February 5, 2009

What personality is your Performance-Pay Attitude? (and other mixed metaphors)

Since other bloggers I read have used various quizzes to spice up their entries, or maybe do something online while they're waiting for a bus, here is the all-purpose Performance-Pay Personality Quiz. Oh, wait: "personality" isn't quite appropriate here. But to mix metaphors, what personality is YOUR attitude towards performance pay?

  1. Do you think that there is ever a justification for some teachers' being paid more than others?
    • 1 point -- A paycheck is performance pay: either pay people a good wage for doing their job, or fire them for not doing it.
    • 4 points -- Some differential pay is required to encourage teachers to take hard-to-staff jobs (either by subject or school), and that's more important than merit pay.
    • 7 points -- On balance, performance pay would be a good thing, but it's not the most important thing to change in schools.
    • 10 points -- Performance pay or bust: I'll throw everything else out the window to get it!
  2. What's the most important motivation for teachers and administrators?
    • 1 point -- They love children; that's their only motivation.
    • 2 points -- Personal integrity is a more powerful motivator than salary. Teachers need salaries, but if you can show teachers how to feel better about the job they're doing (including showing them how to do a better job), you can move mountains.
    • 3 points -- Money's an important part of the picture. It's not the only thing, and seeing money as the only motivational tool would be foolish public policy, but to ignore it would be wrong.
    • 4 points -- There's nothing like money to get people's attention, and teachers are people.
  3. How important is it for education policy to encourage educators to work together?
    • 1 -- Teachers are not islands: rewarding individuals will kill the type of mentoring and sharing that's essential for professional development. Doubt me? Go ask stock-market traders who entered their career recently whether individual rewards encouraged their elders to mentor them... or spend every second on the floor trying to make a buck.
    • 2 -- Cooperation is crucial. It's not everything, since all teachers have strengths and weaknesses, and we don't want a school full of Stepford Teachers, but I worry that too much emphasis on individual recognition will discourage teachers from talking to each other, and from any chance that teachers will hold each other accountable.
    • 3 -- Teachers' talking in a lounge is like little kids' hugging each other. Often it's wonderful, but you sometimes worry what they're sharing. Individual recognition is pretty important to give credibility to the better and more professional teachers.
    • 4 -- Teacher go it alone anyway: recognizing their achievement as individuals is unlikely to harm the type of substantive collaboration that happens rarely.
  4. What is the right balance between judging teachers based on the professional judgment of peers and using student performance?
    • 1 -- Peer judgment: they're the ones who know what good teaching looks like, and what we care about is whether teachers are teaching well.
    • 2 -- Er... wouldn't peers be interested in what students are learning? Student performance should be part of the mix, as one springboard for evaluation. But peer judgment should be central.
    • 3 -- Student performance should anchor qualitative judgments of teaching. Yes, peers can judge teachers, but student performance should be central.
    • 4 -- Skip the peers. What matters is whether students are learning.
  5. How ready is the technology of testing to use in judging individual teacher and school performance?
    • 1 -- When the solid historical record of more than a century shows that people have abused tests in every decade, we should assume that tests will be misused, and it's the burden of high-stakes testing advocates to show otherwise.
    • 2 -- Tests are useful, but we're far from being sure that tests tell us what most politicians think they tell us.
    • 3 -- They're imperfect, but we need to start using test scores to judge effectiveness now because we can't wait for tests to be perfect to look at performance.
    • 4 -- They're just fine, and they have been for years.
  6. What role should collective bargaining play in education reform?
    • 1 -- Collective bargaining is crucial to protecting due process and teacher rights, and if possible to block stupid reforms.
    • 2 -- Collective bargaining is crucial to protecting due process and teacher rights, and unions can play an important part of reform.
    • 3 -- Collective bargaining is primarily an obstacle to important reform. Where unions will accept reforms, great. Where they won't, federal and state governments have powerful incentives to change the balance of power at the local level.
    • 4 -- Federal and state governments should do their best to break unions, because they do nothing good. Break them, circumvent them, discredit them with their bargaining units.
  7. What should be the ceiling in terms of paying for performance (both the total amount of money and how many teachers should be eligible)?
    • 1 -- Arguments in favor of performance pay are a cover for not wanting to pay teachers more. Those who work with children are generally underpaid, and while performance pay looks like it's in "the children's interest," in reality it's another way of being cheap.
    • 2 -- Part of my skepticism about performance pay is the assumption that only 10-25% of teachers should receive it. To these brilliant people, I ask: "Okay, suppose there's performance pay and every student meets whatever is your definition of proficiency by 2014. Does that mean you'd be willing to double teacher pay for that result, or is this an education-reform shell game?"
    • 3 -- Part of my acceptance of performance pay is looking at the numbers: there are lots of students, and it's almost impossible to staff every classroom with a brilliant and greatly-skilled teacher. So let's pay the great ones the best. "In a perfect world we'd double teacher pay" is another way of saying "never."
    • 4 -- Competition is the best way to motivate individuals, and you're going to get little competition if everyone can earn a bonus. Limit performance pay to the top slice of teachers.

Psychometrics-free labels to share with frenemies and colleagues:

7-11: You are Alfie Kohn. You'd really like the testing industry to suffer an ignominious death, and anyone who thinks that using tests will improve schooling is smoking something fairly powerful.

11-16: You are Reg Weaver. You are publicly skeptical of merit pay, you think most designed systems are going to be disasters, but you're also going to hold your nose and support teachers who decide it's in their best interests.

17-23: You are Randi Weingarten. You know that the American public is used to people making more money if they do a better job, but you're skeptical of most performance-pay plans in operation today. You think collective bargaining is the best way to moderate the more idiotic ideas surrounding teacher pay and to protect the legitimate interests of teachers and communities.

24-28: You are Thomas Toch. You're well aware of the flaws of testing and accountability systems, but you think moving in the direction of performance pay is essential, and you will trust that the system can be improved incrementally once it's started in the right direction.

29-34: You are Michelle Rhee. The day that teachers have a starkly uneven pay scale, the day that school districts fire a fifth of their teachers, and the day that unions are decertified around the country will be the day you will not only take up that Newsweek broom again but dance with it a la Fred Astaire. 

(Don't like the questions? Fine: make up your own completely unscientific spoof of internet quizzes!)

Listen to this article
Tags: performance pay, school reform, teachers unions
Posted in Education policy on February 5, 2009 6:50 PM |