Speaking of spooky stuff: Pay for performance haunts teachers

In the spirit of the day, Matthew Thompson, International Baccalaureate teacher at South Forsyth High School, offers this tale of ghosts of failed school reforms past.

By Matthew Thompson

Old school reforms are coming back to haunt Georgia teachers today. (NYT photo)

Old reforms are coming back to haunt Georgia teachers today. (NYT photo)

“The English teacher turned left on Majors road after leaving school, determined to keep up his new fitness regime of walking home from work. At school late grading, it was dark and windy, but a full moon would light his way home.

As he turned he saw a figure of a man walking in front of him. He thought he recognized him.

“Hello,” he called out. The man turned. “Hey, aren’t you the new teacher down the hall?”

“Yeah, thanks for helping me with online grading program.” “No problem,” he replied, “Hey, are you walking home, too?”

“Yep, if you don’t mind, I’d like to walk with you. I am kind of new to this world. I can go with you for a bit, but I bet I have farther home to go than you do.”

“Sounds good,” the English teacher said. His new traveling companion pointed. “Do you mind if we cut across that cemetery? I like reading the old tombstones.”

“Ok…Hey, I never got your name…,” said the English teacher.

His companion said, “I don’t mean to be weird, but I really like reading these old names. See, look at this one: “Whole Language.” Wonder when he died?”

That is a weird name, thought the English teacher. He read a few himself, “Back to Basics…IDEA…Nation At Risk…Working on the Work…”’ He continued to read, “Digital Natives…Professional Learning Communities…Writing Across The Curriculum….”

“…No Child Left Behind…What?!?”

They had stopped and his companion had his back to him facing the open yard. The wind whistled through creaking trees. Dry leaves stirred on the ground.

Looking over the gravestones, his new friend replied, “Glorious, isn’t it? It is the last resting place of all the educational reform movements. Each of them rises up, born from the laboratory of mad bureaucrats and roams the earth in search of teachers to feed upon. But eventually, after they have sucked and drained their fill, they return here. Having left education unchanged, the only evidence of their glorious reigns are these sad crumbling stones….

‘What? A graveyard for failed educational reform movements? That’s crazy!”

“Not crazy at all,” his companion replied, still looking out upon the lonely bed of dead trends, “in fact, about this time of year—if there is a full moon—they say that these relics of educational movements rise from their resting places to walk the night and again seek to devour educators across the land…”

The English teacher started hearing a murmuring coming up from the ground. “raising expectations…standards based…student engagement…” It got louder and louder.

“What’s going on?!?” shrieked the panicked educator.

His traveling companion slowly turned. His eyes now glowed green. As he smiled, and the English teacher now saw him transformed from the human being that he had helped with his grades into something altogether inhuman and not contributing to student learning at all. His smile now revealed long fangs.

“You’re one of them!” screeched the English teacher, “You’re one of the failed educational movements that is coming back to life!!! Get away from me!!!”

“No,” the figure calmly replied, growing and transforming into his true shape. “I am of those who have not had their fill. You see, I have yet to die…’

“Let me re-introduce myself. My name is… Pay for Performance.” His hands started to grow into large claws.

In a cruel mechanical voice, he hissed…”Have you completed your Teacher Keys Effectiveness System online forms?….”

The teacher’s screams echoed through the night, and could have been heard echoing on State Road 141.”

 

Reader Comments 0

30 comments
thenoticer
thenoticer

Thanks for the laugh! I bet he is a wonderful teacher.

