Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More on Merit Pay

From The Quick and the Ed:
I picture what Ms. Oldham might look like, and I can see her mulling the pros and cons of merit pay. She's probably worried that it would reduce teachers to nothing more than cogs on an assembly line, but also understands the implicit logic that good doctors and lawyers make more money than bad ones. Teachers, on the other hand, are paid only by credentials--all teachers in the same district with a bachelor's degree and 12 years experience, for instance, are paid the exact same amount no matter their talent or specialty area. (emphasis added)
And teachers are paid different from assembly line workers how?

This passage is particularly in line with my previous posts on the subject:
A common argument against merit pay, and the one repeated by Ms. Oldham, is that there are too many human elements for the measurement of teaching. But that argument overlooks even the simple version of the merit pay equation. Race, income and prior achievement are all factored in, and the error term captures all those things that are not predictable--a student's situation at home, whether they had a good breakfast, whether it's too hot or cold, etc.--all things that surely affect the student's score but are not measurable.

It might seem a little too whiz-bang to trust the capabilities of modern statistical computer programs, but mathematicians far greater than I are working to refine the exact statistical equations. We've made giant strides in our ability to compute the value an individual teacher adds to student learning. Let's not let fear of complex, modern math get in the way of promising reform.

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