Conversations #30 2009 03 22

Today’s conversation came from the recent talk of improving education by bringing merit pay into the schools. Maria asked the question, Is Merit Pay the Way? and Sheila identified an essential question, What would be a good ‘no-cost’ reward to push people to do better or retain the good teachers? Lisa Thumann joined us in the skype call. The chat room was hopping, so be sure to check the chat and listen to the audio.


Chat Log

11:26:27 lparisi: Hello aterner
11:29:36 lparisi: Hi Lisa
11:29:41 LisaThumann: Hi!!
11:29:59 MariaK: hi ms thumann
11:30:20 LisaThumann: Ms Knee…
11:32:57 LisaThumann: 30 is over the hill???
11:33:27 lparisi: Hello Pam
11:33:33 lparisi: Hello mrboyer
11:33:44 lparisi: Hello Joel
11:33:45 mrboyer: hello!
11:33:54 shoemap: Good morning.  Are you on A channel?
11:34:04 lparisi: Ustream is on and channel a is on
11:34:35 LisaThumann: Essential Question: How can we push people to be better in the classroom?
11:34:53 LisaThumann: I hesitate to say…
11:35:06 lparisi: I never hesitate to say anything. πŸ˜‰
11:35:15 LisaThumann: You are a WISE woman
11:35:45 lparisi: Not so sure that’s wise
11:36:45 LisaThumann: Living expenses are very different around the country
11:37:13 joelz: grrr. My powerbook isn’t playing nice with the chat
11:37:32 LisaThumann: Wow Lisa, really?
11:37:58 lparisi: Is it working now Joel?
11:38:15 LisaThumann: The NJEA posts starting salaries for teachers in NJ and they vary greatly in NJ
11:40:12 Gary: Not American so I don’t understand who pays teachers.  Do local authorities need to raise the money for salaries or is that done at a state level?
11:41:07 joelz: It seems that people assign two very different goals for merit pay: attracting great teachers and retaining great teachers.
11:41:28 LisaThumann: Is merit pay going to inspire them?
11:41:52 joelz: @LisaThumann: I think no. You?
11:42:01 LisaThumann: I think no.
11:42:08 courosa: or just the fact that we should even accept performance where students do not succeed.
11:42:18 annelisewojo: the incentive is student learning
11:42:24 joelz: @courosa: Y
11:42:39 LisaThumann: Bring me in
11:42:40 courosa: student learning should be the default not the exception
11:42:50 joelz: yes. Do we need to define the baseline expectations for teachers?
11:43:08 joelz: And entering the ring… Lisa… THUMANN!
11:43:20 courosa: @joelz I do think so.
11:44:09 joelz: First rule of good HR: get the right people on the bus.
11:44:38 lparisi: want in to the skype call joel?
11:44:42 joelz: Money is a key part of this first rule. Not the only part, but much neglected in Ed.
11:44:56 courosa: merit pay also focuses on the performance of individual teachers, not in collaboration
11:45:17 lparisi: courosa?  Skype call?  Anyone else?
11:45:19 Cathy E: Hello everybody – sorry I’m late
11:45:24 joelz: Nah, baby’s sleeping and I get a little…. passionate about this.
11:45:24 lparisi: Hi Cathy
11:45:37 courosa: teachers are in it together, with students, should not compete against each other, but work together for the same goal.
11:45:54 spedteacher: Other incentive: professional treatment (should be the norm, but isn’t).
11:45:58 Gail Desler: @curosa – well stated!
11:46:12 courosa: @lparisi I can’t unfortunately, have to leave soon. πŸ™
11:46:31 spedteacher: @courosa  Amen!
11:46:38 joelz: @courosa: Another area for definition: who owns the responsibility for student learning: teacher or student?
11:46:56 joelz: and Lisa Thumann is down for the count!
11:47:03 spedteacher: Both, parents amd community, too. Whole world, actually. Media…
11:47:22 shoemap: My MIL called… trying to wind down her call.
