Mush and Mentally Deficient Bullshit
about Merit Pay from Governor Nathan Deal
(aka Governor ISIS)!
By John R. Alston Trotter,
unenlightened governor, Nathan Deal, is pushing Merit Pay on Georgia’s teachers like Moonies were pushing roses at the
big intersections. He apparently thinks that it will do some good…or better yet, perhaps he thinks
that it will cause such a storm and so much chaos that it will be easier for his corporatist friends to denigrate public education
even more and make room for their money-making schemes. After all, Deal is a low-level acolyte for the
High Priests of Privatizing Public Education, billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad.
Merit Pay has never worked in
public education for several reasons. In fact, it is very counterproductive to real learning taking place.
In this chapter, which has been adopted from The MACE Manifesto: The Politically Incorrect,
Irreverent, and Scatological Examination of What is Wrong with American Public Education (Trotter and Haynes,
2014, Big Daddy Publishers), we will outline in detail why Merit Pay is a boondoggle and a myth and why it will never work
in public education.
writing much of the information below, Arne Duncan has stepped down from being U. S. Secretary of Education.]
I realized when I began
thinking about writing this rant against merit pay for teachers that I had already written a number of articles on this in
the past, articles which have different slants but sometimes overlap in a good way. So, instead of writing an entirely
new rant, I’ll just give you some of the rants of the recent past.
This concept of merit pay or
value-added evaluation or pay-for-performance or tying a teacher’s pay to how well a child does on a standardized test
has been around for years. It is a sacred cow of leading educational interlopers, educational denizens, and philanthropic
vultures (this seems like an oxymoronic description, doesn’t it?) like Bill Gates and Eli Broad and their lap dog at
the U. S. Department of Education, Arne Duncan. We understand both of these billionaires pumped some large sums of money
into the Chicago Public School when Arne Duncan was the superintendent there. (How he ever became a superintendent is
beyond me since he has never been an educator. But, maybe I can become the head of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University
or perhaps the head of Peat Marwick, even though I am not a medical doctor or an accountant. LOL!) I presume
that Arne is smart enough to know that he more than likely will not continue to be the U. S. Secretary of Education under
another President and perhaps his inordinate loyalty to these billionaire interlopers will secure him future employment.
Ah, but I am being too jaded in my outlook.
I know that Bill Gates seems to be getting a bit squeamish
about tying teachers’ pay to just test scores, a position that he apparently previously held. He wrote an
op-ed in the spring of 2013 in The Washington Post, stating that perhaps other factors besides the
test scores of the students ought to be calculated into how a teacher is paid. Perhaps Bill’s been getting too
much negative feedback from teachers for his own comfort zone. Now he needs to convince his wife Melinda about his apparent
new epiphany. But, ole Arne is still operating under “The Charge of the Light Brigade” mentality because
he just recently got into a pissing contest with Dr. John Barge, the State Superintendent of Georgia, over whether Georgia
is moving fast enough in tying the Georgia teachers’ evaluations to student test scores. He threatened to withhold
$10,000,000.00 Race to the Top funds from Georgia for this perceived desultory action – or lack of action. Georgia
Governor Nathan Deal has gotten real pissy with Dr. Barge over this threat of losing ten million bucks for the State.
Deal had already cut back lots of funding in the States’ budget to the Georgia Department of Education. This latest
pissing contest has apparently caused Dr. Barge to start thinking, Why not just run for Governor? [Since
writing this chapter, Dr. Barge announced that he was running for governor of Georgia.] He would
certainly get the teachers’ votes, and the last time the teachers of Georgia got very pissed off at an incumbent governor
was in 2000 when Governor Roy Barnes led the charge to do away with teachers’ due process rights in Georgia. Two
years later when Barnes ran for re-election, the teachers were waiting with baited breath. They voted overwhelmingly
for the greatly underfunded Republican challenger, Sonny Perdue, and Perdue won.
push for merit pay and for Common Core Curriculum is having great political reverberations. Again, this week, Governor
Deal in Georgia announced a slow-down on implementing this curriculum in Georgia. His already-announced opponent, the
Mayor of Dalton, Georgia, recently stated that it would have taken him only three seconds to reject Common Core Curriculum.
