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September 22, 2010 - Kylie Saari
You've heard the phrase "it takes two to tango," right? Or, "the phone works to ways?" How about "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink?"
All these cliches come to mind when discussing teacher merit pay. A recent study has been released indicating even bonuses of $15,000 per teacher can't increase overall standardized test scores compared to non-bonused teachers. The Sentinel recently ran a lengthy article outlining the results, but the one argument I never hear is this one. Teachers aren't the only ones involved in those test scores.
The students themselves have to take some responsibility for their grades.
I know teachers make a lot of difference, I know an uninspired leader doesn't generate excitement for a subject. I know money is supposed to be the great motivator which will make people go to desperate measures to get.
But my experience shows me that teachers are not in it for the money. They are not sitting up at their desk thinking, "Boy, little Johnny sure is struggling with this subject, and I could help him out, but they don't pay me enough to put out the effort."
Teachers put in long, quickly-paced days with students, and long afternoon and evenings preparing to do it again the next day. That teachers don't get paid much isn't a secret. If they were in it for cash, I am pretty sure they would have chosen another line of work.
And students aren't all simply empty vessels coming to school to be filled. They are complex creatures, and sometimes even the best teacher can't explain a topic until his or her little brain is ready to work it out. I, for one, have a brain block when it comes to electro-magnets. I am sure you think I am joking. But in college I would read and re-read the chapters and it is just something I am incapable of understanding. It isn't my teachers fault. It isn't my husbands fault (he was my study partner). I just don't understand them. I would venture to say, if you paid me $15,000 bonus to understand it, I would try my hardest, but probably not have a different result.
I don't have an answer for raising test scores. Honestly, I am not entirely convinced test scores are the real measure of intelligence. But I think it is fairly clear merit pay isn't the answer the some people are hoping for.
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