This being my 400th post, I thought I ought to do something special, so for the third time (I think) I am reblogging something. Below you will find a chapter of the “MACE Manifesto,” a rant on public education by a group of teachers and teachers’ union officials who have had it up to here and have decided to tell it like it is, like it really is. MACE stands for “Metro Association of Classroom Educators” which is a union in Fayetteville, GA. Recognize that Georgia is a non-collective bargaining state, which makes union work really difficult, so these guys are dedicated. Check them out and read other parts of the Manifesto at www.theteachersadvocate.com.
And do realize, Dear Reader, that the hostile takeover of public education is just one more front in the Class War. The rich and powerful are trying to dictate to us how our children are to be educated, even when they know little to nothing about education, children, or teachers, but they do know what the like: docile drones who work for low wages and make no trouble.
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The MACE Manifesto: Part Three – Exhaling Rants
We can’t neatly categorize everything, but if you pull up a chair and read some of our rants, you’ll recognize the ring of truth and you, even if you’re a good Baptist, will be saying, “Dammit, they’re right!” – Exhaling Rants
Merit Pay for Teachers: More Bullshit from Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and Arne Duncan!
by John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
I realized when I began thinking about writing this rant against merit pay for teachers that I had already written a number of articles on this in the past, articles which have different slants but sometimes overlap in a good way. So, instead of writing an entirely new rant, I’ll just give you some of the rants of the recent past.
This concept of merit pay or value-added evaluation or pay-for-performance or tying a teacher’s pay to how well a child does on a standardized test has been around for year. It is a sacred cow of leading educational interlopers, educational denizens, and philanthropic billionaire vultures (now this seems like a oxymoronic description, doesn’t it?) like Bill Gates and Eli Broad and their lap dog the the U. S. Department of Education, Arne Duncan. We understand both of these billionaires pumped some large sums of money into the Chicago Public School when Arne Duncan was the superintendent there. (How he ever became a superintendent is beyond me since he has never been an educator. But, maybe I can become the head of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University or perhaps head of Peat Marwick, even though I am not a medical doctor or an accountant. LOL!) I presume that Arne is smart enough to know that he more than likely will not be the Secretary of Education under another President and perhaps his inordinate loyalty to these billionaire interlopers will secure him future employment. Ah, but I am being too jaded in my outlook.
I know that Bill Gates seems to be getting a bit squeamish about tying teachers’ pay to just test scores, a position that he apparently previously held. He wrote an op-ed in the spring of 2013 in The Washington Post, stating that perhaps other factors besides the test scores of the students ought to be calculated into how a teacher is paid. Perhaps Bill’s been getting too much negative feedback from teachers for his own comfort zone. Now he needs to convince his wife Melinda about his apparent new epiphany. But, ole Arne is still operating under “The Charge of the Light Brigade” mentality because he just recently got into a pissing contest with Dr. John Barge, the State Superintendent of Georgia, over whether Georgia is moving fast enough in tying the Georgia teachers’ evaluations to student test scores. He threatened to withhold $10,000,000.00 Race to the Top funds from Georgia for this perceived desultory action – or lack of action. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has gotten real pissy with Dr. Barge over this threat of losing ten million bucks with the State. Deal had already cut back lots of funding in the States’ budget to the Georgia Department of Education. This latest pissing contest has apparently caused Dr. Barge to thinking, Why not just run for Governor? He would certainly get the teachers’ votes, and the last time the teachers of Georgia got very pissed off at an incumbent governor was in 2000 when Governor Roy Barnes led the charge to do away with teachers’ due process rights in Georgia. Two years later when Barnes ran for re-election, the teachers were waiting with baited breath. They voted overwhelmingly for the very underfunded Republican challenger, Sonny Perdue, and he won.
This whole push for merit pay and for Common Core Curriculum is having great political reverberations. Again, this week, Governor Deal in Georgia announced a slow-down on implementing this curriculum in Georgia. His already-announced opponent, the Mayor of Dalton, Georgia, recently stated that it would have taken him only three seconds to reject Common Core Curriculum. Well, if you think that CCC is unpopular with teachers, just was to see how they react to a fallacious concept like merit pay for teachers in a public school setting.