Well, if you think that CCC is unpopular with teachers, just wait and see how they react to a fallacious concept like
merit pay for teachers in a public school setting.
Now for some of my rants about merit pay….
Merit Pay for Teachers Does Not Work
Perhaps the Good Master would call them “a brood of vipers”
(those educational interlopers pushing for merit pay). I was talking to a teacher tonight who was crying and severely
stressed-out by some lying and conniving administrators who appear to delight in making people’s (yes, teachers are
real people) lives miserable. Our mission at MACE is to devour administrators (metaphorically, of course;
this is not a terroristic threat) who abuse teachers. We don’t do spelling bees and give out tote bags nor do we try
to act like we are important by aimlessly walking the halls of the Georgia Capitol. We don’t have
time for such silliness.
What does Brother _________ propose to do with the kiss-up, weasling, and booger-eatin’ administrators who immediately
label any teacher a “trouble-maker” when ANYTHING is questioned? These are the same administrators who would
sell their own mothers “down the river” to ensure that they can hold on to their high-paying jobs and lifestyles.
They use the evaluative process in a manipulative, punitive, and retributive manner. They do not tolerate anyone
who deigns (1) to point out that some students are acting like hellions and that the teachers need administrative support
in order to deal with these miscreant “students” (yes, “miscreant” because their behaviors often cross
the line into criminality) or (2) to refuse to simply “go along to get along,” especially when issues of conscience
are involved (like lying about student attendance in order to cook the books for No Child Left Behind or changing answers
on students’ test sheets so that the Pharoah-Superintendents won’t terminate, demote, or transfer them).
has never worked in public education because students are not inanimate objects floating down a conveyor belt in a factory.
Students have various IQ levels, have different motivational levels, and definitely come from different home environments
which make all the difference in the world. I worked as an administrator in a public school system in Georgia which
was the only school system in the State which actually practiced differentiated pay for teachers. This same school system
was hailed in Time Magazine and Reader’s Digest as a forward-looking
and progressive school system in Georgia because of “merit pay.” I was allowed to look at the teachers’
salaries at the school, and I can assure you that the merit pay part of the teachers’ salaries did NOT correlate to
a teacher’s skill or dedication as a teacher but to the number of butts that his or her lips had puckered up to or whose
spouse this teacher was attached to. It was all about politico-familial connections and/or butt-kissing. These factors
determine who got the “best” group of kids and who got the “merit” pay. When you can control
the input variables (so that all variables are equal), then, and only then, perhaps will some form of “merit”
pay work. Until then, it is just a sham and a farce. Teachers start rat-holing everything from teaching materials,
lesson plans, and insightful ideas. Teachers become suspicious of each other and become very uncooperative. In
fact, they begin to act like 2nd and 3rd year law students who are competitively angling to be hired (or, “enslaved”)
by the silk stocking law firms.
Pay the Physician Only if the Patient Is Well or Pay the Lawyer
Only if the Client is Acquitted?
This is the issue:
The children are never randomly selected and scattered around evenly. The teacher who is teaching
at Atlanta’s King Middle School is confronted with a much more difficult job than a teacher who is assigned to Gwinnett
County’s Trickum Middle School. Or, let’s stay in the same county…Fulton. The teacher at Fulton’s
Haynes Bridge Middle School in Alpharetta has an easier time getting students to perform at a certain academic level than
students at Fulton’s McNair Middle School. We don’t know all of the answers to the very significant achievement
gap between North Fulton white students and South Fulton black students but we know that this gap exists and that the low
scores in South Fulton are exacerbated by poor conduct among the students. The Fulton County School System is certainly
a microcosm for the whole state – and perhaps the nation – on this issue.
Fulton County School System, the system is divided by north and south, with the Atlanta Public Schools sitting between the
two distinctly different geographical areas of the Fulton County Schools, and the academic performance of the children in
these two areas are vastly different. This school system stretches from north of Alpharetta to south of Palmetto —
about 75 to 80 miles long. Very diverse, considering that North Fulton is overwhelmingly white and South Fulton is overwhelmingly
black. In my job, I deal with teachers in both the north and the south. I have a fairly accurate, I think, perspective.
