U.S. & World

Obama backs teacher merit pay


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  • Emma Lee
    March 12, 2009 12:55 p.m.


  • Tyler Morris
    March 12, 2009 12:44 p.m.

    I am a 10th grader in Tennessee. I belive that school days and years should NOT be lengthend. I belive that if school days are lengthend then school years should be shortend to give students a break.

  • Bill
    March 11, 2009 5:37 p.m.

    Where is the topic of vouchers in this debate? Merit pay is great philosophically but is lacking in practicality if the method of judging is student performance which, as was pointed out above, may be largely influenced by outside factors. It continues to amaze me that as Americans we will not embrace vouchers which provides for choice in education and leads to compensation based on performance.

  • Higher Standards
    March 11, 2009 4:33 p.m.

    I don't like the idea of merit pay, it is too easy to be unfair, by giving a teacher students who don't perform well

    But the education community needs to embrase higher standards, instead of making excuses, especially in math.

  • re Kevin | 12:28 a.m. March 11
    March 11, 2009 4:32 p.m.

    "We need to start teaching young people things they can use. Forget about disecting a frog"

    If the only inspiration people have to become doctors is the money, heaven help us, we have seen what has happend to wall street.

  • accountability
    March 11, 2009 3:38 p.m.

    I agree with some previous comments that there are many factors involved in this (such as parental involvement). However, I do feel that accountability for teachers (due to unions and tenure) is not in existence these days. I graduated from high school about 3 years ago and while I was there my teachers let us talk about our lacrosse game with the class for the first 35 minutes of class and then for the last few minutes they would pretend to teach. I had other teachers who honestly let us high school students have "nap time" in class. The education system is a joke these days. My husband and I have decided to either home school our children or send them to a private school where we can be sure that they will actually have the opportunity to learn.

    Too many teachers these days are more worried about being the popular/cool teacher rather than actually educating their students.

  • Soul
    March 11, 2009 3:34 p.m.

    Accoutability in public education has been neglected for decades. Parents, teachers, students, and others are NOT doing their jobs in the education of our children (or student learning).

    Nevertheless, there are proven methods or ways to reward parents, teachers, students, and others for their excellent performances. The MPS Accounting System is one of those proven methods in public education.

    Let those "best practices" come to the surface and we will all be better for it, today not later.

  • New Yorker
    March 11, 2009 3:22 p.m.

    Yomama is true to form. Keep spending everyone else's money. Sign of a great liberal. Always on the public dime and always spending the public's money. Maybe he ought to have scrappy Joe be the poster boy for giving. After all, joey contributed a whopping $3,800 to charities over a 10 year period..... averaging less than $400 a year when he was paid in salary over $3 MM from taxpayers

  • Re: Utah Teacher
    March 11, 2009 2:51 p.m.

    Utah hasn't had a tenure program in years. Your principal may hire you or fire you at will. The idea that a bad teacher cannot be gotten rid of is false.

  • zuke
    March 11, 2009 2:21 p.m.

    I disagree very strongly with the people who say that teachers have no incentive to work hard. They are obviously not teachers. Teachers have to work hard, if only just to survive. You cannot come to class unprepared or unwilling to give your all, because your day will just be that much more difficult and you will have to face the same thing again the next day. The very situation teachers work in means that they're all trying the best they can to well by the students. Of course there are some terrible teachers, but I believe even terrible teachers are doing the best they can under the circumstances.

    Where are the administrators, the so-called "educational leaders", when it comes time to help teachers who are struggling? Where is accountability for administrators? Administrators in schools are supposed to be the support for the teachers, not just a bunch of pencil-pushing bureaucrats, often are. Where are they when teachers need help? The truth is that lackluster performance usually begins in the upper ranks of a school. But that's the dirty little secret that no one likes to acknowledge.

  • Scott
    March 11, 2009 2:09 p.m.

    I agree with increasing teacher pay, along with merit pay. We should try to attract the best and brightest into teaching. More money will attract higher caliber students to major in education. Higher pay is a long term solution. Increasing pay itself now will not weed out the weak teachers, in fact we will be rewarding the same old behavior. But, over time, as we attact high caliber students into the teaching profession, new generations of more effective teachers will fill the classrooms.

  • Another teacher
    March 11, 2009 1:30 p.m.

    I think the whole idea of teacher merit pay is degrading to teachers. It gives the assumption that teachers aren't doing their best right now. In my ten years of teaching I have only met 2 or maybe three teachers that weren't already giving everything they could. Merit pay may sound good to some teachers, but that is because we are already severely underpaid. If we truly care about education, then we should increase teacher pay and reduce classroom sizes. In fact, this would also help in teacher performance because then the job would become more attractive, more people would apply, and administrators would be able to hand pick the more capable teachers.

