of which leads us to the question: should “highly effective teachers” receive additional compensation?
Would teacher salary schedules that provide additional compensation to “highly effective teachers” motivate other teachers to strive to achieve that status? 
Should “highly effective teachers” receive additional compensation only if they move to “persistently low achieving schools”?
The Economic Policy Institute Study (see here ) is highly critical of the use of VAM methodology, tells us,
There is also little or no evidence for the claim that teachers will be more motivated to improve student learning if teachers are evaluated or monetarily rewarded for student test score gains
A NY Times magazine piece, When Does Holding Teachers Accountable Go Too Far? muses over the pluses and minuses of how VAM data is utilized.
These questions will dominate the debate across the nation in teacher contract negotiations and in state legislatures.  It will be an “interesting,” if not discomforting school year.
Update: Take a look at “Teachers, Performance Pay and Accountability: What Education Should Learn from Other Sectors,” (2009) here.

One response to “Is Merit Pay Inevitable? The Enigma of Multiple Measures of Teacher Evalaution and “Scoring” Teachers, but, Will Merit Pay Impact Student Achievement?

  1. Courageous piece!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s