by Robert Pondiscio
November 5th, 2009
A suggestion by Claus Von Zastrow of Public School Insights that pundits like Jonathan Alter who write about education be subject to performance pay attracted the notice of Alter, who has been mixing it up with commenters to the post. It started when Von Zastrow took issue with Alter’s KIPP cheerleading and broad brush take on reform.
What do we make of Alter’s suggestion that only charter schools and merit pay are “real reform?” Well what about better staff development? Better curriculum? Stronger ties between schools and communities? Much, much better assessments? Are those phony reforms? All in all, Alter gets an unsatisfactory rating, so no performance bonus this year. In fact, his failure to improve since last summer puts him at risk of termination.
That was apparently too much for the Newsweek pundit, who showed up on the blog’s comments to defend himself and do a little advocacy work. ”With the president’s support, the pool of reformers is growing,” Alter wrote. “Come on in, guys. The water’s warm.”
Alter gets points for showing up and opening himself up for further abuse. The highlight of the thread so far: One anonymous wit who wickedly applies Alter’s take on merit pay to his own columns:
I’m glad you’ve accepted Claus’ merit pay proposal. The formula is clear. Since your job is to inform the public, we’re going to measure your readers’ knowledge. Then, a year from now, we’re going to measure it again. If they’re smarter, you’ll get a substantial bonus. If not, we’ll put you on a 90-day plan of review, support, and, if your readers don’t get smarter, we’ll have to regretfully let you go. Sorry, but it’s all about the readers, not the writers.
by Robert Pondiscio
November 5th, 2009
It’s the oldest trick in the elementary school classroom management book: using positive reinforcement to get children to behave in the hope of earning a reward or recognition. When it’s time to clean up before lunch the teacher says, “Let’s see who’s ready to line up first. I’m looking to see who has their desk cleaned up and is sitting up nicely.” Suddenly 25 kids are racing to sit up straight with their hands folded on their spotless desks. Works like a charm on seven-year-olds.
State legislatures, too.
President Obama’s education speech in Wisconsin reinforced the criteria the Adminstration wants to see in order for states to qualify for a piece of the $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” fund. What’s remarkable, however, is how much change in behavior is occurring in states just hoping for a reward. Like a first grade teacher, the President is essentially looking across the country and asking, “Who wants to be my special helper? I’m looking for states that are doing the right thing and making good choices!”
“Oh, I like the way California is linking teachers and test scores! You too, Indiana and Wisconsin! What an excellent job you’re doing! Uh-oh, Nevada is definitely not ready! Let’s see who else is doing the right thing? Oh, look! Illinois and Tennessee must really want Race to the Top money. Look how they have lifted their charter caps! Louisiana is ready! Delaware is ready! New York? Are you making good choices? Let me see…”
“The administration has done a good job of having a lot of states make a long-odds bet that they’re going to win Race to the Top funds, so they’ve shaped their behavior a lot in advance of a single dollar being awarded,” Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution tells the Christian Science Monitor. “Most of what the administration is going to get [in terms of reform] it will get before the competition is actually completed.”
There must be some very shrewd former teachers at the DOE.