Friday, April 16, 2010

Florida Teachers Beware: 'Son of S.B. 6' Coming Soon

John Koenig, who holds out against the internet savages at ("The forum for civil debate") is warning public school teachers that Charlie "Crist's Veto May Only Delay the Inevitable."
The advocates of Senate Bill 6 – the Legislature’s Republican leadership, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida’s major business organizations – are not going away. They will continue to fight for merit pay and an end to teacher tenure long after Crist is out of office.
That is no doubt true. As Koenig admits almost everyone on the planet is "advocating greater accountability from schools and teachers." Yesterday's veto, he says, "only buys teachers a bit of time to come up with their own accountability proposals."

Along the way, he shares an interesting anecdote:
[E]ven for the private sector, performance-incentive programs are tricky. Basing them on too few variables or the wrong variables can lead to counterproductive results.

Consider this story from Fast Company magazine. Ken O’Brien was an NFL quarterback in the 1980s and ‘90s who threw a lot of interceptions. In an attempt to improve his performance, the owners of the team on which he played put a clause into his contract docking his paycheck for each interception. The next year, O’Brien threw fewer inceptions. But that was because he threw the ball hardly at all. The net effect: The team did no better.

The article Koenig refers to has more "incentive pay" horror stories. As if we needed them after Wall Street's investment bank geniuses brought the world to the brink just so they could snag their multimillion dollar "performance bonuses."

For example, there's Ma Bell, who "tried to encourage productivity by paying programmers based on the number of lines of code they produced. The result: programs of Proustian length." There's Merrill Lynch (R.I.P.) whose pay program so deeply discouraged a young novice from getting sage advice from his seniors that he wound up writing a scorching best-selling expose whose title tells it all: "Riding the Bull: My Year in the Madness at Merrill Lynch."

All this talk about incentive pay for public school teachers draws on the supposed lessons of the private business sector. That misses a couple of very big points.

First, of course, is the fact that the tax payers and politicians, perversely, refuse to pay elementary and secondary school teachers -- who are the most important front in educating our children to read, calculate and think -- anywhere near what the private sector forks over to CEOs, corporate executives, fraud artists, scammers, cheats, quacks, stupid celebrities, and assorted mountebanks and desk-warmers whom they hire to turn a buck. As a society, if we really valued what teachers do we'd pay them accordingly. Instead, we pay Corporate America like royalty but expect teachers to work for love of the job.

Second, where do the parents fit into this picture? Sad to say, over the decades we've heaped more and more responsibilities onto the schools while parents -- many forced to become two-earner families because of the growing gap from top to bottom in private sector employment -- abandon their responsibilities to give vital educational support in the home.

All that said, the political reality is that Koenig is right. "Son of S.B. 6" is coming soon to a legislature near you. Florida teachers need to come up with their own detailed, rational answer to it. Call it a "pay-incentive" plan, if you have to, but make it as real as possible.

Then challenge the legislators to fund it.

Dept. of Related Blogistry

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