Besides the income disparity being very great, I am sure that if anyone checked the formal educational levels of the
parents of the children in both areas, the parents in the north would have higher educational levels at a statistically significant
level. This is where the motivation of the students comes into play. If a student perceives that he or she comes
from an educated culture and from a family which values formal education, then this student has more motivation to learn.
The motivation to learn is the key.
The motivation to learn is a cultural phenomenon.
I did not say “a racial phenomenon,” but “a cultural phenomenon.” The African American
children, for example, who vacation at Martha’s Vineyard (as pointed in the book Our Kind of People,
a revealing book about the “elite class” among African Americans in this country) do not struggle with motivation
to learn. In fact, their motivation is to determine into which Ivy League school they will matriculate.
there is very little motivation to learn, there automatically is a concomitant amount of disciplinary problems associated
with this lack of motivation. If teachers are not freed up to be creative instead of being forced to teach in a straightjacket
(so to speak), then these children will continue to disrupt the learning environments of those students who actually are motivated
to learn. Those governors and other people who were and are in positions to dole out monies to teachers based on “performance
of the students” never take into their calculations that children are not inanimate objects which were randomly (and
thus uniformly) selected to float down some educational conveyor belt.
What if we paid physicians
based on how their patients performed? One doctor is sent to the ghetto where health and nutrition take a back seat
to daily survival. But, this physician’s pay is tied to his patients’ blood pressure readings. His
patients love ham-hock and fried chicken in their daily diets. But, his counterpart physician (also a graduate from
Johns Hopkins Medical School like the first doctor) has his practice in Athens, Georgia where most of his patients refuse
to eat fried foods, much less fried chicken with all of that ugly chicken skin. They cook with extra virgin olive oil
rather than pork lard. This Athenian physician’s patients have lower counts of blood pressure than the patients
from the ghetto. Should this physician make more money than the physician whose practice is in an area where the patients
cannot afford to cook with extra virgin olive oil and are very lucky to be able to occasionally buy Wesson Corn Oil? You
get the point, but guess what? Our politicians and vulture philanthropists don’t get the point…probably
because they don’t want to get the point. It is so much easier, from a political standpoint, to just blame the
teachers. “We are only going to reward those teachers where the students perform.” Bullshit!
We’re only going to pay the physicians if their patients have low blood pressure! We’re
only going to pay the court-appointed lawyers if their clients are acquitted! Bullshit again and
The motivation to learn is a cultural phenomenon, and if the motivation to learn is not there, all of the new curricula
fads and gadgets will not mean anything. The best thing that the educrats can do is (1) free up the teacher
so that the teacher can be creative in his or her attempts to reach these unmotivated students and (2) support the teacher
when he or she is attempting to establish a structured and orderly classroom environment.
Again, Merit Pay Is Incurably Flawed!
Do advocates of Merit Pay think that we should pay lawyers only if the juries find
their clients “not guilty”? What if the evidence against the client is overwhelming and the entire jury
is fully convinced that the lawyer’s client is guilty, despite the admirable job that the lawyer does? So, the
“performance” of the client should determine the lawyer’s pay? This court-appointed lawyer (who had
rather not represent this client in the first place) will get the lowest pay possible from the State because of Mikie’s
(the client’s) “performance” in the Standardized Testing Courtroom. Hmm. It just doesn’t
seem right. Why? Because it isn’t right.
What about the physician who
is forced to take on a client who overeats each day (and eats all of the wrong food, by the way)? This patient also
refuses to exercise. The patient is 120 pounds overweight and also smokes three packs of unfiltered Pall
Mall cigarettes each day. He takes no vitamins and drinks two pints of Vodka with a Walmart brand orange
drink (full of high fructose corn syrup) each night while he watches TNT movies until four in the morning. He goes to
the physician who really doesn’t like being his primary care physician because Bubba (the patient’s nick name)
refuses to do anything that he suggests to him. Oh, by the way, Bubba is also diabetic, but he refuses to take his insulin.
Well, it’s just too bad for the physician because he is going to get paid from the State based on Bubba’s health
performance. Again, absurd.
