Friday, June 19, 2009

Response to Edutopia: Are Teacher Bonuses a good idea?

I have begun following Edutopia on Twitter and got tweet about this poll. I had to answer other because I didn't like either Yes,.... or No,.... it was the .... that I didn't like.

My response was

It is so difficult, possibly even impossible to measure the effect a teacher has on a student. We can measure achievement, we can measure test scores, but how do you measure the sense of self worth a student has years after they leave the classroom of a teacher who cared about them.

I could never repay Darvel Gregory. He was probably the most influential Teacher I ever had. He added so much value to my life. I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today if not for him. What did he teach me? Did he show that extra attention that boosted my self esteem so I could conquer the world. Nope! He taught me to type.

How do you recognize that???? I have a Master's Degree, I blog, I write educational materials, I correspond, and conduct my communication on a day to day basis and I train teachers all which would be nearly impossible if I couldn't type.

I don't know how best to reward Teachers, but I think programs that allow teachers to recieve compensation, recognition, and remuneration for 'value added'. If a teacher can demonstrate that what they are doing is adding value (for example conducting out of school consultations via cell phone or Instant Messaging) they should be able to recieve credit for that. If a teacher can demonstrate a marked improvement in the scores of their students on Standardized tests, show advocacy for literacy, whatever a teacher can do to document they are adding value to the learning experience beyond what is expected in the contract should be eligible for monetary bonuses.

Here's the problem. What is expected??? The expectation for teachers already is that they martyr themselves. When you see a teacher giving up their 'duty free' lunch to help a student with a math problem, or spend hours in the evenings grading papers, or developing a web site so students and parents have access to class materials, it's just expected. We need a better rubric that documents exceptional teaching and then validates it with financial rewards.

When I worked at the Murray School District I was involved in two exceptional Projects both of which were facilitated and helped along by Life Long Learning Associates. The yearly evaluation process in Murray was lengthy, but to me at least so worthwhile. I was able to truly reflect on where I stood as an educator. The last two years I did the evaluation, I actually went through each item on the checklist and documented what I had done that showed that I "communicated well with parents" or "advocated for students" The rubric was on a 5 point scale with a 3 being the expected standard and 4 and 5 being above and beyond the expected responsibilities. The scale was structured so that it would be nearly superhuman to achieve a 5 in all areas. But again, it was a scale that provided a yard stick by which to measure my own performance. A place I could refer to in order to plan my own professional development. If I could you that performance evaluation to in part determine what 'value' I had added to the school setting and then receive bonuses based on that I would have loved it.

The other part of the Evaluation was to document exactly what I had done to improve myself professionally during the school year. What had I done to grow. This part could be a portfolio of work created during the Academy of Instruction and between the exceptional Rubric and the very positive experience I had creating my portfolio I learned to be a reflective teacher, a teacher who thinks about learning. I was not nor am I now perfect at this and certainly part of the reflections have been "Boy was that dumb" but the reflective process and the documentation of how I added to the school were rewarding and I think should be rewarded.

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