Saturday, February 25, 2012

When You're Only as Valued as the Outcome

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Merit.

I hear that word and it makes me think of my Boy Scout days…back when I was trying to get as many merit badges and skill awards as I could. You know, wanting to fill that olive green sash with as many circular patches as possible to show that I was the bomb. Of course, that was a lifetime ago, back in the days of pubescence, schoolhouse crushes, and acne.

Merit seems to mean something different to me today. Maybe it’s because I read an article last night about the new bill in the process of being passed.

I don’t agree with it.

Some of you may or may not know about Senate Bill 67, which links a teacher’s pay raises directly to his or her students’ final test scores.

This bothered me.

It bothered me on many levels.

Are there bad teachers out there who aren’t up to scratch? Yes, we all know that there are; however, there is also a set that works as hard as they can, trying to make a difference, yet by denying them income to try to match the changing economy, you are going about it the wrong way to try to fix the problem of student success.

You see, I’ve had some of the students in my classes with low test scores every year that I’ve been a teacher. To try to help remedy this, I offer up extra help an hour before school to any student who needs it. I stay in my classroom during my lunch break, labs, and recesses (when I’m not on duty) to help any student who wants it. I stay after school—nearly every day—for at least an hour to be a resource for students who want help.

But no matter what I do, I still have low-scoring students.

Now, I have parents that are involved in their child’s education, and I see these kids progress and get better and better. I also see kids who simply don’t care and have little to no parental support. I have students who will not come to me for help, even when they are those who so desperately need it.

I had one particular student whose parent informed me that their child couldn’t come to school early or stay afterward with me, also, they couldn’t attend the remediation classes offered by the school—though their child severely needed it.

And still, the parent refuses to help their child with their education.

And yet, even with all of this, it’s going to be put on me.

If I were in the situation of working for a corporation, and was being judged in my competence based on the outcome of those working in my department, it would be much easier to remedy the situation: If someone weren’t up to scratch, I could terminate them and replace them with someone that had the skills I needed, this way the job would get done well.

However, in education, this simply isn’t possible.

Teachers are given the group that they get, and that’s it. We teach whoever walks into our classrooms, and we try to teach them on their level. We try to get them through the process, and yet, there is only so much a teacher can do when standing alone.

I think of that word: merit.

Really, it’s not simply the value of the outcome; it’s about finding value in the entire process.

18 comments:

Dina @ 4 Lettre Words said...

It bothers me...and I don't teach. Mainly b/c, as a parent, I truly want to believe that the teachers my boys encounter want to teach and do it out of a really "good place". I don't want the classroom to be hard/not fun...especially for the elementary kids. Don't they grow up fast enough already???

Kalei's Best Friend said...

Maybe its put all on the teacher because the government doesn't have the cajones to say that parents are accountable as well?? I have seen it too many times where the parent would willingly pay someone to teach their kid to read when in fact they can do it ... I've seen where kids want the attention of their parent vs a paid individual ( not speaking of a teacher) but outside sources such as Sylvan.

Sue said...

All teachers are underpaid; that's a fact.

My sister works at a Catholic middle/high school. The teachers are greatly respected and regularly visited in their classrooms.

Everyone knows who the "bad" teachers are. It gets around...through the comments of students, other teachers (who get to teach unprepared kids the following year), and parents.

For me, the "merit" part shouldn't be getting paid more or less. Teachers should either be good enough to be paid well and stay, or be let go entirely.

JMHO, of course.

Rachel said...

Oh this burns me!! I didn't know about this one. I'm glad you brought it to my attention.

I'm boiling. I've got a huge rant building inside of me. At least you wrote your rant in a mature manner......

I am so sick and tired of justification and responsibility being taken more and more from the parents on so many levels and institutions.

(Insert whining parent voice). I'm sorry. My child so and so isn't going to be able to speak in church like they'd agreed to do because they were out late partying last night....... yes, I realize that this puts everyone else in a bind because I am telling you this last minute.... Well, yes... I know this means this puts the program in a lurch........ Well gosh I sure appreciate your child jumping in last minute to cover for my kid!!!

Ummm, I'm gonna shut up now.

Shirley said...

From my own personal gene pool I have 2 young little minds that can easly get A's with little effort, and one little brain that I will spend 2 or 3 hours a night working with, his teachers have him in small study grps as well as setting time aside everyday to work one on one with him, just so he can achieve a C grade. Based off the foundation of this Bill, my C student is not getting the attention/ help he needs to get better grades, so his teachers who go beyond the classroom to help him achieve those C grades will be punished when the teachers of my "A" students will see raises in their futures and did not have to do more then get them to pay attention during the lecture time of the class. I get so frustrated hearing parents sit back and put down the public education system, if they feel their children are not getting what they need by all means then keep them home and educate them yourself. Teaching things like respect, manners, and to be quiet and pay attention in class, are all of the things they need to know to be able to learn and we as parents should be teaching them long before they enter a classroom, if we fail to do so, it is not the teachers fault. An added note, from my own experiance as a college student for the past 3 years, I may do very well on the homework and labs, yet completely freeze durring an exam (especialy in Math). Does not mean my instructors did not do their jobs, it is just a simple case of test anxiaty, something that is recognized in the college level education system, but completely ignored in our childrens level. Yet we will judge a teacher who puts in over 50 hours a week to his or her students because of a test score. :(

Fun With Ali and Hayden! said...