  • Capitalist
    March 11, 2009 12:56 p.m.

    Honestly. Of course merit pay isn't fair. But at least it's something to reward teachers.

    I'm a CPA. I don't pick my clients or my staff members; the partners do. Yet my performance bonuses are tied to their evaluations of me.

    Some clients will never appreciate what I do for them, while some over-appreciate what I do for them. And I can't control how many good ones I have in comparison to the bad ones I have. Yet my bonus is based on their feedback.

    Is it fair? Of course not! But I do my best to improve relations and make it work. Teachers can do the same. No situation is ideal or fair, but we do what we can with what we have, knowing that next year we'll get new clients, or students, as the case may be, and can start over.

  • re: Laura
    March 11, 2009 12:47 p.m.

    Get a grip! Are you saying that because Obama leans left he can't possibly find any value in certain free market principles? If so, that is extremely unfair.

    People are people. They cannot be type cast like that. The world is not democrats vs republicans, mormons against non-mormons (and what person who is not LDS considers themselves a non-mormon anyway?), etc. I certainly have never thought of myself as a non-Catholic.

    Be fair. I'm a social liberal but a fiscal conservative. You can't peg people into your holes.

    And if you can, answer this one for me: if mormons tend to be republicans, they why do they make babies in college? Isn't taking Medicaid and pell grants socialism? Clearly, most mormons don't consider themselves socialists, but there you have it: blatant socialist behavior.

    Your post is very disappointing.

  • a teacher
    March 11, 2009 12:47 p.m.

    Neither Obama nor his fans seem to understand that all of this is interrelated. We need to fix the schools and help with early education for those living in poverty and give merit pay to teachers and blah blah blah. The lack of a solid, and properly enforced immigration system is breeding higher illiteracy rates in adults and higher poverty in students. Those families either have to work so much to survive that the parents have no time to get involved, and the students are often absent or listless, or they get in the system and create generational welfare and poverty. On top of that, we expect teachers to increase the performance levels in a student base over which they have no control. Private and charter schools do better because they do not have to allow bottom feeders in. Now we have a president doing everything possible to increase the size of the poverty stricken base, with no regard for what that will do for future teachers. And all the while, his loyal fans are gushing and swooning while Rome is burning!

  • Why Good Teachers Quit
    March 11, 2009 11:51 a.m.

    Read the above comments. It seems everyone and his brother knows more about teaching children than those who spend their time and money earning a university degree in education. Who spend all day every day in the classroom. And spend evenings/weekends in preparation for their students. Who dedicate their very lives to helping others.

    Let those who criticize spend a day in a public school classroom. (Be prepared for many surprises.) To paraphrase a popular TV commercial, THIS IS NOT YOUR MOTHER'S CLASSROOM. Forget about what it was like (in your child's mind) when you were a student. See for yourself. Then speak your opinion.

    Remember: Teachers teach, pupils learn. Education is an active process for both teacher and pupil. Both must accept those responsibilities in order for the system to succeed. When they do, the rest of us will not need to concern ourselves with issues such as merit pay.

  • xxtra
    March 11, 2009 10:04 a.m.

    Teaching can be political. A good teacher may be rewarded or fired based on religious, idealogical, or political views. A standards test can contain seemingly innocuous questions aimed at ferreting out politically incorrect "teachings."
    Teaching can be political. A good teacher who agrees with or disagrees with administrators or policies could be rewarded or fired
    A bag of gold in a gloved fist is Obama.
    The question is..what is good and bad teacher? I cringe when politicians and special interests with political, religious, idealogical agendas claim to have the answer to that question.

  • Re: Laura
    March 11, 2009 9:45 a.m.

    Yup. Early education is a Communist "ploy." Or, maybe studies have shown young children living in poverty do better with early education. Just maybe it is cheaper to provide education than build more prisons. Charter schools do not necessarily translate to better schools. There are many Charter schools which don't measure up.
    The past 8 years have clearly demonstrated there can be negative consequences of "free market." "Smart" market is what we need. If a highly educated and healthy populace is "socialism" then we could do worse. The model Republicans seem to embrace is third-world--where the wealthy get wealthier, little to no middle class, and a majority live in poverty.

  • Anonymous
    March 11, 2009 9:34 a.m.

    As a teacher ( a good one if I do say so myself), I would love to get merit pay.

    The problem is that there is no fair way to do it. It would have to be test scores or opinion.

    My test scores are always at the top and parents/students like my class.

    However, I know some good teachers (I learned a lot from them) that teach in a much tougher school. Test scores are lower and not much interest in education. They will be punished by merit pay.

    All of the good teachers will congregate at the easiest schools when they are really needed in the toughest schools.

    However, if you want to send money my way I won't argue.

