Sometimes diaries here are like firecrackers that set off a crackling downpour of challenging comments. This diary definitely does – thanks, Helios. The convo started yesterday, and comments are still flying. What’s your opinion? – Promoted by Rosi
As a teacher in New Jersey, I’ve been quite disturbed at the venom and hate-mongering that has been reported (and I would argue promoted) by the NJ press.
In the latest attack, published today, Star-Ledger Editorial Board Member Kevin Manahan blasts New Jersey teachers for not embracing a proposed merit pay system.
I responded with a letter to the editor, but I thought I’d post a longer, more detailed response here.
Kevin Manahan’s “Good teachers should speak up for merit pay”, is an ill-informed screed against New Jersey’s teachers and our association the NJEA.
Manahan blasts the NJEA (and by extension all teachers in NJ) for not embracing the merit pay scheme hastily concocted in the state’s poorly thought out “Race to the Top” funding application. While there is little to no evidence that merit pay actually works to improve student outcomes, NJEA’s detractors completely ignore the hard work our union does every day to improve the quality of teaching in New Jersey by supporting strategies that have been proven to get results.
Manahan claims the NJEA “rebuffs any attempts by taxpayers to make sure they’re getting what they pay for – quality teaching.” Clearly he needs to be educated in the facts. The NJEA is currently working with the legislature to pass bills that support better teacher preparation, family involvement in schools, technology training and fully funding mandated professional development requirements for teachers.
Furthermore, as districts reduce professional development opportunities for teachers, the NJEA and its county organizations continue to provide numerous seminars and workshops that disseminate best practices in classroom education – free of charge. Each issue of our union magazine is chock full of articles on ideas that work and profiles of teachers doing outstanding jobs in the classroom. To say that NJEA does not care about improving teacher quality is wrong and insulting.
Merit pay is not a panacea for improving student outcomes. Great teachers are not born, they are trained. The most important part of improving teacher performance is the ability for teachers to share freely the best ideas, lesson plans and classroom management strategies. Introducing the proposed merit pay system would force some teachers to withhold best practices from their colleagues in order to look better than the rest. We look forward to real, positive education reform that embraces proven strategies and puts high quality education first. Until then, teachers and our union will continue to improve our profession, despite the bluster and insults.