Superintendent Vitti reads Slate magazine, plans to give teachers 20k to go to our neediest schools. It’s the wrong move by the way.

Superintendent Vitti has announced he plan to give
teachers 20 thousand dollars to go to our neediest schools. Slate magazine
recently did an article that talked about the same thing.
A couple years ago I received the bonus
as one of the top 25% of teachers, I was excited and told my friends some of
whom I believe are much better than me and I was shocked to learn they hadn’t
received it. I went home that day with some silver in my pocket but feeling
like crap.
I hope this Slate Magazine piece
saying merit pay can work but it’s got to be for more than the nominal amounts
that school districts usually offer. The article sited a study that paid
veteran teachers with a history of results 20 thousand dollars over two years
to go to our schools that are struggling (i.e. doing poor on standardized
tests) the most and even though the article then said they did significantly
better than teachers hired through the normal process, isn’t what has sold you
on this plan.
From Slate:
In 10 cities, including Los Angeles, Miami,
and Houston, researchers at Mathematica identified open positions in
high-poverty schools with low test scores, where kids performed at just around
the 30th percentile in both reading and math. To fill some of those
positions, they selected from a special group of transfer teachers, all of whom
had top 20 percent track records of improving student achievement at lower
poverty schools within the districts, and had applied to earn $20,000 to switch
jobs. The rest of the open positions were filled through the usual processes,
in which principals select candidates from a regular applicant pool.
In public education,
$20,000 is a whopping sum.
If a transfer teacher stayed in her new,
tougher placement for two years, she’d earn the $20,000 in five installments,
regardless of how well her new students performed. In public education, $20,000
is a whopping sum, far more generous than the typical merit pay bonus of a few
hundred or a few thousand dollars.
In the process, a remarkable thing happened.
The transfer teachers significantly outperformed control-group teachers in the
elementary grades, raising student achievement by 4 to 10 percentile points—a
big improvement in the world of education policy, where infinitesimal increases are often 
celebrated.
This is a bit misleading; you see
the candidates from the regular applicant pool were most likely first year or
novice teachers. Our inner city schools face a lot of churn and burn and
turnover with their teacher staff. So in essence the article is saying veteran
teachers do a lot better than first year teachers. Can somebody let Teach for
America know please?   
A couple years ago, a couple years
after I received merit pay my school relieved a sig grant and the entire staff,
all 120 of us were paid to an extra 5000 dollars to stay not that I think many
of us had plans to go elsewhere as they gave us the money during pre planning.
Where appreciative of the money I always wondered what would have happened had
the district spent the 850 thousand dollars to hire 12 new staff members, a
mental health counselor and a social worker because so often why a kid acts up
or does poorly in school has nothing to do with school. What would have
happened had they hired art, music, drama and home ec teachers’ positions that
had been cut so school wouldn’t have been such drudgery for so many children?
What would have happened if we hired extra teachers so classes could have been
smaller so kids could have gotten more individualized attention? I think we
would have done better and I also think we often put kids in positions where
success is hard to achieve and then we scratch our heads and wonder why they
didn’t do so. Our grade by the way did not improve.
Next I wonder about the great
teachers already at the schools where these established veterans were sent. You
know the ones who were already succeeding and not going to get the extra 20k.
How do you think they felt? Did their performances suffer and what did this for
to collaboration? I bet it destroyed it. You don’t have to give me an extra 20
k but if the teacher next to me doing the same job is getting it, I better get
it too.
The article is right in the regard
we do need to get our best teachers at our most struggling schools. We can’t
hope a significant number of first years are going to suddenly catch fire or
stay long enough that they hit their grooves.  But we don’t have to bribe
teachers to do so. Instead let’s give teachers behavioral support, make classes
small, not over load them with paper work and put in place systems that serve
the child when they are not in school. If we did those things we might just
discover we already have some of our best teachers at those
schools.  
My suggestion is let’s put teachers
in positions where success is achievable before you try and bribe them.
The Slate piece wasn’t terrible but
I believe in parts it was misleading, especially the part where it says merit
pay does work and I think it would be a mistake to try and replicate it here..

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