  • re: Beth
    March 11, 2009 9:21 a.m.

    "For example, a class with many minority students from low-income single parent homes in South Salt Lake would not be directly compared to white students from upper-income homes with both parents."

    You would think so, wouldn't you? But No Child Left Behind unequivocally states that ALL children will be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Current law makes no concession for SES or other outside factors that may affect student performance. In fact, the law and its standards even apply to students with disabilities, who by definition receive special education services because they aren't academically proficient.

    As long as we continue to measure school performance based on such school-wide figures, I can't imagine a policy for merit pay that doesn't do the same.

  • Billy
    March 11, 2009 9:12 a.m.

    I like the concept of merit pay. The main problem is and has always been (Obama did not invent the idea) a way to make it fair. Obama mentioned student performance which just shows he really doens't understand the issue at all. My wife teaches resource. The parents of many resource students don't care at all about their childs education. She has students that have not attended an entire week of school this year. She gets glowing reviews and the parents who do care absolutely love her. Unless the merit pay is tied to something other than how her students, whose parents don't care if they come to school much less do home work, perform then the system will be a failure.

    And for the poster that says education was better 40 years ago. You haven't a clue. Kids are learing most items 2 years earlier than you did. I also don't know where your concept of illiterate college grads comes from. You either must be joking or you haven't gone to college. Most college freshman never graduate but those who do are illiterate. Good one.

  • Simon Says
    March 11, 2009 9:08 a.m.

    As a teacher I have mixed feelings about merit pay. On one hand you can work as hard as you like and you get the same pay as every other teacher. At present there is very little incentive for teachers to work harder, or smarter. Some sort of recognition is needed, BUT how do we put something like this into practice? Pay based on test scores is crazy. There are so many reasons why this idea is flawed. I am of the belief that until we change the focus of our education system we will continue to be left behind in the global market. Politicians and educators are so focused on test scores, that they miss the boat completely. How about focusing more on life skills development. I would much rather know that my kids are critical thinkers, problem-solvers, effective communicators, or risk-takers than whether they scored well on a spelling test. I agree with Pres Obama that something needs to be done to make teachers more accountable, I am just not sure that pay for test scores is the way.

  • Anonymous
    March 11, 2009 8:50 a.m.

    Merit pay is a poor reward for teachers. It encourages teachers to fudge on scores and other indicators so they can get more money. It opens the door wide open for corruption. And I don't want to hear another trite statement from our President, "Oh we'll watch that so it won't happen."

    Reward teachers with benefits and updated classrooms and technology. Merit pay is not the way. That's not an investment in education.

  • Beth
    March 11, 2009 8:42 a.m.

    I dont think that merit pay would be based only on the actual number scores of the students. I think that Obama (and others proposing merit-based pay incentives for teachers) understand that some schools and some areas have lower test scores for a variety of reasons. I think that when comparisons were made between students of different classes and different schools to determine whether or not improvements have been made they would compare students falling into similar demographics. For example, a class with many minority students from low-income single parent homes in South Salt Lake would not be directly compared to white students from upper-income homes with both parents. The focus of this is on teacher improvement and I think that if there are additional incentives to improve your teaching (since apparently just retaining your job isnt enough for some) some teachers might be more excited to try some new things and get excited about their jobs again.

  • Midwest Member
    March 11, 2009 8:11 a.m.

    If you're for merit pay, then you'd better call your state reps who are cutting Utah teacher bonuses, as we speak! The concept is artificial, because Utah's current budget shows that the pay add-ons have nothing to do with performance and everything to do with the changeable will of the public. Teachers are against merit pay because they know that there is no funding for it. Will they add funds to established pay rates or use the concept to cut the majority to "reward" a few? Who will decide the criteria? Bureaucrats. How will they judge performance? Politically. What if you're a new teacher, a mover and shaker who works hard for change? Will you be rewarded or will the layers of administrative bureaucracy squash your voice? It's politically trendy to scape-goat teachers. Instead of blaming tenure, ask administration why they aren't performing adequate evaluation BEFORE teachers are granted permanent status. Get involved!

  • Laura
    March 11, 2009 8:00 a.m.

    Weird. Something is not right here. Is this a verbal concession to win over mandated early education which has long been a socialist ploy to control the population? (Read Naked Communist or Communist Manifesto.)

    Straight up, he is correct about charter schools and merit pay. However both of those ideals are clearly 'free market' choices whereas everything he has done thus far has been a movement towards socialism - anti free market.

    I'll be watching this one. Clearly the actions must speak louder than the words.

  • Scott
    March 11, 2009 7:48 a.m.

    Merit pay is not perfect in ANY industry, but financial reward is the best way to motivate. It is a basic principle of capitalism.

