Several weeks ago, Scott Hurban, a local teacher, suggested that our schools adopt a system of merit pay. There is, of course, a seductive appeal to the notion of paying people according to how well they perform. After all, that is how we pay salesmen and farmworkers.
There have been hundreds of performance pay experiments over the past few decades, but almost none continue. Why is that?
A recent RAND Corp. study of New York’s merit pay program found “no substantial impact on teacher, student, or school performance.” The largest and most comprehensive study of merit pay was conducted by Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Performance Incentives. Their conclusion was that there was “no impact on sixth to eighth graders (and) minimal impact on fifth graders.”
Scott’s plan would base merit pay on three things. He writes: “50 percent on classroom performance as observed by (the) administration.” Do administrators have enough time to do this? Could they fairly distribute extra pay according to effectiveness among teachers of P.E., Drama, Chemistry, Auto Shop, English I and Typing?
Such a system, based on subjective judgments rather than objective standards, would inevitably draw charges of being arbitrary and capricious. Any system of incentives, public or private, that was not viewed as fair and impartial would have no effect on behavior.
According to Scott’s plan, another 15 percent of pay would be determined by a student survey — a popularity contest. This would also be a subjective judgment, probably determined by many factors unrelated to academics.
Years of Effective Schools research has found that the best schools are those that have strong leadership, a cohesive staff and a shared sense of mission. How would merit pay, which is designed to incite competition, interact with these characteristics of high-performing schools?
Mickey McGuire, Tracy
Garage sale etiquette
What fun it is to go to garage sales. The fun of getting something old or something you have been looking for but is no longer available on the market.
But not taking down your signs is very disrespectful to others. How disappointing it is to see a sign and you drive down and there is no sale, as it was the weekend before. Of course, some of the signs are so small, you can’t read the dates, if any are on there.
So for you and others, take down your signs when you are done. It is a courtesy for others. If you can take some of the tape off, that would also be nice, as some of the poles in Tracy look awful from all the masking and duct tape.
Have respect and consideration for others who are going to have a garage sale or for those who are going to the garage sales.
Brenda Alves, Tracy