What about the dentist who always fills Johnny’s
cavities and patiently goes over dental hygiene with his new Medicaid patient? He shows Johnny how to brush and floss.
He tells him how often he needs to brush and floss. He encourages him to stay off sweets. But, guess what?
Johnny ignores all of his dentist’s advice. He eats what he wants. He refuses to brush and floss his teeth,
and his teeth continue to deteriorate and some even have to be pulled. Well, well. Too bad for this dentist, right?
His pay will be tied to how well Johnny’s teeth perform. Good grief. Merit pay does seem ludicrous
when you have no choice about the performance of those entrusted (mandated) to you. For this reason alone, Merit Pay
does not work in the public schooling process. I will not even go into the way that the process will be
used in a manipulative, retributive, and punitive manner. Only the kiss-ups will profit from such a flawed system.
It will not improve education; in fact, it will further destroy the public schooling process.
Teachers Teach Students; They Don’t Learn Them!
Lawyers defend clients; they don’t acquit them. Physicians treat patients; they don’t
heal them. Teachers teach students; they don’t learn them. The merit pay concept for education is incurably
flawed because the assumption is that teachers actually “learn” students. It’s not even correct English.
No, the motivation to learn is a social/cultural phenomenon. If a “student” brings little or no motivation
to learn to the schooling process, then there is little that a teacher can do to make this “student” learn.
Our clueless educrats and philanthropic vultures have never accepted this. In fact, I don’t even think that they
understand this. They still think, metaphorically speaking, that the Earth is flat.
I am not talking
about abilities; I am talking about motivation. Many “students” come to class each day without any book,
pencil, notebook, etc., and they either stay disengaged (by sleeping or day-dreaming) or they play “cops and robbers”
with their teachers, disrupting any viable chance for the students who want to learn to learn. We have proposed that
these non-learners be sent to an official Non-Learning Center (NLC). We would actually call it the “Non-Learning
Center.” The other students would dog them out, and this would be good! We have to learn to do what other
countries do (and are quite successful at it): We need to use peer pressure to improve learning, not to deflate learning.
This was done so naturally by American teachers of yesteryear, but we became “sensitive” to the “self-esteem”
of our student-thugs, and now these thugs are destroying our schools. Hardly anyone will breathe this, but at MACE,
we are just “crazy” enough to tell the truth. No, we would not even go through the pretense of sending instructional
lessons to the students who are removed from the regular school environment because of their willful and wanton misconduct.
Sending special instructional materials for these student-thugs is just a continual shifting of the responsibility for learning
onto the backs of teachers instead of placing it where it needs to be placed…on the shoulders of the parents and their
children. Teachers are at the school to teach, not to be police officers, psychiatrists, bouncers, et al. Teachers
teach. Students learn or they don’t learn. But, teachers definitely do not “learn the students.”
Merit Pay Again, Jackasses, and the Same Histrionic Insults at Teachers (SHIT)!
Several times, I have been asked about my
position on merit pay for teachers. Now the chic phrase used by the vulture philanthropists, Arne Duncan, and other
educrats is “valued-added evaluations.” It’s all the same. It’s about tying a teacher’s
pay to how well a child does on a paper and pencil test. What do I think of merit pay? It does
not work in public education because kids are not inanimate objects floating down a conveyor belt. All are different.
Plus, rogue administrators will simply give the worst students (yes, there are some students who are “worst,”
despite the fixation on political correctness) to the teachers who refuse to kiss up and/or to have sex with them. How
is this so far for bluntness? By the way, if you blog my name along with Arne Duncan’s name, you will see that
my comment quoted in an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution “lit up the blogosphere,”
as one observer noted. I just believe in being honest about what is going on in public education. I
have written extensively on the woes of merit pay in public education. Arne Duncan was threatening the removal of the
administrators and the teachers from schools which did not “improve” (as measured by standardized tests).
I simply asked what Mr. Duncan was going to do with the most important people at these schools, the children? I said
that many were lazy and unmotivated and undisciplined and that Duncan wanted move everyone at these schools except the most
important people, the children. I think that one gutsy reporter asked Mr. Duncan to respond to my question at a Rose
Garden press conference with President Obama.
