Monday, December 12, 2011

Jindal Toys With Merit Pay

See this Baton Rouge Advocate story for a report on a Jindal speech to CABL (Council for A Better Louisiana) where he thrilled his supportive audience with the possibility that teacher merit pay could be the next "bold reform" he may propose for public education. The Governor naively repeats the false assumption made by many uninformed education reformers that the quality of teachers is the most important factor in improving student performance. I know it is shocking to many "reformers", but in many high poverty schools, the quality of teachers makes very little difference. (Click here for a recent article on the real problem at That's because other factors are so overwhelming in their negative impact that many of the efforts of good or even great teachers are inconsequential! Considering the fact that over 60% of Louisiana's public school students are high poverty students, the governor, CABL, and other non-educator reformers are attacking the wrong problem.

Once you read the Advocate article above, I hope you will take the time to read the Advocate reader comments I have reprinted below. Based on their insight about education issues, I suspect that most of these commenters have experience in a real classroom. I don't agree with everything they say here, but I feel that for the most part these observers make it clear how impractical the governor's proposal would be. These comments also tell us a lot about the level of frustration in the education community with the dabbling of amateurs like Jindal, Bill Gates, and John White.

Comment by spqr - Friday, December 09, 2011
No one wants to hear that quality education is available. Like sheep, they believe what they read in newspapers and what comes from the mouth of a governor owing political favors to those wanting such changes in public education. What do we do with the army of students who do not want to learn? What do we do with the masses of uneducated parents, some with criminal records, who do not care for their children? What do we do with the overage population at school only to eat lunch and cause trouble in the face of weakening discipline policies designed to keep kids in school while disrupting instruction? Over crowded classes. Gangs. Drugs. Apathy. Sex. Violence. Disrespect for authority. Refusal to do homework. High absentees (The truancy program is a joke). Welfare. Poor political leadership. Out of touch, but well-meaning educational groups that think they know, but don't know they don't know. Unfunded mandates. School boards members with no teaching experience. Federal bureaucracy. Inflammatory anti-public education editorials written by the rich business classes. Frozen teacher salaries. In the middle of it all trying to help the students achieve are the middle class teachers. And they are despised by the Jindal administration. And the public buys it.

Comment by timesright - Friday, December 09, 2011
Jindal said one of the current problems is that “we treat all teachers the same with our one size fits all system.” What an interesting statement when one test is to fit all students. Not surprising that this "let's reward our effective teachers" is the very next Jindal mantra. Monetary incentives are not why teachers are in the classroom. They wouldn't be there in the first place if that were the case. Comments by spqr are right on. A governor who has been spoon fed the things to say and the media who seems to be eating from the same dish are bringing to the table a public who is offered only one choice from the menu. That choice being anything that gnaws away at teachers and public education. Let's keep teachers and public education on the menu.

Comment by squiggly - Friday, December 09, 2011
The only thing Jindal's plan will accomplish is to increase cheating, by teachers and principals, on standardized tests. What these idiots don't understand is that they are dealing with social issues in the public schools and not teacher/school quality issues. Rating schools and teachers based on standardized tests is a flawed concept because the tests are flawed. I personally know kids who have attended schools that are rated D and F schools, but who nevertheless score above average on the ACT and went on to finish college. If the schools were really bad, how could that be possible. The answer is those kids came mostly from a middle class background. In actuality, what the schools are being rated on is the economic and cultural background of the majority of the students who attend said schools; after all that is what standardized tests measure, not how intelligent the student is or what they are taught in school. Maslow's theory of the hierarchy of needs is what's at play on this issue. Instead of arbitrarily rewarding teachers for fake achievement, that money would be well spent on hiring a group of psychologists and sociologists to figure out how to motivate under privileged students to focus on doing well in school in spite of the hand that has been dealt to them in life.

Comment by bigfatman - Friday, December 09, 2011
Senario : Teacher A teaches honor students at a magnet school. Teacher B teaches low achieving ,over age, socially promoted students. Teacher A gets rewarded because students do well on testing. Teacher B gets the shaft because students showed poor advancement. Evaluations!!!! Where's the fairness????

Comment by mava06 - Friday, December 09, 2011
Bigfatman is absolutely correct. As long as some teachers have classrooms filled with students who bring their baggage to school and other teachers have students who get to school ready to listen, behave and learn, the deck will always be stacked. It's been my experience working in more schools than I can count as an itinerant teacher that teachers of the tough kids work many more additional hours both at school and at home for minimal gains, but gains nonetheless. Teachers who have the "easy" kids typically leave school much earlier because their jobs are somewhat easier. Any growth by the difficult kids should be rewarded, but the current assessment system labels them as "failures" for not making arbitrarily high and unattainable gains. Those teachers who are working the hardest will not necessarily be rewarded for their hard work. Neither will their students. Until the system fully accounts for individual differences and rewards the hard work it takes to take kids from nothing to anything more than they came with then Jindal's idea will stink to high heaven. Just another non-educator making decisions. All people who make decisions for teachers should be contractually required and obligated to spend a number of days actually trying to teach and they should have to do it in the tough schools right before Christmas or spring break or the end of the school year. They should be required to be successful doing it by turning in good test scores. Would Mr. jindal like to have businessmen and politicians telling his doctor how to practice medicine on him and his children? For that matter, where do HIS kids go to school? I can almost bet they don't go to public school.

 Comment by redstickhornet - Friday, December 09, 2011
Ok, what I want to know is why should there be more Jindal involvement in this? WHAT TRACK RECORD of success does our state have in rewarding the right people or punishing the wrong people in ANY INDUSTRY or sector in this state? What successful model of oversight and accountability has Jindal developed? How many of us want to work in a profession where the LA legislature devises the pay scale, evaluation, and incentives? What is fundamentally conservative about about some of Jindal's education policy. Education is such a political football in this state. This needs to stop. What other professions would endure this? Are professors at LSU/SU etc. going to be evaluated using value-added analyses? Are physicians and other health care professionals going to submit to value-added? I could go on and on, but I know there is no need.

Comment by Traveler - Friday, December 09, 2011
Many certified educators are necessary to support the work of the classroom teacher. These 'ancillary" certified educators include, but are not limited to, guidance counselors, librarians, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, social workers, physical education coaches, art teachers, and music teachers. Ancillary teachers have no "official" rolls, because they do not teach a core subject----but try running an effective school system without them! At present, there is no plan for evaluating these employees. Since they are not considered "accountable" for the results of students' standardized test scores, there is no plan for how to reward them for students' progress or "punish" them for students' lack of progress. This is just one more example of how poorly thought-out the new teacher evaluation system is. Yet the legislature and BESE approved this half-baked plan!