11:47:45 MariaK:  Essential Question: How can we push people to be better in the classroom?
11:48:20 courosa: @maria – focus on learning, not grades.
11:48:22 joelz: @MariaK: Get the right people on the bus in the first place.
11:48:42 joelz: The wrong people will probably never be excellent
11:48:46 Gail Desler: My concern with merit pay is that outstanding teachers may lose passion for teaching in high-poverty school
11:49:00 courosa: I thought it was LisaThumann that decided.
11:49:08 spedteacher: Admin’s don’t spread resources evenly.
11:49:11 Cathy E: I am sitting here with a friend, who is an admin, and she thinks she knows exactly who her best teachers are.
11:49:38 Gail Desler: @Cathy E how does she determine who they are?
11:49:51 joelz: Whoa, don’t mess with Texas.
11:50:01 nycrican2: My college has a merit system, except prof. have to apply themselves and toot their own horns. Prof. do not like it.
11:50:51 Gail Desler: Ah, so sounds like merit pay for scores can breed some discontent amongst staff
11:50:52 Cathy E: She says that being in the classroom alot is how she determines, along with lesson plans, climate of the classroom
11:50:54 spedteacher: @ LParisi Were you qualified — other than test scores — to be grade level chair?
11:51:02 joelz: Again, what problem are we trying to solve: attract or retain teachers?
11:51:08 Cathy E: My friend is in a private school
11:51:16 Cathy E: she has been doing this for 20 years
11:51:40 joelz: @LisaThumann: I think you just changed the topic of the show : )
11:51:47 nycrican2: I think it defeats the whole purpose of Merit pay in this case, and most prof. do not even apply for it.
11:52:06 Gail Desler: Does any site base merit pay on student engagement?
11:52:54 Gary: If you were in Texas today and were teaching evolution in  a community with a strong creation belief base, would you get less merit pay because of pressure on the administation?
11:53:18 courosa: IMHO: It comes down to this, what are the e characteristices of a great teacher if one looks back to their own childhood. For me, it was someone who cared. Who inspired. Who was passionate about teaching and learning. All things that cannot be measured. And it certainly wasn’t the person that helped me get the best marks. It was the person that helped me find me own passion in a system where it is often lost in the details.
11:53:22 Gail Desler: @Gary…now there’s a court case waiting to happen!
11:53:45 spedteacher: @LParisis I work in a poor, inner-city, resource deprived school. Should my pay be based on a comparison w/ tchers in rich district?
11:53:58 Cathy E: @coursa – right on
11:54:05 Gary: @ Gail but are their union protections for these cases?
11:54:28 Gail Desler: @Gary I’ve no idea
11:54:29 nycrican2: @spedteacer I do not think so and unfortunately in Florida, that is exactly the system in k-12
11:54:34 spedteacher: How would merit pay be determined for K-2 teachers? Are we going to give Ks standardized tests?
11:55:24 Gail Desler: @courso How do we get administrators to start conversations about promoting students’ passions?
11:56:04 lparisi: @spedteacher Absolutely, yes.
11:56:06 nycrican2: In Florida, they are even giving parents vochers to send kids to private schools if a particular school gets a failing grade based on NCLB ehind law.
11:56:41 spedteacher: We’re all here on a Sunday talking about how to be better teachers. That alone should prove we have the characteristics @courosa suggested.
11:56:44 Gail Desler: @nycrican2 Do parents have to provide transportation to voucher school?
11:56:51 courosa: Yes, I would agree Lisa. That is the way the system is currently (in the US). But that’s not how it SHOULD work. We don’t have the same system in Canada, and I don’t know any other place that does. We’re not perfect, certainly, but it is certainly not the system we’d adopt.
11:57:01 courosa: the merit piece i mean
11:57:22 annelisewojo: Sounds like @lparisi is in a dstrict very diff than most others.  One that many teachers would love to be in.
11:57:31 nycrican2: @gail yes and most parents cannot do this so they do not accept the voucher.
