Teacher's Ramblings

A potpourri of education, politics, family matters, and current events.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

The idea of performance pay — a notion once reviled by most teachers — is getting a warmer reception here. Teachers are trying hard to prove they're worth the money, from more frequent student testing, to e-mailing parents, to trying out different styles for their students.

"Just rewarding people for having put in a lot of years, that's one of the things the public gets upset about — and justly so," said Kris Sandy, a high school English teacher. "In terms of having some more reasonable examples of what we do every year to improve our curriculum and be better teachers, that's perfectly reasonable."

The pilot project in the La Crescent-Hokah district and a handful of others in Minnesota comes as several other states examine the way teachers are paid.


I like the idea of being 'paid for performance.' The obvious problem in judging performance is that there are skewed classes; some higher, some lower. I currently teach at the jr. high level and there is a wide range of results among the teachers pertaining to the same students. It seems pretty obvious that if the students are able to perform at a superior level in social studies or science, they should not be receiving a 'D' or worse in reading. Yet consistently that has been the case, regardless of a high performing classes or less motivated.

The difference between the teachers has much to do with realistic expectations, knowledge of subject matter, rapport with students, and perhaps most importantly classroom management. If the students do not respect the teacher it makes it very difficult to teach, much less learn. I would assume that these factors apply from kindergarten through high school. So how would a district measure performance?

I don't think that any one measure would be fair, but there are some areas that I think should be open to discussion. It should be required of a district to have each teacher observed by at least two adminstrators several times per year. Lesson plans should be checked and evaluated, most importantly verified that what is written is what is being taught.

There should be standards applied to comparing past performance of the students, standardized test results, student & parent evaluations. Problems with teaching or behavior management should be noted, discussed, and remedial help given early in the year based upon observations. School administrators should be aiding the teachers in maximizing their performance, for the benefit of the students.

Communication between teacher and students, as well as keeping parents informed should be noted. A teacher that is keeping all informed is helping to build a foundation for learning. Teachers that strive to keep abreast of successful methodologies and incorporate some of these into their teaching style, should be rewarded. While graduate or methodology programs may be attended, many teachers fail to utilize what was taught.

I have no doubt that there are some of you, whether teachers, parents, or students that have better or more suggestions than me. I'd be thrilled to have you leave a comment.

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