I do not usually do this but I have to disagree with my father Mike Hendricks in his latest column Reward the Good, Fire the bad from May 14, 2010.
We have had this discussion several times. He is a college professor and I am a high school teacher. Merit pay is a great idea on the college level but there is no logistical posibility of it working at the high school, junior high, or elementary level. The reason is quite simple. There are too many variables involved at the lower level of education.
At the elementary to secondary schools teachers have to contend with IEPs, 504s, bad test takers, etc. I am all for rewarding good teachers and firing the bad ones but determining who is good and who is bad is more complicated than giving students a test at the end of the year.
This is not a conservative or liberal, left or right, Democratic or Republican issue. This is an American issue. Republican administrations and Democratic administrations have tried and failed to get our education level at par with the rest of world. One of the worst ideas ever is the standardized testing required at the end of the school year. Teachers stop teaching the material and instead teach to the test which does nothing more than hurt the students and teachers. No real learning occurs and the teachers get blamed for it.
Unfortunately that is something that is all too common place in today's society. Teachers get the blame for every conceivable problem that happens in the school system today. They even have to put up with the ridiculous indoctrination myth that people that have absolutely nothing to do with education have made up in order to score political and ideological points with people that believe the same as they do.
My solution to the education crisis in this country is this:
-Make all curriculum's the same across the board (this applies to all subjects) - in this way children that move a lot will never fall behind and teachers will know what they are expected to teach on a yearly basis.
-Do away with all standardized testing (expect for ACT and SATs and any other tests that are used to determine aptitude of the students). The testing at the end of the school year that is standardized does nothing for the children. Worse still teachers are teaching to the test and no real learning is going on.
-I would actually favor tract schooling. Tract schooling is used in several countries (those ahead the United States) where students that are not going to college are able to go into a different tract of learning that will fully prepare them for life after school. Those going to college will go through the tract that will prepare them for college.
-Competetive pay for teachers. The reason there is a shortage of teachers is because people do not want to get in a job that is 40+ hours a week sometimes in the 80 hour range, have no true vacation (any school teacher will tell you that they really have no true off days during Christmas, Spring Break, or Summer) for the pay that is offered.
-True merit based systems. Basing merit off of student performance can not work. Instead the merit needs to be based off of the performance of the teachers as determined by fellow teachers and administrators.
--Class room size reducation. No teacher should ever have to teach to a classroom of 30 students, but yet in our society today teachers are expected to teach to 30 students at least 5-6 different times throughout a class day. My solution is to limit class size between 15-20 (I would like it closer to 15), extend the school day to accomidate the reduction and naturally add more teachers.
Just to be clear the reason that the labor unions are opposed to the current proposition for merit based pay is because it is not a feasible system for the education system outside of the college system.
I have also grown tired of the myth that labor unions have ruined this country. If it was not for unions we would not have the minimum wage, vacations, or holidays, just to name a few.
To fix the American Educational System we need to get politics completely out of it. Throwing our ideologies into the system is no way to fix the problems and that has been proven out over the last 20 years. We have had so many different politicians try to fix the system according to their ideology and the system has only gotten worse.
The easiest thing to do is blame the teachers that have to do their very best with the ever changing educational systems. The hardest thing to do is to let go of political ideologies on both sides and fix the problem.
By the way, yes I completely disagree with Obama on this one. Shocking I know.