11:57:35 courosa: @spedteacher yes, I think so … capture THIS what you find on Sunday morning.
11:58:12 Gary: @courosa – Has been suggested in Alberta but the ATA reaction was very fast.
11:58:38 shoemap: I like the theory, but worry about how it would be implemented.  Need to know details.
11:58:47 courosa: @Gail … good point, I am not sure how this is done. Administrators have it tough in many ways, stuck between their funding structures and their teachers.
11:58:47 Gail Desler: @nycrican2 sounds like the system could be deepening digital divide
11:59:24 courosa: @Gary … yea, and I think if it doesn’t happen in AB or ON, it won’t happen in Canada.
11:59:35 annelisewojo: I’m in favor but concerned about the methods for determining.
11:59:41 Gail Desler: @curosa Maybe if administrators and teachers revisited school/district mission goals – which typically are just fluff – but should not be
11:59:44 spedteacher: I vote no merit pay until equitable system of applying clear standards of teaching.
12:00:01 nycrican2: In florida, if the school gets an A or B based on Standard student exams, the merit pay award which is given by the state is divided equally among the faculty.
12:00:51 Gail Desler: I would need to see that there are incentives for teachers to stay at Title 1 schools before I would endorse merit pay
12:01:15 mrboyer: we have so many teachers like that in our building. It’s frustrating. 3:45 comes and their day is done.
12:01:18 nycrican2: Therefore, it seems like the same schools keep getting the awards over and over again. I don’t think it gives other schools a chance since they are compared to each other.
12:01:22 LisaThumann: What defines a "good teacher?
12:01:38 spedteacher: But all my extra time, including this, don’t necessarily translate into better test scores for my SPED students.
12:02:22 Gail Desler: @LisaThumann A good teacher helps students discover and build on what they are passionate about
12:02:26 mtechman: SpED tchr shortage – shouldn’t they get merit pay anyway?
12:02:38 spedteacher: What does "educated well" mean?
12:02:45 sheila: I think a good teacher goes beyond the classroom and supports the climate of the school . . .  and other schools in district.
12:03:17 mtechman: Eduwonk and others have some interesting things to say about tchr quality. Don’t have to agree with all…
12:03:19 lparisi: Welcome Paul
12:03:26 Gail Desler: Hello Paul
12:03:38 mtechman: is there sound?
12:03:45 lparisi: No, spedteacher, it doesn’t.  But it does translate into more positive, successful learners.
12:03:45 paulrwood: Good morning to you all. Sorry to be tardy.
12:03:45 spedteacher: @LisaThumann All my students are passionate about are dating, potential sex and basketball. Kind of difficult to work with sometimes.
12:04:47 mtechman: We joke in primary setting about connecting all subjects to Star Wars – hard to connect everything to dating and basketball!
12:04:47 annelisewojo: @mtechman Click on sound icon on upper right under EdTech Talk A.
12:05:00 Gail Desler: @spedteacher Hmmm….finding a cure for STDs perhaps;-)
12:05:23 spedteacher: Connecting to Star Wars: math, science, 20th century history, more.
12:05:26 nycrican2: In Florida, several prin. were fired when they promoted Sped students to the next grade so these student would not have to take stand exams and therefore the school’s rating would be higher for that year.
12:05:33 spedteacher: LOL
12:05:56 mrboyer: dating=Han and Leia
12:06:07 nycrican2: The principal were caught when parents complained to the school board.
12:06:27 annelisewojo: What is 100%?  And to whom?
12:06:36 Gail Desler: @nycrican2 ?
12:06:37 spedteacher: Most of my 6-8 students have K-1 reading levels.
12:06:51 annelisewojo: My 100% will likely be diff than someone elses.
12:07:07 mrboyer: head of AIG?>
12:07:13 Gail Desler: @nycrian2 Oh, just saw your explanation
12:07:38 spedteacher: Hard to find low, low level reading materials interesting to middle school kids.
12:07:40 mtechman: sorry – maybe closed sm window?
