July 4, 2005

Lack of Merit Pay Reduces the Quality of Teachers & Our Schools

An earlier posting asked Is Merit Pay a Crazy Idea?

An article in the Spring 2005 issue of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal entitled Cheating Great Teachers: It's past time for merit pay for Gotham's public school teachers tells quite a story - about determined educators and children as well as yet another example of counterproductive behavior by the teachers' union.

Here are excerpts from the article which discusses the specific developments in New York City:

Student test scores rose in New York City this year—and in some classrooms and schools, kids made truly significant gains. Consider Region Five, a poor district of eastern Brooklyn and Queens. As Julia Levy reported in the New York Sun, the district was an "educational wasteland for decades," with two-thirds of the schoolchildren failing at everything. But this year, the district’s elementary- and middle-school students pulled off testing gains of 17 percentage points in English and 10 percentage points in math, outpacing the city’s average gains in both areas. At P.S. and I.S. 41 in the district, 48 percent of fifth-graders met reading standards this year, up from 32 percent last year, while 37 percent of the seventh graders did okay or well this year, more than double last year’s figure.

It’s no mystery why scores are going up: a gifted, determined manager who motivated teachers to succeed. The district’s leader, Kathleen Cashin, established clear expectations for principals and teachers, and pushed the schools in the district to meet them. P.S./I.S. 41 principal Myron Rock enthuses that his teachers worked evenings, Saturdays, and vacations to push students.

The teachers must be glowing with pride from the praise they’ve garnered. But they won’t see more money for their feat, unless every New York public school teacher also sees it. In mid-June, the United Federation of Teachers, led by Randi Weingarten, released its latest pay demands, and rewarding the best teachers is no part of them. Instead, the union wants a 19 percent pay hike for teachers across the board, raising top salaries to nearly $100,000 within three years...

But the UFT remains hostile to any merit pay for individual teachers. Striking a Marxoid note a little while back, Weingarten declared that merit-pay plans “pit teachers against each other instead of encouraging a collaborative school culture.” What Weingarten and the union do not see—as the rest of America fervently believes—is that competition is healthy...Until Weingarten budges, though, virtue will have to be its own reward for New York’s teachers.

Yet, even more interestingly, the article contains some information on a study which shows how the lack of merit pay in teachers' union contracts over the last 40 years has systematically reduced the overall quality of teachers across America:

...But without the introduction of merit-based pay, new money won’t do much to build upon this year’s rising scores, as a recent study, conducted by Harvard economics professor Caroline Hoxby and Andrew Leigh of the National Bureau of Economic Research, makes clear. The study examined worker aptitude (native smarts, basically) as it relates to worker pay. In most professions, the best workers usually receive the top pay—a situation that once held in teaching, before the unions arrived on the scene and began to mandate lockstep salaries. Hoxby and Leigh found that smart women (the study looked only at females), frustrated by the absence of reward for ability in the public schools, have looked elsewhere for more rewarding career paths, as you’d expect.

Forty years ago, as unions were just gaining control in public schools, Hoxby and Leigh report, 16 percent of American female teachers were of low aptitude in relation to other college graduates (determined by mean SAT scores at their respective universities). By 2000, a full 36 percent of women teachers were of low aptitude. In 1963, 5 percent of women teachers came from the highest aptitude group; by 2000, that figure had plummeted to 1 percent. The primary reason for this startling decline in teacher quality, Hoxby and Leigh conclude, is the elimination of financial rewards for talent. Back in 1963, the smartest teachers earned more money than average teachers, while the lowest aptitude teachers earned less; by 2000, all teachers earned pretty much the same for the same level of experience, regardless of talent.

If New York wants to attract and keep the best teachers, then, the solution isn’t to increase teacher pay across the board. That might attract more people to teaching, but not necessarily smarter or harder-working people...

The more you know, the more clear it becomes that public education in America will NEVER improve in any material way as long as the teachers' unions control everything and dumb down the system.

Why do we tolerate this?


In a nutshell, here is what I think the negotiating position of the East Greenwich School Committee should be on some of the key financial terms of the contract.

Other postings include:
Background Information on the East Greenwich NEA Labor Dispute
The NEA's Disinformation Campaign
East Greenwich Salary & Benefits Data
More Bad Faith Behavior by the NEA
The Debate About Retroactive Pay
Would You Hurt Our Children Just To Win Better Contract Terms?
The Question Remains Open & Unanswered: Are We/They Doing Right By Our Children?
Will The East Greenwich Teachers' Union Stop Their Attempts to Legally Extort Residents?
You Have To Read This Posting To Believe It! The Delusional World of the NEA Teachers' Union
So What Else is New? Teachers' Union Continues Non-Productive Behaviors in East Greenwich Labor Talks
"Bargaining Rights are Civil Rights"
The NEA-Rhode Island's Pathetic Attempts to Manipulate East Greenwich Residents

In addition to financial issues, management rights are the other big teachers' union contract issue. "Work-to-rule" or "contract compliance" only can become an issue because of how management rights are defined in union contracts. The best reading on this subject is the recent report by The Education Partnership. It is must reading.

Other editorials and postings include:
ProJo editorial: Derailing the R.I. gravy train
ProJo editorial: RI public unions work to reduce your family's quality of life
ProJo editorial: Breaking the taxpayer: How R.I. teachers get 12% pay hikes
Selfish Focus of Teachers Unions: Everything But What Is Good For Our Kids
Tom Coyne - RI Schools: Big Bucks Have Not Brought Good Results
The NEA: There They Go, Again!
A Response: Why Teachers' Unions (Not Teachers!) Are Bad For Education
"A Girl From The Projects" Gets an Opportunity to Live the American Dream
Doing Right By Our Children in Public Education Requires Thinking Outside The Box
Debating Rhode Island Public Education Issues
The Cocoon in which Entitled State Employees Live
Are Teachers Fairly Compensated?
Warwick Teachers' Union Throws Public Tantrum
Blocking More Charter Schools Means Hurting Our Children
RI Educational Establishment: Your Days of No Vigorous Public Oversight & No Accountability Are Ending

The Deep Performance Problems with American Public Education
Freedom, Hard Work & Quality Education: Making The American Dream Possible For ALL Americans
Parents or Government/Unions: Who Should Control Our Children's Educational Decisions?
Now Here is a Good Idea
Milton Friedman on School Choice
Issuing a Call for a Higher Quality Public Debate About Education
Is Merit Pay for Teachers a 'Crazy Idea'?
Reporting False Performance Data Under No Child Left Behind: Why Are We Surprised At Dishonest Behavior By The Educational Bureaucracy?

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Have concluded:
Teachers are Advanced Babysitters. Yes, should be nice people with basic standards and morals, but are Advanced Babysitters.

As for univs: Concluded a long time: Anything you can read, you don't need to be taught.

Univs are an archaic, outdated model. Univs/colleges should have become Tech Institutes thirty years ago. 80% of Univs/colleges programs, depts. should have been dropped over twenty five years ago. It's been Empire Building and full employment for those who are profiting from this indoctrination of the too young, too inexperienced, and too clueless. Pumpding out hot air and paper professionals, which has been screwing up this country--in many ways.

All the rest of any value to people should be fee supported (and private supported) only Academies of Music, Literature & Phil., etc. Same for college sports.

Posted by: Alexis at July 5, 2005 2:15 PM