LOCAL VOICES: A teacher's exam for merit pay

By DEBORAH A. LAIRD Retired teacher, living in Castalia
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Retired teacher, living in Castalia

On the surface merit pay especially as presented in Matthew Carr's column (Opinion page, print edition of Aug. 19) sounds great. It might be just the solution for this state if those who make the determination of its implementation can logically and without bias answer a number of questions that are raised while considering this as a way to "turn out" students capable of functioning both when they receive their high school diplomas and for the decades after.

How will merit pay affect the salaries for teachers of physical education, art, creative writing, foreign language, music, special education and so on? Will all students in these classes need to take tests in each class to determine if their teachers "learned" their students during that year or term similar to the way English, science, math and social studies do now.

How much learning time will administering these tests remove from the school year? (In other words, new teaching time). Will ratings be different for high school teachers compared to elementary? (Both areas needing certain levels and varieties of expertise).

Will there be a difference in merit pay depending upon the size of the school, its location, or its financial well-being? Will the ratings on the tests that determine merit pay average all student scores or will some be weighted differently?

Will there be a handicapping system for new teachers compared to teachers who have been teaching for five years? Twenty years? Thirty years?

Will there be a different way to rate a teacher if this year he or she has a number of classes (or all classes) with lower or higher level students, for those for whom English is a second language or behavior problems?

Will there be a test at the beginning of each term or year and at the end of every class so that whoever is granting merit pay can truthfully and without prejudice determine just how much more knowledge a student has picked up from that individual teacher? What if during a school year or term there is a natural disaster? The maximum number of catastrophe days used? A flu epidemic?

When would the tests be administered? Would they all be given the day after Labor Day and the day before Memorial Day?

What about schools in the north of Ohio compared to those south that might start and end school a week or more earlier or later?

Should students who have had a recent traumatic experience like a death in the family or worse be excused from testing?

How would administration of merit pay affect teacher morale and the necessity of cooperation?

How long will it take for "bugs" to be worked out of the system? How many teachers would Ohio lose to other states and/or other careers?

What's in it for Mr. Carr's Buckeye Institute which he volunteers to show how it "should be done?" Power, prestige or money?

I am born, reared, educated, employed and pay taxes in this state. But I need to have these and other questions fully answered before I can back merit pay.

After retiring with 35 years as a teacher, these are just the immediate questions that come to mind.

I never looked upon my students as manufactured goods that quality control needed to check before they left to be offered in the market place only as workers.

Of the more than 5,000 students whom I was privileged to teach, there were as many differences as there were people.

One of the biggest differences was what each student already knew when entering the classroom. Obviously that varied by age, background and intelligence among other factors. How would merit pay take into consideration that a teacher must by the nature of the profession deal with the vast variety of human beings who are not machines?

If satisfactory answers are available with variables addressed, maybe then merit pay would have my support.