Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is Your School Voting on Merit Pay?

Teachers discuss merit pay in their schools:

Dear Colleagues,
The elementary school where I teach in Brooklyn was just told that we are being offered the option of playing the merit pay game. Apparently some schools rejected it and we were on the second round list. We were given less than a week before we have to vote! I am looking for any advice on how to organize/educate my fellow teachers so that we vote it down. So, if your school was offered the merit pay deal, and especially if you are at one of the schools that rejected it, please write back with ideas, theories or comments. It feels like we are being kept purposely in the dark about what other teachers and schools are thinking/doing about this issue. Thanks,

Response #1
Our school, Bushwick Community H.S., rejected the bonus pay program. It was a long staff discussion, where we came to consensus that we didn't want to offer any perceived support to this idea through our participation. The discussion was not so much about whether or not the program is a good idea for schools (we pretty much all agreed that it is not), but whether it was worth giving up the money to make a protest that will just be symbolic as DOE/UFT pushes this program through regardless. In the end, we agreed that the arguments against this program are strong and principled enough that we couldn't pass them over.

The main arguments we discussed were:

-The program implies that we do not bring our full effort to our jobs, and only money will motivate our work. As teachers, we are thoroughly insulted by that suggestion.

-Singling out schools with marginalized students for such "combat" pay speaks to a bigoted mindset. Of course the schools can use more support, but offering it to teachers suggests the hardship is located with them as they "deal with" students who are cast into deficit-model roles of "problem children".

-There are much more effective and direct methods of using money to improve schools. Any "bonus" money should be going into such programs at the direction of the school community.

-The program utilizes reductionist measures of education which will be easy to manipulate, and the DOE will be able to paint any picture it would like of how merit pay works in order to justify expanding this program to a larger scale in the future.

-We do not trust the DOE and their intentions for schools, the UFT, and standardized testing with this program. From experience, we do not believe they have the best interests of teachers and students in mind, and we will not be bought into jumping on board with their latest initiative.

Also, here are two letters to the editor we wrote to the NY Sun after they did an article on the program and framed it as teacher support for merit pay-

-"As reported in "Weingarten Sees Support for Merit Pay", we teachers at Bushwick Community H.S. will not be participating in the bonus pay program. It is a misguided step in educational policy, and we refuse to give it further momentum by joining. The premise of the program- that we have not been giving our full efforts toward students’ success and we will now step up to our job only because money is dangled before us- is downright insulting. It is a clumsy analysis of public education to believe that the complex challenges facing schools boil down to teachers waiting to have their motivation purchased. If the Department of Education is serious about serving the high-needs schools identified for this program, these available funds should go directly into educational initiatives developed by each school community striving to meet those needs everyday, not into some contest for bonus pay."

-"In response to the article "Weingarten Sees Support For Merit Pay," my colleagues and I turned down the proposal because it was insulting and ridiculous. Implicit in the offer are the underlying beliefs that: 1) teachers are currently not trying to do their best and 2) teachers are only interested in their paychecks. Our priority as teachers has always been, and continues to be, the education and success of our students. Our dedication is to our work. To accept this offer would imply our values were otherwise.

The "success" of the program is a foregone conclusion and a farce. A year from now, undoubtedly, many schools will be lauded for having met the benchmarks. Bloomberg and Klein will trumpet the success of this pilot program. In fact, these schools would have achieved the exact same improvement without the bonuses. If there is a school that wouldn't have improved were it not for cash incentives, that's shameful."

Hope this helps. Good luck to you in discussing this with your colleagues. All the best,

Response 2
Our school was offered the "bonus" plan, but since we are in D75 we still do not have the criteria for it's implementation. We were supposed to vote last week, but since we have no idea what we are voting on, the union said we could hold off.

This only after being hounded about voting and us protesting about it. Our union officials wanted us to vote, but believe it or not, even our principal was against voting. Now we are being told that we should have criteria next week.

Besides the ideas that it is against what we as a union should stand for and that they think we do not work as hard as we can to make sure our students get an education

If you receive 3,000 it works out to a before tax income of an extra 115 dollars per pay period or about 17 dollars per day of school. Before taxes! How much more work can/should you do for that. Remember, It will be a Lump Sum sometime in October of 2008. Remember how much money we actually received in the last lump sum payment/bribe we got. Please do not fall for the "we will get it back at refund time" ploy. I would rather not give the state and federal goverments my money interest free for any amount of time.

It is by nature designed NOT to distribute money evenly, since one person could hold up the process and force a compromise, and the agreement does not EXPLICITLY SAY who the principal can choose as their other member, they can blame that person for the inequal disbursement. You CANNOT promise an equal distribution.

UFT people who work at your school part-time are eligible for a "bonus" but bring nothing to the table. for example: 10 full time uft members work at PSxxx along with 2 part time uft members. the bonus pool is still only 30,000 dollars and you have to find a way to evenly divide among ALL the 12 uft members. So already you have two scenarios in which everyone will not receive the ballyhooed 3,000 dollars.

It is also a management tool. Who do you think will be to blame for those schools that do not make their goals? Klein, Randi, your principal, or you.

Lastly, although the more I write the angrier I get.
If you reach 99.99% of your goal you will receive 50% of the money, (however you disperse it) If you reach 74.99% of your goal you get 0% of the money.

Discussion on Merit Pay
NYCoRE’s Justice Not Just Tests Working Group will be meeting on Monday, December 17.

At this meeting we will be discussing the bonus/merit pay issue, and planning our next move.
Our group has spent a couple of weeks thinking about and researching this contentious issue.
We are discussing questions such as:

Will merit pay pit teachers against each other?
How will it effect special education and ELL students?
Will it promote cheating among teacher?
Will test prep become even more of a priority?

Please join us and bring your own questions, ideas and information. forward this message widely. For more information, contact info@nycore. org

3 comments:

  1. ok ednotes, against my best arguments, my school overwhelmingly voted "yes" for merit pay. Then, of course, the principal told the 2 elected UFT members that they must agree to share the monies equally among all UFT staff or she will veto the vote for merit pay next year. Am I correct in saying that the DOE has yet to conjure a fair system in evaluating whether a school actually "worked harder"? Obviously, my arguments did not persuade the greed of my colleagues. Y' know, it's "Show me the money!"

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  2. I am ever so curious if greed will sway the way the teacher's in Merit Pay buildings rate their schools on the surveys. When asked on the survey "I trust the principal" the majority of my teachers bubbled in ( something our kids do too often (bubble)) STRONGLY DISAGREE! Now that my building has voted to participate in the Merit Pay Scam.. I wonder if teachers will deliberately LIE!!!!

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  3. In a lunchtime union meeting about the recent merit pay offer, the chapter leader told us that we were not actually voting for merit pay. Indeed, voting for the offer would stave off merit pay, according to what the UFT had been telling him. (Up is down. War is peace. Etc.) A majority of the already-overworked faculty saw through the scam and voted No.

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