What's wrong with making an extra $3,000 dollars?
By: Lisa North
As a union that represents the profession of educators, we have the responsibility to speak for the profession. What are we saying when we agree to a plan that will reward educators for test scores? The Bloomberg/Klein/Bush administrations believe the answer to improving urban education is for teachers to work harder to raise test scores. Despite our union leaders' claims that indicators like attendance, graduation rates, and parent surveys will be used, 85% of the bonus money will be based on scores. Our union, the voice of professional educators, has now signed on to that premise.
It is well known, as recently pointed out by Diane Ravitch, that test scores fluctuate from year to year based on how easy or hard they are (Daily News article 9/4/07). The UFT High Stakes Testing Committee spent a year studying the issue and concluded, "those who advocate for the misuse of student test scores to evaluate individuals, schools, and entire school systems are ignorant of or choose to ignore the fact that the makers of these tests never intended them to be used for those purposes."
Our union told us that by signing this bonus/merit pay program we avoided individual merit pay. Where is the line in the sand? Do we continue to make concession after concession until we have lost the battle for high quality education?
Improving urban education requires addressing the social and economic inequalities of our society. Our students need better health care, housing, and jobs for their parents. Our schools need more resources to lower class size, provide real time to collaborate on how best to improve teaching (not collaboration to raise test scores), high quality summer and after school programs in every school (not test prep programs), and high quality parent education programs.
School wide bonus/merit pay plans are a retreat in the face of this mission.