    Currently, teachers have NO mechanisms for financial incentives other than tenure and advanced degrees....Neither of which correlate to improved classroom performance, else our education system would be in much better shape.

    Competition is the best way to improve any industry, including the education industry. Merit pay is a way to promote competition amongest teachers.

    Just like college football players compete for starting positions every spring (and all season long), the same should be true for teachers.

    Teachers should not fear competition, they should embrace it because most of their students will have to face competition throughout their entire lives. Why should teachers be exempt from that? The same old tired arguments opposing merit pay won't work anymore... Kudos to Obama.

  • RE: Kevin
    March 11, 2009 7:40 a.m.

    You need to step into a classroom. Parents of students today do not want to accept that it is their responsibility to teach their children. Parents should be teaching their kids manners and how to act in public. The problem is when a parent disciplines a child in public they are shunned. My wife made one of my daughters stand against a wall when we were shopping. My daughter was throwing a tantrum. The punishment worked because my daughter now knows that she cannot scream and get her way without consequences. When my wife did this I heard comments like "Why doesn't she do that at home instead of at the store." "I can't believe that a parent would put their child's nose against a wall and make them stand." Behavior should be from a parent. But most parents think when their child is misbehaving it is not their child's fault it is the schools or someone else to blame. All parents need to stand up and take accountability for their children. Then you will see not only school improvements but behavior improvements.

  • yes but no
    March 11, 2009 7:10 a.m.

    I'm a teacher and I agree with merit pay. However, as a teacher I understand that there is no fair way to judge merit because of to many uncontrollable variables. The real problem in education is the fact that a poor teacher can not be fired once he or she has tenure. Their primary motivation is a paycheck until retirement after 30 years. Then after 30 years they still don't qualify for medicare so they teach in another district for several more years. Principals need the power to fire poor teachers no matter how long they've been teaching.

  • Teachers merit
    March 11, 2009 5:50 a.m.

    I'm for merit pay for teachers but not based on seniority or degrees they may have. Classroom performance is what counts and if children are learning. We have a national education system that hands out college degrees to people that are still illiterate and uneducated. We are putting the future of the country in illiteracy at the highest level. Most high scool attendees of 40 years ago are more literate and educated than many with college degrees of todays education system. The basics of education have been neglected to train future employees of corporate america, for all the good it will do them to have uneducated but trained employees. Education should focus on the basic skills and leave specialization education to the employers. Without basics everything else is of no value to america or our future. We have wasted years of classrooms and schooling in creating an illiterate and uneducated america.

  • Cats
    March 11, 2009 5:19 a.m.

    I didn't vote for Obama, but he's right about this. The teachers unions have controlled education for too long. It's time to reward good teachers and get rid of bad ones.

  • A Teacher in Utah
    March 11, 2009 4:38 a.m.

    Let me make sure everybody understands why we oppose merit pay.

    Give the worst teacher in the district a classroom full of motivated students, whose parents value education, and whose progress is closely monitored by those same parents.

    Now give the BEST teacher in the district a classroom full of unmotivated students, whose parents won't come to conferences, and never check their grades, and give them cell phones for their birthday, and are never seen reading a book.

    Which teacher will look better at evalutation time?

    Do you see? If you judge the teacher on student test scores, you are really judging the parent and the home environment.

    If you truly want to evaluate my performance as a teacher, come into my classroom and watch me teach! But don't judge my abilities based on my students' performanace; there are way too many factors over which I have NO control.

  • SES and Money
    March 11, 2009 3:55 a.m.

    If you teach its time to move to an east side school where parents are involved and where students perform and respond to teaching. Bag these harder schools on the west side of the SLC Valley where many children are not supported in their schooling or where the values of pride and respect are often lacking. Why teach there when if you teach in a higher social economic status area where we know test scores are higher it will result in greater merit pay? Yep, expect new teachers to teach in the harder schools now and the more experienced teachers will teach in the higher SES schools/areas. Financially it just makes sense.

  • Re; Kevin
    March 11, 2009 1:31 a.m.

    The answer to your appropriate and timely question is; in many schools the teachers are too busy teaching, "Heather Has Two Mommies" and how to put condoms on bananas to teach Math and English.

  • Kevin
    March 11, 2009 12:28 a.m.

    We need to start teaching young people things they can use. Forget about disecting a frog, let's teach people how to act when they are in public, how to treat other people with respect so they can get other people to respect them, show them what is acceptable social and ethical behavior. Parents don't seem to teach these things anymore, so let's have them learn it in school. Perhaps a class on how to fill out applications and resumes and how to act when you're employed. Also, we need to fix our English classes so it is not only based on your written skills, but also your oral skills. It's disgusting how many people say things like "I seen that" or "I be going to the store." If English is your first language, you should be able to speak it properly.