12:07:44 nycrican2: SPED students in florida only have to take exams in certain grades only so therefore by promoting sped students to the grade where no test was required the whole school can get a higher rating for the year.
12:08:01 LisaThumann: @annelise What a great point!!
12:08:25 sheila: @mtechman – should be there
12:08:39 spedteacher: Do lawyers get paid for cases they lose? Absolutely!
12:08:41 Gail Desler: @spedteacher – Agreed – although the banned books list might proof of interest to them;-)
12:08:45 Gary: I have had biology classes taught in the same semester with a variance of up to 10% on provincial exams.  Did I teach better in one class?  Should I get merit pay for one set of results and not the other?
12:09:24 mtechman: no small window – no sound – clikc upper right – stream status?
12:09:38 annelisewojo: @spedteacher Yes, but lawyers get paid more for cases they win.
12:09:40 lparisi: But @spedteacher, Would you keep a lawyer in your firm who keeps losing cases?
12:09:55 sheila: Other window is under this page probably
12:09:58 nycrican2: @Gary I do not think so. It depend on how prepared the students were when you got them. Did they have the proper background to master Biology?
12:10:08 spedteacher: @LParisi So the existence of bad teachers is the fault of admin hiring deficiencies?
12:10:17 lparisi: sometimes.
12:10:17 mtechman: don’t think lawyers bill more for winning cases – might get more if percentage of big settlement – not always cas
12:10:34 sheila: @mtechman – click on the icon on top of stream status
12:10:40 lparisi: And sometimes its because they don’t watch carefully enough during the pretenure period
12:11:04 nycrican2: @Gary, their motivation level to learn is also another factor to be considered.
12:11:14 spedteacher: @LParisi I’d keep a lawyer willing to take the risk of taking on the hardest cases and winning a few, losing most. Firm gets paid either way.
12:11:16 lparisi: And sometimes its because their goal is not necessarily to help students be successful
12:11:47 annelisewojo: @spedteacher I agree here….yes, the bad teachers who stay at the school is not just the fault of admin hiring deficiencies, but even more so for keeping them onboard.
12:11:57 mtechman: thanks – got sound!
12:12:07 paulrwood: I have been at same school for 32 years and my contract is year to year. Not guaranteed a job any year.
12:12:07 sheila: πŸ™‚
12:12:18 spedteacher: My principal gets large bonus for high test scores, not useful retainable learning. I don’t want him deciding my merit pay.
12:12:23 nycrican2: I don’t have sound.
12:12:30 LisaThumann: @Paul – Wow! They must love you. πŸ™‚
12:12:35 nycrican2: Now I do.
12:12:52 mtechman: new teachers need lots of support – I didn’t find that my ed. classes (my degree is not ed) were much help
12:12:54 Gary: @nycrian2 – They were "streamed" into different classses by the electives they took.  If I taught only the "weaker" class only then I would be viewed as a teacher who does not deserve the merit pay.
12:13:11 Gail Desler: @paulrwood You’re at a private school?
12:13:19 paulrwood: @LT I hope so because I like my job.
12:13:22 annelisewojo: I appreciate being in a charter school, where we can get rid of dead weight.  Determined by the administration. Year to year contracts, like @paulwood.
12:13:37 paulrwood: @Gail yes I am.
12:13:44 mtechman: in lots of systems, junior teachers get hardest classes (behavior)
12:13:49 annelisewojo: although, I WISH we could pay more to teachers!
12:14:14 spedteacher: I teach kids who often don’t even try on the test, they don’t do as well as I know and they know they could. Should I get punished for taking on these very difficult students?
12:14:15 Gail Desler: @mtachman I see that is the case at so many sites – seems like very poor administration
12:14:19 LisaThumann: @Anne How much $ is enough? Something to think about
12:14:29 nycrican2: @gary It is a good thing that they were streamed because everyone can check the stream out to see your real teaching ability.
12:14:39 spedteacher: It seems to me that the focus of merit pay is not to reward good teachers but to punish bad ones.
