Trading Tenure for Test-Based Performance Pay: Revolution or Just More Confusion ?
"The Washington Post reported last week that D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has proposed what some are calling a 'revolutionary' contract where mid-level teachers (who currently earn approximately $62,000 annually) could earn more than $100,000 if they 'boost' student test scores while giving up seniority and tenure rights. No doubt schools need to pay more for valued student outcomes. But will this effort to link teacher pay directly to student test scores lead to even more confusion?Ms. Rhee claims the increased pay will be funded by philanthropy, but should a pay system be based on the idiosyncratic and often ever-shifting priorities of education foundations? How will student test scores be used? Will they use one year of data or more? Will teachers who teach non-tested grades and subjects be eligible? Will the chancellor make sure the tests that are used are properly scaled so more true gains can be determined? (Or better yet can the tests be scaled at all?) Even proponents of student test-based accountability for teachers claim that the current psychometric properties of value-added methods render Rhee's pay proposals unfeasible and perhaps even invalid. More importantly, while paying teachers more and differently is critical for our 21st century schools, is placing more emphasis on current standardized tests in the best interest of students? Should the pay plan focus on more robust outcome measures reflecting the demands of our global economy and new Millennium citizenry? No doubt we need professional compensation systems that reward teachers for improving student learning, developing and using new skills, spreading their expertise, and teaching in high needs schools and subjects as well as working hard to make a difference in the lives (not just test scores) of students. These issues were buzzed about this weekend as members of our Teacher Leaders Network Forum discussed Ms. Rhee's proposal. They have some better ideas that embrace much needed changes in tenure and seniority moving well beyond the focus on test scores that has beset more meaningful learning for all students' and truly revolutionizes the profession that makes all others possible."
Barnett Berry President, Center for Teaching Quality