Now for some of my rants about merit pay. . . .
Merit Pay for Teachers Does Not Work
Perhaps the Good Master would call them “a brood of vipers” [those educational interlopers pushing for merit pay]. I was talking to a teacher tonight who was crying and severely stressed-out by some lying and conniving administrators who appear to delight in making people’s (yes, teachers are real people) lives miserable. Our mission at MACE is to devour administrators (metaphorically, of course; this is not a terroristic threat) who abuse teachers. We don’t do spelling bees and give out tote bags nor do we try to act like we are important by aimlessly walking the halls of the Georgia Capitol. We don’t have time for such silliness.
What does Brother _________ propose to do with the kiss-up, weasling, and booger-eatin’ administrators who immediately label any teacher a “trouble-maker” when ANYTHING is questioned? These are the same administrators who would sell their own mothers “down the river” to ensure that they can hold on to their high-paying jobs and lifestyles. They use the evaluative process in a manipulative, punitive, and retributive manner. They do not tolerate anyone who deigns (1) to point out that some students are acting like hellions and that the teachers need administrative support in order to deal with these miscreant “students” (yes, “miscreant” because their behaviors often cross the line into criminality) or (2) to refuse to simply “go along to get along,” especially when issues of conscience are involved (like lying about student attendance in order to cook the books for No Child Left Behind or changing answers on students’ test sheets so that the Pharoah-Superintendents won’t terminate, demote, or transfer them).
Merit pay has never worked in public education because students are not inanimate objects floating down a conveyor belt in a factory. Students have various IQ levels, have different motivational levels, and definitely come from different home environments which make all the difference in the world. I worked in a public school system in Georgia which was the only school system in the State which actually practiced differentiated pay for teachers. This same school system was hailed in Time Magazine and Reader’s Digest as a forward-looking and progressive school system in Georgia because of “merit pay.” I was allowed to look at the teachers’ salaries at the school, and I can assure you that the salaries did NOT correlate to a teacher’s skill or dedication as a teacher but to the number of butts that his or her lips had puckered up to or whose spouse this teacher was attached to. It was all about politico-familial connections and/or butt-kissing. These factors determine who got the “best” group of kids and who got the “merit” pay. When you can control the input variables, then, and only then, perhaps will some form of “merit” pay work. Until then, it is just a sham and a farce. Teachers start rat-holing everything from teaching materials, lesson plans, and insightful ideas. Teachers become suspicious of each other and become very uncooperative. In fact, they begin to act like 2nd and 3rd year law students who are competitively angling to be hired (or, “enslaved”) by the silk stocking law firms.
Pay the Physician Only if the Patient Is Well or Pay the Lawyer Only if the Client is Acquitted?
This is the issue: The children are never randomly selected and scattered around evenly. The teacher who is teaching at Atlanta’s King Middle School is confronted with a much more difficult job than a teacher who is assigned to Gwinnett’s Trickum Middle School. Or, let’s stay in the same county…Fulton. The teacher at Fulton’s Haynes Bridge Middle School in Alpharetta has an easier time getting students to perform at a certain academic level than students at Fulton’s McNair Middle School. We don’t know all of the answers is the very significant achievement gap between white students and black students but we know that this gap exists and that the low scores in South Fulton is exacerbated by poor conduct among the students. The Fulton County School System is certainly a microcosm for the whole state – and perhaps the nation – on this issue.
In the Fulton County School System, the system is divided by north and south, with the Atlanta Public Schools sitting between the two distinctly different geographical areas of the Fulton County Schools, and the academic performance of the children in these two areas are vastly different. This school system stretches from north of Alpharetta to south of Palmetto — about 75 to 80 miles long. Very diverse, considering that North Fulton is overwhelmingly white and South Fulton is overwhelmingly black. In my job, I deal with teachers in both the north and the south. I have a fairly accurate, I think, perspective. Besides the income disparity being very great, I am sure that if anyone checked the formal educational levels of the parents of the children in both areas, the parents in the north would have higher educational levels to a statistically significant level. This is where the motivation of the students comes in play. If a student perceives that he or she comes from an educated culture, from a family which values formal education, then this student has more motivation to learn. The motivation to learn is the key.