Amen!

Shawna said...

So teachers already being paid well at a school in an affluent neighborhood, with all the privilege that those children are given are going to be given better raises as well over the teachers working in low income/mostly immigrant areas because some of those children won't already have a functioning grasp of the English language or have the same support system at home? Well that's just ridiculous.

My own lack of skills as a student was not the fault of my teachers, but in the fact that I was often unhappy and couldn't work up the energy to even try doing well... why should a teacher be punished for my lack of enthusiasm? Well, that and my poor test skills... I am just not test taking material.

I love the fact that in the article you linked to the author has used an incorrectly spelled word... maybe his teachers should be punished as well for letting him graduate?

Yes there are lousy teachers out there, but I don't believe you should merit a teacher's performance off of how well his students do... but rather by observation of the teacher themselves.

Cherie said...

I totally agree!

I don't like the whole Tenure thing myself. I don't think bad teachers should be able to keep their job if they are...well, bad teachers.

I didn't know about this bill but it will not work and will just succeed in lowering teacher standards in my opinion. If I were a teacher I would go to a private school or some other place and use my skills if I was going to be paid this way.

Mamma has spoken said...

Amen.
And let's just face it, there are some that no matter what you do, you just can't fix all their problems....

Kathy said...

I so agree with your last line - it really is the entire process that is valuable. Just think if all of our life experiences were assessed by outcomes only. Many of them would appear of little or no value. So often the best life lessons come out of "failure." I think this type of legislation will do more to harm education than help it.

Mindy said...

It can be a discouraging time to be a teacher because it seems that all the little successes and moments of growth are overlooked in favor of a single snapshot of an entire year.

Thanks for putting into words what many teachers feel. You have once again stated eloquently what so many people need to hear. I only wish more of them could read this.

Sierra said...

This bothers me because it doesn't matter how well I teach, I cannot control a child's test score.

Teachinfourth said...

This bothered me so much I decided to send letters to my senator (Curtis Bramble), state and US representatives (Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee, Rebecca Lockhart, and Jason Chaffetz) and I even decided to write a letter to President Obama. I’m mailing them all tomorrow.

I wanted to thank those of you who left comments on what I wrote…I included many of your comments in my letters.

I hope my fellow teachers will write to these individuals as well.

tammy said...

And what about the teens who want to "get back" at a certain teacher and decide they'll just purposely do bad in their class? This is so wrong in so many ways. Good for you for speaking out.

Karen Peterson said...

I think test scores are certainly one measure, but they shouldn't be the ONLY measure. There are a lot of things that go into educating kids and test scores can only gauge so much of that.

Cheeseboy said...

I could not agree with you more, my friend!

Here's the thing that bothers me the most: Some years I have the very highest test scores in the school and probably the district. Other years I've have some of the lowest scores in the entire district no doubt. So much of it is based on total LUCK OF THE DRAW!

Now here is another thing: This year I am teaching the "Gifted Class". Now, I could be the crappiest teacher in the entire state and my group of gifted students would probably score off the charts and I would be given an awesome raise. Great for me, sucks to be you - other teachers that are trying to make a difference with the struggling students.

And how bout this: What teacher in their right mind is going to work in a lower income school? And this is EXACTLY where we need the very best teachers!! This bill is so wrong on so many levels!

Jason, as himself said...

Oh, don't even get me started. Emphasis on test scores has gone from too much to the ONLY thing that really gets attention from many administrators, the government, and the media. Attaching pay to it would do one thing and one thing only: Guarantee cheating. Not everyone would cheat to be sure, but many would.

I always have that small group of kids with low test scores too. Every year. My principal sees that as a huge flaw in my professional character. He told me this year, "It's been 19 years that you've been at this. This is bullshit. Figure it out already."

I'm sure you'll guess that the handful of lower scoring students includes two students who had to be retained, a cluster of special ed. kids, and two kids with pretty extreme behavior problems.

Penalizing me monetarily for that would make me all kinds of crazy.

Darn it! See? You got me started.

Teachinfourth said...

I hear you, guys. I've got some of those kids whose parents don't help them at all, special ed, and kids that are hyperactive or simply don't care.

Now give me 30 students and then say that all of them need to be at a certain point? That would be like an executive taking whoever walked into his office and hiring them to be on his team; THEN he would need to make sure that they are productive and can do the job.

Doesn't make a lot of sense to me...

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