12:15:55 Gail Desler: @spedteacher good point – especially for those in more challenging teaching positions
12:16:43 annelisewojo: @lisathumann That’s a great question, but in our case, enough would be closer to traditional public school salaries.
12:16:47 sheila: Administrators are key to the climate. Are you willing to do more ?
12:16:58 nycrican2: @spedteacher No, I don’t think you should get punished. Not your fault if students do not want to even try answer the test correctly.
12:17:06 Gary: @ntcrian2 – Not streamed externally, streamed by course choice.  The "brighter" class were taking physics also while the "weaker" class took courses of less rigour.  It was an accidental streaming base on a timetable quirk.
12:17:33 spedteacher: @nycrican2 So how could I get merit pay?
12:17:46 nycrican2: @gary, got it.
12:18:46 annelisewojo: I’m in a district where our teachers are paid well under the traditional pub school pay… ENOUGH would be to make at least what they’ll make going elsewhere.
12:18:54 paulrwood: Way too much negativity in the school
12:19:15 spedteacher: I’d like more money, but I don’t think I’m capable of working harder. Working better? I’m trying, but its up to the training I get from my admin and rest of system.
12:19:39 paulrwood: We get a pension, benefits??
12:19:52 lparisi: Love that comment, spedteacher…work better, not harder
12:19:53 shoemap: YES Admin very important
12:20:09 sheila: How often do we reflect on our jobs?
12:20:17 paulrwood: We all need to work smarter. It does come fromt he top for the leadership.
12:20:18 annelisewojo: We’ve got great programming, and young teaching staff always because we lose them because of money….they jump ship after getting a great start.
12:20:20 LisaThumann: @PAul – in public, yes.. Sorry.
12:20:21 nycrican2: @spedteacher Gee, that is a hard one to answer, the merit pay system does not seem to fit the model of teaching these types of students.
12:20:31 sheila: Once  a year?
12:21:07 sheila: Enjoy the staff when they help me reflect and ask about what I do and why . . .
12:21:24 nycrican2: 22 years ago, I taught there types of students at a middle school, so I know first hand how incredibly difficult this task it.
12:21:30 annelisewojo: @shoemap Admin is critical.  Leadership is key.  Esp key for keeping GREAT teachers in an environmnet where pay is lower.
12:21:30 shoemap: @sheila I reflect more since becoming a "blogger."
12:21:52 sheila: Good too Pam!
12:21:58 sheila: tool
12:22:41 sheila: Isn’t this group our mentors? Make us think.
12:23:16 paulrwood: I get a ton of mentoring from my pln that is for sure. I feel more called to credibility by what I learn from the PLN
12:23:23 LisaThumann: I count on many in my PLN to help me to reflect
12:23:26 annelisewojo: I think everyone here reflects on ther job more than once a year.
12:23:37 LisaThumann: I also learn a lot from the teachers I meet and work with
12:24:01 spedteacher: I still have umnoffical mentors, online and school colleagues.
12:24:06 mtechman: We have continuous improvement model – good stuff happens, but still need mentoring – after 6 years – getting pretty good at finding what I need though…
12:24:23 nycrican2: @spec I did not specifically teach spec ed both it was an inner city school and a lot of kids probably needed to be in emotional Disturbed spec ed classes.
12:24:24 mtechman: good point Lisa
12:24:25 sheila: Many of our younger teachers are not drawn to collaboration. But I am. Is it generational?
12:24:38 spedteacher: I’m getting mentored right now!
12:25:00 nycrican2: One of the students in the very first year that I taught in now on Florida Death Row.
12:25:02 LisaThumann: Shelia, I don’t think it’s genereational. I think it’s a style prefereance.
12:25:14 paulrwood: @Sheila Is ti because they want to find their way and not be told the way?
12:25:29 mtechman: collaboration is more about the personal connection to me – not age – as a librarian I think a lot about it
12:25:32 spedteacher: @nycrican2 We should chat. I teach in the Bronx.
