Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Performance pay rollercoaster

Charlotte-Mecklenburg isn't the only place struggling with whether and how to link teacher pay to student achievement,  and how to pay for any changes in the pay plan.  Education Week reports that some states and districts are scaling back or giving up on performance pay because of the money crunch and/or the lack of proven benefits.

At the same time,  the article says,  federal Race to the Top grants are providing millions to develop performance pay plans,  which is leading others to join the hunt for a new way to pay teachers.  (CMS,  you may recall,  is tapping Race to the Top money to develop a performance-pay plan and to hire two new PR people to explain it and monitor coverage.)

Meanwhile,  the fall issue of EducationNext reports that the American public favors basing teacher pay at least partly on student test scores by a margin of 47 percent in favor to 27 percent opposed  (some chose neither).  Teachers were 72 percent opposed and 18 percent in favor.

It's part of a report on the annual EducationNext-PEPG survey of about 2,600 respondents across the country,  looking at an array of education issues.  The biggest change from last year: Increased support for vouchers.  But the poll also found increased public support for basing teacher tenure on student test performance,  up from 49 percent to 55 percent.  Only 30 percent of teachers favored that idea.

It makes me think those new PR folks may want to take notes from blogger and commenter Bolyn McClung,  who has been talking about "the existing system of pay-for-seniority and tenure."  Last year,  the debate revolved around the pros and cons of the emerging CMS plan,  which raised a lot of opposition and questions,  especially among teachers.  But most of the people I talked to,  including teachers wary of the CMS changes,  acknowledged that the current pay system is flawed.  I suspect you get a very different discussion,  especially among non-teachers,  if the question is "Do you want to change the current plan?" rather than "Do you trust CMS' test-driven changes?"


Pamela Grundy said...

The problem with the question "Do you want to change the current plan?" is that the main proposals for change (such as those put forth by CMS) involve methods that have frequently been tried and have consistently failed.

If you want to set up a system that pays teachers based on student "performance," you have to quantify that "performance." For most districts and consultants, that has meant testing, testing, testing, along with dubious methods of calculating teacher contributions to student performance. These methods do more harm than good.

Until CMS can come up with less intrusive and more credible ways to evaluate and motivate teachers, PR spin isn't going to help.

Larry said...

I am just happy we have finally have the Teachers who are the real assets getting with the Leaders in Raleigh and getting some reasonableness in the Pay For Performance.

We must get our Teachers no longer having to act as waiters and waitresses to both the Kids and Parents.

We must have peer groups helping to evaluate performance. Fellow Teachers know who is pulling the weight and know who is pulling them down. They also know who needs help long and short them or who needs to go.

So we also need more outside incentives like low cost mortgages, car loans, car repair plans, fix it services, things that make it easier for all be they young or older and married or single Teachers to make it in our system.

Oh and these incentives can be written off by the local businesses as community services as they currently do everyday.

new teacher said...

Teachers do not get to choose which students come into their class, or what social capital that the student has to support learning at home. Teachers work with what they get and it sure isn't a decent salary. Teachers do what they do because they love it, not because the 32K a year they get after paying 60K for a degree is too hard to resist. Performance pay works with manufacturing because there is a method to evaluate the end product that is consistant and fair. CMS does not have that system in place.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see how the pay for performance is going to work. You have principals out there who are buddies with some of the teachers and those principals assign those teachers the kids even my dog can teach. If you don't kiss the principal's stinking butt, you get the less motivated kid. Now you tell me, how is pay for performance going to work??

BolynMcClung said...


Here is the link to full text of the article I wrote for MeckEd. The title is:
"Pay for Seniority or Pay for Performance."


Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

New teacher, pay for performance also works for manufacturing because they can influence the quality of raw materials they get from their suppliers or switch suppliers.

You can't do that with students.

At least not in public schools (outside of magnet programs) where you have to take whatever the cat drags in the door.

Anonymous said...

Pamela, What would you propose? Do you think the following is a well-structured pay system for a work force in 2011?


Anonymous said...

How about a stipend for lack of PARENT performance...and lack of STUDENT motivation?!The inmates are running the asylum in D.C. and Raleigh.

Anonymous said...