readcritic
readcritic

All the reforms in the world will never substitute for administrative support for the teacher in regard to classroom discipline.The administrator who schedules classes and students has ultimate control over a teacher's fate. Unfortunately, the current TKES evaluation system allows the inept and vindictive administrator free reign to do a hatchet job on the teacher who is given large class numbers of students who have ankle bracelets, parole officers, discipline records from other schools, anger management counselors, truancy problems, and poor reading skills due to being passed on year after year. Veteran teachers are targeted as deadwood, and newer and less expensive employees with no track record or experience are hired and praised as being innovative and better. The "rank and yank" practiced by administrators reflects more on their lack of ability to support the teacher than it does on the teacher's classroom performance. Diane Stafford in her article on 11/1/2015 was spot on when she wrote that "managers manipulate appraisals more for their own ends than for worker improvement."  Just as the "rank and yank" system is dead or dying out in business, schools begin using it to "get rid of alleged bad teachers." To quote Ms. Stafford, "employee ratings often tell more about the rater than the rated." Better results are found with the "360 degree" appraisals where peers rate each other and workers rate their managers. Teachers have absolutely no control over the classroom situation today as they are being forced to provide the dog and pony show to entertain students in order to keep the discipline problems down. Each year fewer discipline incidents are recorded because administrators refuse to deal with and report discipline issues to keep their schools off the dangerous school list. The teacher is disciplined instead of the unruly and disruptive student and the teacher is labeled as being unable to maintain classroom control. Learning is diminished and scores drop because students are not accountable for anything. Teachers are made to accept late work, give endless retests,and overlook behavior issues to keep their jobs. Administrators fail to do their duty to the teachers, yet they expect the teachers to work miracles. Support from parents and administrators along with respect for the teacher would enhance classroom learning more than all the creative educational reforms bureaucrats force on schools.  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

SINCE teachers are to be held responsible for what students do and do not demonstrate that they know, I look forward to holding legislators, the governor, judges, and other "leaders" responsible (as far as their monthly pay) for everything that goes on in the state that they are supposed to be handling.  Parolees back in jail?  Dock the judges  pay!  A new law does not curb a problem? Dock the legislators' pay!


I have a great dentist.  She makes a lot of effort to take care of my teeth.  Should her pay be cut because I still have to have some repair now and then?  And my doctor...should he get less because I eat something I shouldn't and my A1c goes up?



straker
straker

Proud ACLU - "and you have just proven it didn't work with you either"


No, see, when I was in school we didn't have those endless social experiments.


Come to think of it, we also didn't have any guns, knives, drugs, fights inside the school buildings, teachers being assaulted and students refusing to obey classroom instructions.


But then, everyone suddenly became concerned with their "rights", and its been downhill ever since.  

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Years ago I read a book about business that my boss had recommended. In one chapter they explain how performance bonuses strictly tied to numbers and nothing else can be detrimental to a business. In a school setting I believe it is a thousand times worse.

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

Parents Parents Parents Parents.

To remediate. Parents Parents Parents.

Problem is, parents vote.

So bureaucrats will DO NOTHING to hold parents(ie voters) accountable.

DeaconBlues
DeaconBlues

@Iluvnutella And, isn't it ironic that parents (i.e., voters) do so very little to bureaucrats accountable.

class80olddog
class80olddog

"South Carolina school officials say a student flipped out of her desk and tossed across the classroom floor by a school resource officer and a second student who recorded the incident have been allowed to return to school "


There is the death of discipline in schools - the Resource Officer loses his job and the person who is responsible for the entire debacle gets off scot-free.

satan
satan

@class80olddog


This illustrates a problem that those outside of public education may not be aware of. Yes, the officer overreacted and should be removed. Yes, the student has serious authority issues and bears some of the blame. HOWEVER...it is this school's administrative team that bears the most responsibility. The ONLY reason an AP is paid more than a teacher is to handle discipline!!!  Get in the classroom and talk down or remove the student yourself.  To call in a police officer to remove a non-threatening student from a class is awful.  What were the AP's doing?? Hiding in the office completing teacher evaluation forms?? 

readcritic
readcritic

@class80olddog @satan

Administrators are a sad lot. They discipline the teachers instead of the students because the TEKS evaluation format allows indiscriminate witch hunts. When the teacher is given a collection of students who act like the South Carolina girl and the administrators won't discipline in support of the teacher, there is no chance for the teacher to maintain classroom control. A teacher's job is to teach, but with large class sizes of students who have no respect for education or authority, that is impossible. 

BearCasey
BearCasey

@class80olddog @satan  I lasted only four years as an administrator because I was absolutely determined to do something serious about the cheating problem at our school.  Our principal fired me because he didn't want anything to interfere with him getting a cushy job downtown.  He did.  That's how it works.


