Incentives for better teachers fruitless and insulting

To study or not to study–that is the question. To ask for help or to give up; to do homework or watch Jersey Shore–the list goes on interminably.

These questions plaguing our educational system, however, are not for teachers but for students.

I found it rather insulting to read in last Wednesday’s News and Observer that Vanderbilt University conducted a study to test the capability of our teachers using incentives to measure their merit.

Basically, Vanderbilt took 300 teachers giving half of the teachers bonuses for test scores while the other half did not receive incentives.

The bonuses were distributed based on test score improvement on end-of-year standardized exams, a component of the federal No Child Left Behind program.

Recently, the results have been released from the study and surprise, surprise, the results were inconclusive. Both sets of test scores were within the same range.

The geniuses conducting the experiment claim to be “giving all educators the feedback they need to get better while rewarding and incentivizing the best to teach in high-need schools, hard-to-staff subjects.”

Did they even stop to think that maybe it all starts with the hard-to-staff objects? Perhaps it is the problem student, or let’s be honest–troublemaker, that needs to get better.

This is not to say that all students who struggle are troublemakers. Some students have learning difficulties, and those are the students who should be helped. It is unfortunate that a majority of evaluating test scores is wasted upon the lazy and careless.

Speaking from personal experience, students become lazy at their own merit.

We are not subjects in a 13 year experiment, but rather, human beings with our own will to fail or succeed.

The majority of the Wake County School Board loves to justify their demolition of the diversity policy with the fact that student scores haven’t drastically improved, but the fact is that there are no quick fixes in education because students are people, not easily manipulated subjects.

Those on the other side of the issue fail to understand that even if there are rich schools and poor schools, that students have an equal opportunity to apply themselves, if nothing else.

It doesn’t matter where you put the “problem kids” if they have already decided not to apply themselves.

Vanderbilt University and the Obama administration should realize that providing merit-based bonuses is not conducive to measuring the success of our educational system.

Financial incentives for teachers to “do a better job” is a slap in the face, and hopefully from this ingenious experiment, they can learn that education begins with the student.


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