I don't know.
A. Baxter

Anonymous said...

Per the CMS Intranet, now called "Talent Effectiveness Project" Dress it up any way you want, it still reeks!

Anonymous said...

The lack of proven results for Pay for Performance. That should be all that the CMS school board should focus on.....

Wiley Coyote said...

The United States of America is the most powerful country in the world and pay for performance in teaching had nothing to do the first 200 years with making it so.

Let's cut to the chase here and call it like it is.

This wouldn't be an issue if people would get over the "achievement gap" phenomenon that was born out of eliminating seperate but equal and thirty plus years of busing.

We've spent all that time bringing down the system instead of building it up.

The vast majority of teachers are good teachers.

The sad fact is that many of these teachers do go unrewarded for their efforts everyday, being paid the same as another teacher doing just enough to get by.

As many have stated, teachers have no say in what comes through their doors to work with and there is no way to have a system of compensation based on how those variables perform from school to school.

It is CMS' responsibility to put all of the components in place; quality teachers, instructional aids, programs, infrastructure, etc in ALL schools. If parents don't support and don't instill into their children education is serious and the key to their future, that's their problem - not CMS'.

therestofthestory said...

Bravo WC, Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Wiley, you are absolutely right about the roots of pay for performance. The achievement gap has been blamed on everything under the sun, with the latest scapegoat being "the teachers". Only now is it becoming acceptable to admit that home life and background make a huge difference in student achievement--not in a child's ability to learn but in how prepared the child is to learn. Previously to say so was considered elitist or racist.

Swann and Meck ACTS have long been part of the blame game, including blaming poor and unexperienced teachers for the gap. They used this as justification for the need to bus and they have been more than happy to cast those opposed to them uncaring, selfish people.

In response to the achievement gap issue more and more bureaucracy and data mining was put in place in an attempt to solve the problem (not just in CMS but nationwide)and avert legal action by advocacy groups. Now ironically those very advocacy groups that helped get us to this point are leading the charge against any kind of pay for performance. They are now the friends of the teachers and loudly proclaim that students' backgrounds affect how various students learn and thus how well teachers "perform". What a bunch of hypocrites!

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add in the above post that I agree that students' backgrounds make a difference in the outcomes a teacher might have--but does that mean that we can not evaluate how that teacher is doing?

Anonymous said...

As a teacher I would favor pay for performance if I can send back the inferior product like they do in the business world. For example a chef is making a blueberry muffins, he discovers that the blueberies are rotten, what does he do? He gets a new batch to make a superior product. In education we can't do that, we are expected to teacher all the students that come in the door even the rotten ones.

Wiley Coyote said...


We should be evaluating teachers, but I believe most of that evaluation should come from peers, principals and parents.

Other factors would include extra training and involvement in industry workshops authorized by the state board of education.

Anonymous said...

Next step:

Recognize that children actually DO have differing abilities.

Some kids are smart. Some are not.

Some work hard, some don't.

Like pit bulls that maul babies, maybe it's genetic, maybe it's not.

It just is. And it's not always something you're going to change.

Anonymous said...

Giving credit where credit is do, Meck ACTS are stategically masterful in swelling their numbers by grabbing (and misguiding) onto the testing angst of the uninformed. Their membership numbers are, therefore, a sham and (giving them the benefit of the doubt) perhaps there are 10 active members. According to those in the CMS administration who I have spoken with, the final testing protocol has not even been decided. It seems that, in addition to a return to busing, Meck ACTS' overriding agenda is to disagree with CMS. They have been a quick and easy 'go to' source for the Observer when they are fishing for inflammatory any anti-CMS comments ~ easy pickins! With all their many criticsms about CMS, it is rare that they offer viable solutions. Look up the word "naysayer" in the dictionary; it says: "See Meck ACTS!"

Dana said...

Performance pay based on student progress is a bad joke that simply won't go away. Basing teacher pay on student performance would be like basing the pay for physicians on whether or not their patients got well or stopped smoking and lost weight. It's like basing the pay of lawyers (with a few exceptions) on whether or not they win their case. It fails to place any accountability for a students success on the student or the parents. Far too often students who don't do well in school are aided and abetted by parents who are univolved, for a variety of reasons, in their child's education. Further, it ignores the addage that "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." The other part of the problem that is alluded to in the article, and is the part where EVERY merit pay plan has fallen flat in the past, is that merit pay HAS TO BE PAID to EVERY teacher who meets the criteria, not just a select few.