The motivation to learn is a cultural phenomenon. I did not say “a racial phenomenon,” but “a cultural phenomenon.” The African American children, for example, who vacation at Martha’s Vineyard (as pointed in the book Our Kind of People, a revealing book about the “elite class” among African Americans in this country) do not struggle with motivation to learn. In fact, their motivation is to determine into which Ivy League school they will matriculate.
Where there is very little motivation to learn, there automatically is a concomitant amount of disciplinary problems associated with this lack of motivation. If teachers are not freed up to be creative instead of being forced to teach in a straight-jacket (so to speak), then this children will continue to disrupt the learning environments of those students who actually are motivated to learn. Those governors and other people who were and are in positions to dole out monies to teachers based on “performance of the students” never take into their calculations that children are not inanimate objects which were randomly (and thus uniformly) selected to float down some educational conveyor belt.
What if we paid physicians based on how their patients performed? One doctor is sent to the ghetto where health and nutrition takes a back seat to daily survival. But, this physician’s pay is tied to his patients’ blood pressure readings. His patients love ham-hock and fried chicken in their daily diets. But, his counterpart physician (both graduating from Johns Hopkins Medical School) has his practice in Athens, Georgia where most of his patients refuse to eat fried foods, much less fried chicken with all of that ugly chicken skin. They cook with extra virgin olive oil rather than pork lard. This Athenian physician’s patients have lower counts of blood pressure that the patients from the ghetto. Should this physician make more than the physician whose practice is in an area where the patients cannot afford to cook with extra virgin olive oil and are very lucky to be able to occasionally buy Wesson Corn Oil? You get the point, but guess what? Our politicians and vulture philanthropists don’t get the point…probably because they don’t want to get the point. It is so much easier, from a political standpoint, to just blame the teachers. ”We are only going to reward those teachers where the students perform.” Balderdash! We’re only going to pay the physicians if their patients have low blood pressure! We’re only going to pay the court-appointed lawyers if their get their clients are acquitted!
The motivation to learn is a cultural phenomenon, and if the motivation to learn is not there, all of the new curricula fads and gadgets will not mean anything. The best thing that the educrats can do is (1) free up the teacher so that the teacher can be creative in his or her attempts to reach these unmotivated students and (2) support the teacher when he or she is attempting to establish a structured and orderly classroom environment.
Again, Merit Pay Is Incurably Flawed!
Do advocates of Merit Pay think that we should pay lawyers only if the juries find their clients “not guilty”? What if the evidence against the client is overwhelming and the entire jury is fully convinced that the lawyer’s client is guilty, despite the admirable job of his lawyer? So, the “performance” of the client should determine the lawyer’s pay? This court-appointed lawyer (who had rather not represent this client in the first place) will get the lowest pay possible from the State because of Mikie’s (the client’s) “performance” in the Standardized Testing Courtroom. Hmm. It just doesn’t seem right. Why? Because it isn’t right.
What about the physician who is forced to take on a client who overeats each day (and eats all of the wrong food, by the way)? This patient also refuses to exercise. The patient is 120 pounds overweight and smokes three packs of unfiltered Camel cigarettes each day also. He takes no vitamins and drinks two pints of Vodka with a Walmart brand orange drink (full of high fructose corn syrup) each night while he watches TNT movies until four in the morning. He goes to the physician who really doesn’t like being his primary care physician because Bubba (the patient’s nick name) refuses to do anything that he suggests to him. Oh, by the way, Bubba is also diabetic, but he refuses to take his insulin. Well, it’s just too bad for the physician because he is going to get paid from the State based on Bubba’s health performance. Again, absurd.
