Sunday, March 21, 2010

Innovation and Teacher Pay

In my wandering, I came across this little gem on how to fix edumacation:
Instead, a better solution would be:
- Get rid of the unions. Pay for performance, fire the incompetent
- Give teachers the independence to try new things and tailor to individual classrooms. Reward success.
The list continued but I particularly liked the juxtaposition of "pay for performance, fire the incompetent" and "Give teachers the independence to try new things. Reward success." Beyond the obvious (to me, at least) problem of determining teacher competence, how much do you suppose a teacher will innovate and try new things if his paycheck is based on performance, with firing being a instant option for a moronic administrator if that new idea fails?

In all of the pay-for-performance schools I have studied, the one constant factor is that the teachers all retreat into "safe" zones of teaching. Most teachers would rather be assured of a job, thus follow the demands of the administration, teach to the test and be nothing special, rather than go out on a limb and risk it all on a double or nothing bet. The feeling seems to be that it is better to be good than take a wild and unproven chance with your students' education, risking your job. It's sad, really.

There is usually a maverick who bucks this trend but he merely proves the rule - he is unmarried or for some reason doesn't need to be employed at that school. Perhaps he's a certified TIG welder or has an engineering degree with experience.

Unions and union rules allow teachers to innovate, try new things and then adjust them to work better next time. You get "The Creative Feedback Loop Of Teaching"(Thanks to Dan Meyer for the expression, in this post, near the end.), but only if you have the freedom to innovate and aren't locked into a scripted curriculum or stuck in a repressive, vindictive or moronic administrative system.

True innovation comes from those who can afford to try. Trying implies failing occasionally. If you punish failure, you stifle innovation.

1 comment: