After sending my letter (in an earlier post) to all ten senators who proposed the senate bills that are most concerning for teachers, the seventeen senators who are likely to support the bills, the Governor, and the Lt. Governor, I heard from two senators. One simply thanked me for taking time to express my concerns. One actually sent a lengthy
response and made the following points (paraphrased):
1.There is 10 million dollars in the current budget for merit pay (Merit pay pays teachers different amounts based on the results they show in their classrooms.)
2.There are other major education initiatives including a bill that requires all third graders to read on grade level in order to pass the third grade.
3.They would like to have more money to spend on NC education since we currently rank 25th in education spending.
4.The budget also needed $1.2 billion for Medicaid spending this biennium so of course we don’t have as much money as we’d like.
Obviously, I diagree with much of what he said. So, in response to his letter, I sent the following email back.
I appreciate your taking time to respond to my letter expressing my concerns about public education in North Carolina. I do care a lot about my job quality as well as the twenty-four students I teach each day, and it is my hope that our state representatives will really consider the consequences some recent proposals may have on both of these things.
First, I would like to mention that some current legislation seems quite inconsistent with what you have recently proposed. You mentioned in your letter to me that you want students reading on grade level by third grade. I know that this bill is SB795, and I know that it requires teachers to do many other things to help their students. (As you know, the bill requires every child to have access to a “comprehensive reading plan.”
Additionally, children who are identified as being “at risk” must have a personal education plan that targets and addresses their needs. The bill also requires that instructional time be maximized and teacher evaluations be strengthened.) These are important ideas, and I don’t disagree with them. I do, however, wonder why your current proposals are quite contradictory. For instance, how can teachers maximize instructional time if they are serving an unlimited number of students? How can we ensure that every student who is identified “at-risk” is getting everything they need to be reading on grade level if we do not have a teaching assistant? If you want teachers to be more effective by making the teacher evaluation more thorough, why don’t you
support master’s pay which will undeniably help teachers be more effective? These ideas do not support one another, and they certainly don’t support the teachers and the students in our state.
Second, I’d like to mention merit pay. You expressed in your letter your wish to put “the best teachers in our children's classrooms” by using merit pay. I suppose this makes up for your idea to eliminate masters pay, but there are several problems with this. First, I will argue that paying teachers to have a master’s degree will actually do
more for teacher quality than merit pay. You see, bribing teachers with more money does not magically make them a better teacher. In order to be an effective teacher, a person has to have a thorough understanding of the content he or she is teaching. Graduate school actually teaches teachers by giving them access to scholarly research that they can apply to their teaching; merit pay does not. The second problem with merit pay is that there are current studies that show that it does not work (Did you hear Diane Ravitch speak in Raleigh earlier this year? She spoke a lot about this.) Why would the Senate fund merit pay when there are already studies to show that it does not work? Likewise, how is there room in a budget that is cutting teacher’s assistants,
raising class sizes, and eliminating master’s pay? It all seems quite contradictory and rather ridiculous. Finally, I’d like you to consider what merit pay will do to teacher’s morale. Using teacher evaluations, students’ scores on standardized tests, and a school’s value-added score to determine which teachers are more“effective” does not boost teacher morale. I have worked in a state that supported merit pay, and teachers felt that it was an unfair system because of the subjectivity of the teacher evaluation. Furthermore, comparing teachers based on the make-up of the students in their classroom is incredibly unjust. How can you expect two teachers with very different
students to have identical results? And how can you say that one is a better teacher and deserves more money because her students perform better on a test? I would suggest that merit pay will not encourage teachers as you suggested in your letter to me. Please consider if merit pay really is the answer.
I know that like me, you have great concern about the diverse needs of our school’s students, and again I will express my fear that teachers in North Carolina will begin to find other jobs. In order for you to understand the gravity of this idea, I think it’s important for you and your colleagues to see first-hand what teachers do every day. It may be easy to assume how we spend our day, but the reality is quite different. Therefore, my principal has given me permission to invite you and your colleagues to our school for a visit. We would love for you to experience a few hours in our school with our precious students who desperately want to learn. Please contact me again if this is something you would like to set-up for August or September when we return for a new school year.
Thank you again for responding.