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View Diary: Why Obama's New Teacher Incentive Pay Will Take Education Backward (254 comments)

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  •  I'm a college teacher. I've taught for 30 years. (19+ / 0-)

    Every class is different. Sometimes you get very motivated students in a class and sometimes you don't.  Some students are way more intelligent, talented and hardworking than others in the same class. I assume this is just the same as working with people anywhere, except that teachers are now supposed to  be responsible for this.  With the business model we are now functioning under (with ill effects), we are supposed to influence every student positively in the same way.  This simply does not ever happen because the business model assumes the student is a "product" like raw clay, that you can mold however you wish, if you just work hard enough.  This is ridiculous. I have students who love me and claim that I have motivated them to go into my field and that I am their favorite teacher. I have students who don't like me at all and hate the subject, put forth zero effort in the class and blame me for it.

    Then there is the whole subject of "merit pay."  The teacher gets merit pay if he/she supposedly is a "good teacher." But who decides who is a good teacher? Do you trust student evaluations?  In our school, each department makes up their own evaluation sheet because it costs too much money for the university to invest in questions that have been vetted for neutrality.   We ask our students, for instance, "is this teacher a fair grader?"  Hmmmmm..... there are many teachers who will give way more As and Bs in order for themselves to get a "good grade" from their students on questions of this type.   Those who try to grade their students fairly but honestly are at a disadvantage and, the more these evaluations are emphasized, the more grade inflation you will get.   It's already to the point where a student will get a B- and come to you and complain bitterly that you did not "give" them a better grade.  

    The other thing about merit pay is that it pits you against your colleagues and creates bitterness and low morale for all the teachers who do NOT get raises.  This is especially true because the Chair of the Department who decides on who gets what raises --NEVER ever visits your class or may have no idea what you do because their area of expertise is not the same as yours.   This introduces inevitable questions of favoritism.  Combine this with the current atmosphere of teacher bashing in the culture at large, and the constant efforts on the part of the administration to force teachers to "prove" that they are getting the material across through top down "assessment" tasks, which basically means creating endless questionnaires that the students fill out before and after you introduce some bite-sized, pre-planned subject and other paperwork which requires hours of tedious data entry on the part of the teacher outside of class and  the whole thing is a huge morale buster.  Most of my young colleagues now regret getting the teaching jobs they worked so hard for and are thinking of changing fields entirely.   This is where things are going and pretty soon the entire education structure in this country will be destroyed if it doesn't stop. I'm glad I'm able to retire because I can't take it any more.

    BTW, if teachers were highly motivated by money, they would have gone into a different field than education in the first place. Most teachers I know are extremely hard-working and responsible people and care deeply about their students.  

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