12:25:38 Gail Desler: @sheila is this trend related to their credentially program, which perhaps did not promote collaboration?
12:25:38 annelisewojo: @sheila I disagree.  Our younger teachers are more drawn to collaboration than our more experienced/older teachers.
12:25:56 Gail Desler: credential
12:26:09 mrboyer: I don’t think it has to do with age, it has to do with being comfortable with colleques
12:26:16 sheila: Not sure . . . after 3 years still not wanting to collaborate with others.
12:26:21 nycrican2: @Spec I attended schools in the Bronx for both Elem. junior and HS.
12:26:43 spedteacher: @nycrican2  127?
12:27:05 mtechman: read the post on Finland in Quick and the Ed blog – trust is huge
12:27:21 spedteacher: I’mm 55 and in fifth year teaching. I LOVE collaborating.
12:27:38 spedteacher: @nycrican2 MS127?
12:27:46 nycrican2: No, PS 150 on 167 St and Simpson, JHS 136 on Jennings St. and Chris Colum on Fordham Rd. (Finally a great school):)
12:28:26 annelisewojo: agreed…merit pay is paying for a job that was ‘done’ well
12:28:29 sheila: Or is it a sense of community in a school. Work for the better of the whole school rather than just my classroom.
12:28:32 nycrican2: @spec what is your Twitter name?
12:28:35 annelisewojo: not for what they are ‘going’ to do
12:29:28 spedteacher: I spread links, other resources in droves to my colleagues to help them teach their students. Shouldn’t that be part of the decision if I should get merit pay?
12:29:41 Gary: If "merit pay" is replaced by the word "bonus" (as in AIG) does that change anything?
12:29:54 sheila: πŸ™‚
12:29:58 spedteacher: @nycrican2 Twitter name is spedteacher
12:30:10 annelisewojo: @gary Yes, i think it does
12:30:35 nycrican2: @spec mine is the user name I am using here, I will start following you.
12:30:39 Gary: Does merit pay = bonus?
12:30:50 LisaThumann: Yes @Gary
12:30:57 spedteacher: @nycrican2 Same here.
12:31:25 nycrican2: @spec cool!!
12:31:32 annelisewojo: well said– merit pay won’t make bad teachers better teachers
12:31:43 mtechman: agree with what was just said!!
12:31:50 sheila: Agree!
12:31:58 shipwreck1969: How is Obama’s idea of "merit pay" which Democrats lambasted when it was promoted by Republicans?
12:31:58 nycrican2: agree 100%
12:32:07 shoemap: Actually, the audio SHOULD be shared with the Obama administration.
12:32:25 annelisewojo: but I think it will give the needed kudos, pat on the back, appreciation to those who are doing a phenomenal job
12:33:02 nycrican2: The whole chat transcript should also be shared.
12:33:29 sheila: We do no-cost rewards for students, why not teachers? and admins?
12:34:49 sheila: I’d love a letter/note of appreciation from time to time.
12:34:55 annelisewojo: As tech director….I do tend to give incentives of more opportunities for the teachers I see going the extra mile
12:35:06 annelisewojo: And I don’t base it on test scores.  πŸ™‚
12:35:06 sheila: Someone to notice . . .
12:35:16 shipwreck1969: One of my concerns is that my "merit pay" is based on my customers, who vary from year to year in terms of ability, motivation, and parental support.
12:35:39 LisaThumann: Thank you for give me the opportunity to participate.
12:35:55 lparisi:
12:36:00 shipwreck1969: Last year’s group was simply more high achieving than this year’s… nothing to do with me.  Why should I be "rewarded" for that?
12:36:02 shoemap: Thanks, great show today!
12:36:13 lparisi: Thank you so much for coming, All.
12:36:19 annelisewojo: thanks all…very good conversations today
12:36:24 paulrwood: Thank you all for the input and thanks for being my mentors.
12:36:31 nycrican2: Thanks for the great discussion.
12:36:37 spedteacher: Thanks LParisi and everyone else.

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