W2XAB
W2XAB

If we really want to improve student learning we need to start at the root of the problem...the student.

Eugenics is the solution, we need to breed stupidity and laziness out of the future students.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@W2XAB  Or, better yet, we could just hold students and parents responsible for their actions.

DeaconBlues
DeaconBlues

@W2XAB Or, better yet, we unplug the video games, lock away the cellphones, replace TV remotes with books (not text books, but real books), and restructure the exercise regimen of the mind.

straker
straker

"Educational reform movements" is just another name for the seemingly endless social experiments designed to bring minority test scores up to the White level.


So far, none of them have worked.


But, you may be sure new ones will just keep coming.


Only in America.

livingitdaily
livingitdaily

I recently sat in a meeting where teachers were told we were one of the last professions that did not get pay raises based on the performance of their work. The truth of the matter is, no one gets a pay raise based on the performance of other human beings. They get rewarded based on the software they write, their production on the job, the satisfaction of their customers, or the effectiveness/usefulness of the product they supply towards increasing output. Teachers on the other hand, can produce the best lesson, create the most accurate materials, and have students on task and learning, but in the end have little control of the final product. They can't control if a student works on their subject outside of the 55 minutes in the classroom. They have no control over student bedtime, if students have been fed (outside of school hours), are motivated to learn, don't have family pressures to earn money or babysit all night so mom can work the late shift. They have little control over students with disabilities that try hard and show improvement, but will never meet the standard. I'm not even going to mention students with behavior issues and the dreaded cell phone! Finally, teachers have little control over changing administrators and the agendas they bring with them. Despite all these problems, teachers come to work every day. Why, because they love what they do. They love the students they teach, they love to see the growth that occurs with good teaching. Can they guarantee that all students will meet the standard? Should they be penalized if students can't pass a test they didn't write and that doesn't reflect the curriculum they have been asked to teach? If you ask me, politicians should be held to pay for performance because the decisions they make are the direct cause of decreased performance in the classroom! I'd like to see someone try and reduce their pay.

class80olddog
class80olddog

"Reformers" (the "old" reformers who have been around for forty years) keep coming up with these new "flavor of the month" initiatives because they sound good, but they don't address the REAL issues in education: bad students and parents.  It is too hard (if not PC impossible) to address REAL issues such as DISCIPLINE, ATTENDANCE, AND SOCIAL PROMOTION!  So they create fell-good, and sound-good programs.  And when those programs fall on their face, they CHEAT to make it look like they are successful.  NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND?  The stupidest set of words thee ever was.  You cannot get every child to succeed because not every child WANTS to succeed. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@ProudACLU @class80olddog  We have given traditional schools forty years to improve, and they have only gone downhill.  They have shown no interest in addressing real issues, so maybe it is time to let charters try their hand.  Of course, they will not succeed any better unless they address those issues effectively.

EdumacateThat
EdumacateThat

@class80olddog @ProudACLU While I agree with many of your past comments, I would like to point out that not all public schools have "gone downhill."  Don't think they should all be lumped together.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Let's not forget Reading First, RTI, mainstreaming without support,  differentiation (catching up 20/28 students who are years behind while also teaching them what they have to learn that year, which they cannot master without those prereq skills,) social promotion, and so on, and on, and on!


Unfortunately many of these are STILL ALIVE!

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady  Like SOCIAL PROMOTION!!  Still very much alive and feasting on the blood of students.


EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Great story.  But where does the granddaddy of failed reforms, the "Race to to the Top," figure in the story?  Has it died, is on the point of death, or has died?  Or is it still feeding while hiding behind a 2% testing cap cape.  And then what about the transfusion from Duncan to King?  Scary is as scary does, I guess.

Mirva
Mirva

Clever.  The only good news in this story is that Pay for Performance will soon pass as the others have. When you have been in education as long as I have, you start seeing the repeat of "reforms", just under a new name.   The revolving door of failed educational reforms is it's own horror.  Mr. Thompson's students are lucky to have him as a teacher. A little humor is what is needed.  Thank you Mr. Thompson for this laugh of the day.