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Merit pay will destroy the teaching profession

pizzurosal073111_optBY SALVATORE PIZZURO
COMMENTARY

New Jersey’s search for simple solutions has created confusion, and communication breakdowns among policy makers and public servants. The phenomenon is especially illustrated by the most recent effort to institute merit pay among public school teachers in our State.

Newark’s recent agreement between the School District Superintendent, Cami Anderson, and the President of the Newark Teacher’s Union, Joseph Del Grosso, has been uniformly criticized by many of those who serve in the trenches — the Newark school teachers. As classroom practitioners, they recognize that providing “bonuses" will not enhance pupil performance. In fact, such an initiative will divide teachers and serve as an abridgement of “camaraderie.”

The funding for the Merit Pay Initiative will come from Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million endowment to the School District. Already, many Newark Public School teachers have voiced their concern and dismay over what they perceive to be an “insulting” arrangement.

The very concept of merit pay is an attack on the nobility of the teaching profession. Should we then provide merit pay to doctors based on the number of patients they keep alive? Would that mean that doctors have less incentive for saving patients if their bonus is not large enough? Can we assume that teachers, who already earn a salary, have no commitment to pupil performance based on their own motivation and commitment?

In addition, the concept of merit pay excludes the role of parents and their responsibility for pupil performance.

Within the past year, legislators have created new tenure laws that simply do not provide support for classroom practitioners, but create obstacles, instead. Legislators supported the new tenure reform initiative without any concept of the issues related to student performance, classroom environments, pupil behavior, or school-family partnerships.

The most likely result of the initiatives that have been put into place since Chris Christie became Governor will be that it will be more difficult than ever to find new bright, motivated and highly skilled individuals who will be willing to select teaching as a profession.

Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, a disability policy specialist, holds a doctorate in Developmental Disabilities from Columbia University and an advanced degree in Disability Law from New York Law.

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Comments (5)
5 Tuesday, 13 November 2012 22:50
A teacher
Thank you Dr. Pizzuro. Unfortunately the decision makers (or should I say politicians) do not listen to voices of experience such as yours. Merit pay causes teachers to withhold successful teaching strategies and lessons from their colleagues. It causes stress to new teachers that are building their skills and minimizes the level of mentorship that is provided due to the competition for those extra dollars. As for tenure - in most districts it is not about pay but about job security. You have proven your skills over several years and can now be considered as an experienced professional that is capable of contributing to the group. It is this mentality that advances the teaching environment found in a school. If someone experiences "bad" teachers it is the fault of the principals in not using appropriate criteria and data in determining the value of a teacher or not providing a probationary teacher with the professional development needed to be successful in the classroom.
4 Monday, 12 November 2012 21:59
Justa Teacher
Opinions from people weighing in that teachers are lazy and need merit pay and reform blah blah have absolutely no experience inside a classroom past age 17/18 when all adults "sucked" in their eyes and all their teachers were lazy POS. Nice. Most people complaining do not have comparable levels of education past high school as educators do. Leave them alone and go crawl back into your hole.
3 Monday, 12 November 2012 21:27
Anne Johnson
This editorial is absolutely correct. I am a teacher who is new to the profession after decades in another line of work. I can't get over how the education profession shares every good idea, for free. Teachers support each other with ideas, and even with extra blackboard chalk. The worst possible outcome for educators is to turn the profession into a competition. I've seen that elsewhere in other industries. It would not help students to learn. It would hurt them. As for "tenure reform," we are seeing the new procedures in theory. In practice these ridiculous "reforms" will require the hiring of four times as many administrators as we have in the schools now. Who will pay for these new hires?
2 Monday, 12 November 2012 20:25
Anna Washington
Obviously, you are not a teacher or you wouldn't feel that way. I teach in Newark. Merit pay is available to those teaching certain subjects, and in certain schools. It will also earned if you rate highly effective at years end. If you teach special Ed the rubric is the Same for regular Ed. Merit pay does not work. Do your research.
1 Monday, 12 November 2012 14:03
MomsThoughts
Right off the bat your argument is FLAWED. Doctors do not have tenure. Tenure was created for attracting and keeping researchers at Universities. It was never intended for local elementary/high school teachers. TENURE has ruined the state of education. There is no incentive to do ANYTHING more than show up. Good teachers don't bother and bad teachers don't care. If I were a good teacher I would be chomping at the bit for merit pay! I would welcome the opportunity to have my hard work recognized and rewarded. And crappy teachers should be let go! Tenure breeds mediocrity. IF you would like examples of bad teachers, I have plenty to share with you.....

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