Anonymous said...

Dana, you are correct about the hurdles teachers face with student performance. But Swann, Meck Acts, and those of like mind have been adamant for years that what the child brings (or doesn't bring) to the classroom has not been the problem. It's been poor facilities, unequal funding, bad teachers, and or course re-segregation. To finally find a cause that many agree with has required them to "change their minds" about the effects of children's backgrounds on learning. Then voila, with a little help from the Observer they become the champions of the downtrodden throughout Mecklenburg County. Clever, huh!

therestofthestory said...

12:09 PM, sadly you are correct because everyone conveniently forgets what was obvious when we came out of forced bused integration and the light was shown on the failure of busing to address "educatability" of these kids.

Wiley Coyote said...

It seem Charlotte and CMS are getting all sorts of cash prizes from Washington, streetcars and education money.

I guess the DNC coming here is starting to pay dividends in advance.

CMS won all that scholarship money for being the "top urban school district".

..and they did it without all that testing, busing and school closings under Gorman's tenure.

Funny how that works eh?

misswhit said...

Wiley, I wouldn't say we did it without testing, as complaints have been going on about testing for years--it's just been ramped up this past spring. I think the winner here is the fact that we did it without busing--so exactly why do Swann and Meck ACTS want to return to busing other than "it makes us feel good"? (and maybe to stick it to the suburbs)

Wiley Coyote said...


You got my point.

Testing as in "to the extreme".

Just think of what could be accomplished if we focused on the approximately 30 to 40 thousand low income students instead of another 35 or so thousand who lie and say they are.

Anonymous said...

Finally, poor performing students couldn't be hidden once we finally broke out from under the shackles of busing. Under busing, a schoolhouse could have an outstanding aggregate score so we contented ourselves with that and didn't make the effort to dig too deeply to see how the high poverty students were doing. When we got rid of busing, we realized that the "emperor had no clothes!"
We were able to make concentrated efforts on these struggling kids because we could finally see how badly they were doing and it was only then that these high poverty kids' scores began to climb. Diversity didn't seem to be the "cure all" that many assumed and was it worth the academic price these FRL kids paid? I think not!

Anonymous said...

Here's the formula for pay set by the state:


Should we increase a teacher's pay each year by the same percentage, regardless of how much learning improves for the teacher's students? Is that a good way to get young talent into the teaching profession at CMS?

Anonymous said...

Yes- the pay scale is valid. It rewards loyalty and longevity. Every industry values experience. If this state does not, why does the legislature still require MENTORS for new teachers? They used to pay mentors but now they require them to work for free! If it isn't valuable, then stop the program. Seasoned teachers who stick with it ARE valuable. The pay scale attracts good people who can plan for a decent retirement and stay with it when it gets difficult - or at least, it USED to. Think about it!

Anonymous said...

"I dont'know" is RIGHT. That is all the bumbling dufus cohort of Cobitz Baxter and Company could tell you. How can an employee trust these people? Now they hire more spin doctors in that program.

The state has not paid out the ABC bonus money, frozen the salary, reduced and eliminated benefits (dental/vision) and increased class size and work load. CMS piles on more and spends more on testing.

New talent may or may not come here.Do not think that the Broad Award won't be spun.The fact of the matter is the morale and working conditions do not top that of other right to work states. Without a retention in top educators the students (scores) will suffer. Why do we spend millions trying to decide how to spend a few thousand of teachers supplement money? It is a fight the School Board never should have strarted.It will cost millions in dollars and human capital in the end.

Anonymous said...

That pay scale has been frozen for over 3 years now... good try on that one...

Anonymous said...