What about the dentist who always fills Johnny’s cavities and patiently goes over dental hygiene with his new Medicaid patient. He shows Johnny how to brush and floss. He tells him how often he needs to brush and floss. He encourages him to stay off sweets. But, guess what? Johnny ignores all of his dentist’s advice. He eats what he wants. He refuses to brush and floss his teeth, and his teeth continue to deteriorate and some even have to be pulled. Well, well. Too bad for this dentist, right? His pay will be tied to how well Johnny’s teeth perform. Good grief.
Merit pay does seem ludicrous when you have no choice about the performance of those entrusted (mandated) to you. For this reason alone, Merit Pay does not work in the public schooling process. I will not even go into the way that the process will be used in a manipulative, retributive, and punitive manner. Only the kiss-ups will profit from such a flawed system. It will not improve education; it will further destroy the public schooling process.
Teachers Teach Students; They Don’t Learn Them!
Lawyers defend clients; they don’t acquit them. Physicians treat patients; they don’t heal them. Teachers teach students; they don’t learn them. The merit pay concept for education is incurably flawed because the assumption is that teachers actually “learn” students. It’s not even correct English. No, the motivation to learn is a social/cultural phenomenon. If a “student” brings little or no motivation to learn to the schooling process, then there is little that a teacher can do to make this “student” learn. Our clueless educrats and philanthropic vultures have never accepted this. In fact, I don’t even think that they understand this. They still think, metaphorically speaking, that the Earth is flat.
I am not talking about abilities; I am talking about motivation. Many “students” come to class each day without any book, pencil, notebook, etc., and they either stay disengaged (by sleeping or day-dreaming) or they play “cops and robbers” with their teachers, disrupting any viable chance for the students who want to learn to learn. We have proposed that these non-learners be sent to an official Non-Learning Center (NLC). We would actually call it the “Non-Learning Center.” The other students would dog them out, and this would be good! We have to learn to do what other countries do (and are quite successful at it): We need to use peer pressure to improve learning, not to deflate learning. This was done so naturally by American teachers of yesteryear, but we became “sensitive” to the “self-esteem” of our student-thugs, and now these thugs are destroying our schools. Hardly anyone will breathe this, but at MACE, we are just “crazy” enough to tell the truth. No, we would not even go through the pretense of sending instructional lessons to the students who are removed from the regular school environment because of their willful and wanton misconduct. Sending special instructional materials for these student-thugs is just a continual shifting of the responsibility for learning onto the backs of teachers instead of placing it where it needs to be placed…on the shoulders of the parents and their children. Teachers are at the school to teach, not to be police officers, psychiatrists, bouncers, et al. Teachers teach. Students learn or they don’t learn. But, teachers definitely do not “learn the students.”
Merit Pay Again, Jackasses, and the Same Histrionic Insults at Teachers (SH-T)!
Several times, I have been asked about my position on merit pay for teachers. Now the chic phrase used by the vulture philanthropists, Arne Duncan, and other educrats is “valued-added evaluations.” It’s all the same. It’s about tying a teacher’s pay to how well a child does on a paper and pencil test. What do I think of merit pay? It does not work in public education because kids are not inanimate objects floating down a conveyor belt. All are different. Plus, rogue administrators will simply give the worst students (yes, there are some students who are “worst,” despite the fixation on political correctness) to the teachers who refuse to kiss up and/or to have sex with them. How is this so far for bluntness? By the way, if you blog my name along with Arne Duncan’s name, you will see that my comment quoted in an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution “lit up the blogosphere,” as one observer noted. I just believe in being honest about what is going on in public education. I have written extensively on the woes of merit pay in public education. Arne Duncan was threatening the removal of the administrators and the teachers from schools which did not “improve” (as measured by standardized tests). I simply asked what Mr. Duncan was going to do with the most important people at these schools, the children? I said that many were lazy and unmotivated and undisciplined and that Duncan wanted move everyone want at these schools except the most important people, the children. I think that one gutsy reporter asked Mr. Duncan to respond to my question at a Rose Garden press conference with President Obama.