I have worked in the only Georgia school system in modern
times which was on merit pay, and the pay correlated with butt kissing or connections, pure and simple. I saw which
teachers were getting merit pay, and it had nothing to do with “merit.” It is another control mechanism
which will be severely abused by dishonest, amoral, angry, and abusive administrators. More rampant cheating will take place.
But, it may help the State of Georgia balance the budget [receiving the Race to the Top “bribes”], and this
is really what it is all about.
Teachers and Blueberries
I love the Blueberry
Story. If you have never heard this story, please do yourself a favor and read it. http://www.jamievollmer.com/blueberries. In fact, I was
just showing a colleague of mine a letter that I received from my father which was postmarked in November of 2002, and he
included the Blueberry Story in this letter. I have had this letter on one of my stacks of papers in my office, intending
to have it put on our website at MACE, TheTeachersAdvocate.Com. It clearly and simply
outlines the problem with trying to tie teachers’ salaries to the performance of students. I remember the rich
kids from the Green Island Country Club being districted right past my father’s junior high (Daniel Jr. High in Columbus,
Georgia) so that they could attend public school at Richard’s Jr. High on the other side of town with fellow rich kids.
When the Assistant Superintendent would periodically ask my father why his school’s test scores were not as high
as Richard’s test scores, my father, in his wise and intrepid way, would simply say, “Doc, you can’t win
the Kentucky Derby with Jackasses.” He was not calling his students jackasses; he was simply stating that you
can’t expect his school to have higher scores than Richards Jr. High School if you are shipping all of his rich kids
to Richards – right past his school. It is indisputable that test scores and socio-economic scores are positively
correlated. Teachers would have to be financially stupid or financially independent to volunteer to teach in a poor
school if their pay were going to be tied to the standardized test scores of their students. What will happen? More
and more rookie teachers will be placed in the poor schools. They will not have tenure, and they will be encouraged
(ever so subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly) to engage in systematic cheating.
we have had scads of legislative-sponsored educational programs with which to contend (Minimum Foundation, APEG, QBE, ITBS,
GTEP, GTOI, GTDRI, CRCT, NCLB, AYP, A+ Foundation, and now Race to the Top). Race to the Flop is more of
the same of the latest educational boondoggle coming from the banks of the Potomac. All of these programs are not worth
SHIT. How do you like that acronym? Same Histrionic Insults at Teachers (SHIT). No one wants
to address the Four Horsemen of Public Education: (1) Defiant & Disruptive Students; (2) Irate & Irresponsible
Parents; (3) Angry & Abusive Administrators; and (4) Systematic Cheating. We often say this at MACE:
You cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions. This
is a fact, Jack.
Merit Pay: Red Herring & Piltdown Man
This idiotic value-added evaluation continues to drives good teachers out of public education, and it discourages talented
young people from entering into to the profession of teaching (whatever is left of the “profession”). I
can’t help but to think about the comment that my rather blunt but very funny father said while the family was sitting
in the car at a gas station over 40 years ago: “There goes _____________ and ___________. They don’t
have a brain between them.” He was looking at two elected officials walking together beside this service station.
One was a State Senator (eighth grade education) and the other was one of his former high school students who was a big shot
on the Metro City Council in Columbus. It’s these people who get into power and think that they know what is wrong
with public education. But, none of them (including U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan) know their butts from
deep center field!
What is wrong with public education today is not the teachers. It’s the students – their lack of
motivation to learn and their often defiant and disruptive conduct – who are the problems…along with their irate
and irresponsible parents. Folks, let’s get real: Most of the problems in public education
are located in urban schools. Not all of the problems, but the lion’s share of them are simply urban school problems.
But, our politicians and educrats do not have the nerve to hit head-on what the real problems are. They want to appear
to be finding a solution to the problems but they are only compounding the problems and exacerbating the problems. Then,
these numb-skulled and mean-spirited administrators carry out these truncated and benighted “plans” for improvement
like good little Educational Nazis.
Merit pay has never worked in public education.
It will never work. It is the politicians’ Red Herring and the philanthropic vultures’ Piltdown Man of Public
Education. © Big Daddy Publishers, 2014.