I have no problem being evaluated on my performance, if all the variables are controlled and accounted for across the district. i am a great teacher, but cannnot control the variables I encounter on a daily basis. What about the fact that my class periods are considerably shorter than my counterparts in other schools, i.e.(I have less class time in each period, so less face to face teaching time), I don't have enough chairs, desks, books, paper or computers for all my students. How does PfP account for a student whose family is in turmoil over a job loss, illness or death and is suffering? What about classes with discipline problems where no solution is being offered? What about the fact that I teach multiple grade levels and my counterparts do not? PfP compares apples to oranges in an unfair manner. By the way, I teach in a surburban school.

Anonymous said...

Good Point. A high school elective class can have all grades in it(9-12).What about the non focus schools that receive $10 grand less per pupil spending? How about that for a variable.

Anonymous said...

Cobitz and Baxter = Dumb and Dumber

Anonymous said...

Spin doctors say, Wheels on the bus go round and round.By god someone vote common intelect onto the new School Board and stop this mad mad process of fools being seperated from their money.


therestofthestory said...

Sorry 9:32 but the districts are too gerrymandered to expect reasonable people to be in control of the BOE or BOCC.

Jeff said...

Basing teacher pay on any percentage of standardized test scores - be it 10% or 1% - is a bad idea.

I've been doing my own reading on this and I come away more and more convinced that more layers of testing is bad policy.

The Observer editorial a few weeks back said testing may not be perfect but it's the best measure we have. That's also bad policy.

Good policy would be working with teachers to craft a better way to assess teacher effectiveness. Why not trust teachers?

Implement a peer review system that gives each teacher a half-dozen observations by other teachers throughout the year, plus observations by administration.

With teacher input we can create a measurement system based on observations that would be more effective, yield better data and give us a more prescriptive path to help develop stronger teachers, which in turn would churn out stronger students.


therestofthstory said...

Good deduction Jeff. Not many BOE members are doing the homework. They get blindsided at board meetings and just go along to get along so the CO will not call them Larry G.

Anyway, one more effect you need to research, the sorority sisterhood.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wise


Your evolving position on testing just won’t do.

Testing has been on table since last winter. If you didn’t understand the dynamics of this watershed debate on PfP before you signed onto the November ballot, there’s not much chance you’ll be a solid board member.

Here’s what Wikipedia’s says about political waffle…
“… It means to back and forth. If little johnny asked to go to the park and you said, "Yes, no, maybe, yes, no." then you are waffling. People who run for political office do it all the time. It depends on who they are trying to please at the time.”

Good ol’ Eddith

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, Jeff. Your evolving position on Pay for Performance couldn't have anything to do with the fact that you are one of the three candidates that Meck ACTS is "watching", could it?

Is your position on assignment evolving also? Listening to the Swann videos it appears that might be the case.

Wiley Coyote said...


I have not seen Jeff post anything to the contrary about what he has previously stated on testing.

Meck ACTS won't endorse Jeff because he is not for busing or wasting millions of dollars on failed programs just to keep the status quo alive.

Anonymous said...

On the Swann videos Jeff gives mixed messages in answer to Carol Sawyer's attempt to have him commit to busing:

"Would you be willing to student assignment as a tool to diversify schools"

His answer:"Potentially. I think so". But then goes on to admit this is an extraordinarily complicated issue.

Lesson from this more than anything is what Meck ACTS is looking for in a candidate.

Anonymous said...


The correct term for your policies is:


Good Ol' Eddith

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a member of Meck ACTS could tell us if they would be willing to endorse a candidate who agrees with them on several issues but says to them "I do not believe that using assignment to diversify our schools is the way to go. A return to that would be terribly disruptive to the community and would serve no proven academic purpose. We have made progress over the past 10 years without using that tool." Would this candidate pass muster with Meck ACTS?

Anonymous said...

Mary would be able to so with flying colors maybe the other Lady 8:48.

Jeff said...

Happy to clarify.

I've not ever been a fan of expanded testing. Standardized tests have a small place in the curriculum. I understand that.

Adding tests to every grade in an attempt to collect (bad) data to measure teacher effectiveness is not something I have ever supported.

I am not in favor of busing. It would be nice to see more diversity in classrooms, but the studies and articles I've read to this point have not shown me a clear path to achieving that end.

It most definitely is a complicated issue, if that's considered a waffle, I apologize for wanting to fully understand the issue.