I have worked in the only Georgia school system in modern times which was on merit pay, and the pay correlated with butt kissing, pure and simple. I saw which teachers were getting merit pay, and it had nothing to do with “merit.” It is another control mechanism which will be severely abused by dishonest, amoral, angry, and abusive administrators. More rampant cheating will take place. But, it may help the State of Georgia balance the budget [receiving the Race to the Top “bribes”], and this is really what it is all about.
Teachers and Blueberries
Mac, I love the Blueberry Story. (If you have never heard this story, please do yourself a favor and read it. http://www.jamievollmer.com/blueberries.) In fact, I was just showing a colleague of mine a letter that I received from my father which is postmarked in November of 2002, and he included the Blueberry Story in this letter. I have had this letter on one of my stacks of papers in my office, intending to have it put on our website at MACE. You have indeed motivated me to post this story on TheTeachersAdvocate.Com. Thanks. It clearly and simply outlines the problem with trying to tie teachers’ salaries to the performance of students. I remember the rich kids from the Green Island Country Club being districted right past my father’s junior high (Daniel Jr. High in Columbus, Georgia) so that they could attend public school at Richard’s Jr. High on the other side of town with fellow rich kids. When the Assistant Superintendent would periodically ask my father why his school’s test scores were not as high as Richard’s test scores, my father, in his wise and intrepid way, would simply say, “Doc, you can’t win the Kentucky Derby with Jackasses.” He was not calling his students jackasses; he was simply stating that you can’t expect his school to have higher scores than Richards Jr. High School if you are shipping all of his rich kids to Richards. It is indisputable that test scores and socio-economic scores are positively correlated. Teachers would have to be financially stupid or financially independent to volunteer to teach in a poor school if their pay were going to be tied to the standardized test scores of their students. What will happen? More and more rookie teachers will be placed in the poor schools. They will not have tenure, and they will be encouraged (ever so subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly) to engage in systematic cheating.
In Georgia, we have had scads of legislative-sponsored educational programs with which to contend (Minimum Foundation, APEG, QBE, ITBS, GTEP, GTOI, GTDRI, CRCT, NCLB, AYP, A+ Foundation, and now Race to the Top). Race to the Flop is more like what is going to happen with the latest educational boondoggle coming from the banks of the Potomac. All of these programs are not worth SH_T. How do you like that acronym? Same Histrionic Insults at Teachers. SH_T. No one wants to address the Four Horsemen of Public Education: (1) Defiant & Disruptive Students; (2) Irate & Irresponsible Parents; (3) Angry & Abusive Administrators; and (4) Systematic Cheating. We often say this at MACE: You cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions. This is a fact, Jack.
Merit Pay: Red Herring & Piltdown Man
This idiotic value-added evaluation continues to drives good teachers out of public education, and it discourages talented young people from entering into to the profession of teaching (whatever is left of the “profession”). I can’t help but to think about the comment that my rather blunt but very funny father said while the family was sitting in the car at a gas station over 40 years ago: “There goes _____________ and ___________. They don’t have a brain between them.” He was looking at two elected officials walking together beside this service station. One was a State Senator (eighth grade education) and the other was one of his former high school students who was a big shot on the Metro City Council in Columbus. It’s these people who get into power and think that they know what is wrong with public education. But, none of them (including U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan) know their butts from deep center field!
What is wrong with public education today is not the teachers. It’s the students – their lack of motivation to learn and their often defiant and disruptive conduct – who are the problems…along with their irate and irresponsible parents. Folks, let’s get real: Most of the problems in public education are located in urban schools. Not all of the problems, but the lion’s share of them are simply urban school problems. But, our politicians and educrats do not have the nerve to hit head-on what the real problems are. They want to appear to be finding a solution to the problems but they are only compounding the problems and exacerbating the problems. Then, these numb-skulled and mean-spirited administrators carry out these truncated and benighted “plans” for improvement with what they think is all due alacrity like good Educational Nazis.
Merit pay has never worked in public education. It will never work. It is the politicians’ Red Herring and the philanthropic vultures’ Piltdown Man of Public Education. © Big Daddy Publishers, 2013.