OPINION: Merit pay won’t work in educationI am proud to be a high school science teacher in South Dakota, and I am very concerned about the direction our state government is leading us. I feel that Gov. Dennis Daugaard is truly concerned about raising student achievement and cares about children. I do not, however, believe that his proposals will work.
By: Carrie Tucek, Guest columnist
I am proud to be a high school science teacher in South Dakota, and I am very concerned about the direction our state government is leading us. I feel that Gov. Dennis Daugaard is truly concerned about raising student achievement and cares about children. I do not, however, believe that his proposals will work.
The merit system he wants to impose will not create a conductive learning environment in schools for children. I believe that there is far more than 20 percent of staff in every school district who will deserve this bonus. Even with a great evaluation system in place, it will still be subjective to the administrators or teams that select the recipients. Teachers will harbor negative feelings about their fellow teachers, and some teachers may try to draft higher achieving students into their classes. There will be competition among staff to obtain those teaching positions that include AP and advanced courses versus the more challenging remedial classes. These conversations have already begun among staff before the legislation has even been approved.
I believe that merit pay will create a negative impact on staff relationships in a school district where the staff may not function as a true team dedicated to reaching common goals.
I also feel that this subjective method of salary increase will set districts and schools up for legal disputes that will cost us time and money.
Our governor wanted to reward all math and science teachers with $3,500 dollars annually. Not all math and science teachers perform well and deserve this bonus. Many people educated in math and science can make substantially more money in industry or the private sectors. This bonus does not make a significant difference in an annual income that currently rates as the lowest paid salaries for teachers in America.
I want to plead my case to keep the tenure policy for all teachers in our state. The tenure policy is in place to allow teachers to take risks with new programs and have job security in an emotional and political profession. A superintendent and school board have a lot of power, and it is the tenure policy that protects teachers against immoral and corrupt leaders in education.
Teachers deserve a “due process” to ensure job stability. A poor performing tenured teacher may easily be dismissed by a good administrator who uses a good teacher evaluation system. An outstanding tenured teacher can feel they have a secure job, as they cannot be dismissed without an excuse. They are allowed a chance to improve in an inadequate area before dismissal occurs.
Teaching is not like other professions, because we answer to parents, administrators, school board members and communities. The process can become personal and emotional when we work with somebody’s child. Tenure simply gives teachers a chance to invest in a community with confidence.
According to The Daily Republic (Jan. 17), Daugaard said he cannot impact socio-economic factors or improve the home lives of students, but he can focus on teachers.
Mr. Governor, the problems you cannot impact are the direct linkage to poor student achievement across South Dakota and America.
I believe that his proposal of having a statewide evaluation system under a program such as the Danielson model is a great idea. With the implementation of a good evaluation system, why not reward outstanding teachers by keeping them employed? The tools in this program are more than enough for administrators to collect enough data to dismiss low-performing teachers who are tenured. It will take time for staff to receive the training and implementation of this evaluation system, so we need time to do so.
More importantly, treat teachers with respect. Our state has many teachers, much more than 20 percent in every district, who are dedicated to raising student achievement and have dedicated their lives to their profession. Our state government needs to listen to those of us who are in the trenches for the duration, and work with us.
Education should be South Dakota’s most important business, and a good business works as a team.
Carrie Tucek is a teacher at Wagner Community School.