Its Not on the Test

Last night all but one of the PWC School Board members voted to approve a plan to bring pay-for-performance to the county via a federal grant entitled Teacher Incentive Fund. 31 schools are eligible. The objective is to attract and retain good teachers to under-performing schools. Otherwise known as merit pay, teachers, teachers’ organizations, and teachers’ unions nation wide have been opposed to bringing in this time of evaluation process.

Pay-for-performance requires superior evaluators and has been known to cut down on sharing and collegiality in places where it has been attempted. Research is scarce showing that students learn more or better when their teachers are evaluated under a merit pay system.

According to (full story at insidenova)

If awarded, the federal grant money would go to teachers and administrators at eligible schools that score well on a county-created 100-point scoring system. That system is made up of student performance, student behavior, instructional leadership, climate and instructional delivery performance.

Under these five categories are several subcategories. For example, student performance has seven subcategories which add up to 25 points on the 100-point scale.

There are 31 eligible schools in the county. Eligibility is determined by the percentage of economically disadvantaged student population at those particular schools.
The money would likely be handed out in a tiered system in which principals, Standards of Learning teachers, special education teachers and English for speakers of other languages teachers would receive the largest share. Depending on how much money the division receives, the awards would likely range from $2,000 to $10,000 per teacher or administrator, said Pedersen.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. Those who work in ineligible schools will be out of luck and won’t get this opportunity. Of course, those are the teachers and principals who are dealing with less needy students. I wonder how many teachers will be willing to share with someone down the hall if they are being evaluated via pay-for-performance.

As long as there NCLB continues, the playing field will never be level. NCLB assumes that all kids at the same grade level can learn the same amount of material in the same amount of time. Starting off with a false premise leads to false conclusions.

38 Thoughts to “PWCS Approves Pay-For_Performance for Teachers”

  1. Wolverine

    Am I reading this right?. It seems like this is saying that individual teachers and administrators in the tougher schools would get higher pay depending on the assessed performance of their own classes. I would much prefer to see the entire staff of this type of school become recipients of extra pay — “combat pay”, so to speak — if there is a positive assessment of overall success at their particular school — sort of like the current laudatory label of “breakthrough school.” That would require genuine teamwork, causing the best teachers to help those not doing as well to pick up their game so that the whole team can win.

  2. I believe you are reading it right, Wolverine. And I agree re combat pay and the spirit of cooperation.

    I don’t think merit pay fits into the educational model.

  3. Wolverine, please make sure Mrs. W. sees the video. Sad.

  4. KimS

    I agree that it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. I find it interesting that eligibility to participate in the program is based on the economic conditions in the surrounding community. There are many PWC schools in relatively affluent areas which are struggling but they are ineligible for the program because the surrounding community isn’t facing economic hardships.

    NCLB has many myriad problems, but assuming that every child can learn the same content in the same amount of time with the same instruction and materials isn’t one of them because NCLB wasn’t predicated on that assumption. This one size fits all approach to instruction has come from pressures by the developers of instructional programs and education administrators, not teachers or NCLB.

    One of the biggest problems with NCLB, in my opinion, is that it requires schools to pass a fixed and rising percentage of students on state assessments each year. The effect is that the focus in schools has shifted from teaching every child to the extent of his or her abilities, to making sure every child passes. As a result, the majority of the classroom teacher’s attention and effort is exerted to bring the “under-performers” up to the expected level while the kids at or above grade level are left to fend for themselves. While I agree that the “under-performers” deserve attention, so do the upper and at grade level performers.

  5. Oh? What else do you call teaching all kids at the same grade level the same material and then testing the same kids at the same time?

    It doesn’t matter what NCLB was predicated on. In essence, that is exactly what what ends up happening. It is very flawed legislation that sounds good on paper and in practicality is dreadful.

    AYP which does keep changing is another entire issue and one that dictates how instruction is implemented in all too many schools.

  6. marinm

    My only issue with this is that money isn’t taken from non-performers to give to performers.

  7. Assume that most people are average. Are there some bad apples? Sure. There are bad apples everywhere. However, ask why they are there. Some lame administrator was too lazy to do the paperwork to get them out.

    Those same lame administrators are evaluating under merit pay.

    Marin, I don’t want non-performers paid less. I don’t want them employed.

  8. marinm

    Ever try to fire a teacher? The union would be all over you.

    Teachers that are kid touchers are allowed to continue to draw there teaching salaries thanks to union contracts.

    I don’t disagree with what your idea is (unemploying non-performers) but I think like in any line of business – your going to have stars, good ones, average, do the minimum, and tools. Get rid of the tools. Discourage the minimum seekers by cutting salary and providing to the achievers. You reinforce that you do well you get rewarded, you do poorly you eventually fail out.

    I just find it amusing that teachers can hand out grades to students of varying backgrounds, varying intelligence levels, varying homelives, etc. but they resist as much as possible the idea of themselves being graded and compensation being tied to it.

  9. That really isn’t true, Marin. Not even. You are making comments about the wrong state.

    That is how rumors get started. I have seen many teachers not only removed from the classroom but also fired. Teachers are graded annually. In PWC they have a full performance evaluation every three years after going on continuing contract.

    And yes, teachers do get due process but don’t expect the education association to back criminal behavior. They back due process.

    You have been reading too much right wing propaganda.

  10. As if teachers working with disadvantaged students aren’t working to their max already? Even if the answer is “yes,” can we then say teachers who work with wealthier sectors are NOT working to max capacity?

    This policy will only serve to build up more resentment between socio-economic groups and teachers. Pay for performance across the board if you must do so. But creating further inequity is, I believe, irresponsible.

  11. Agreed, Pinko.

    Marin, school systems aren’t going to be able to afford the luxury of having the glamor guys and gals teaching for them. There are teacher shortages already, especially in math, science, special ed, foreign language.

    Would it surprise you to know that PWC already imports teachers from all over the world on that three year plan?

    Demand and hassle all you want. Decent teachers will quit as they are doing left and right. No one told them the crap they were going to have to put up with. You want to cut their pay 20%, kick them out of VRS, make them pay their own retirement.

    Just who do you think will teach the children when these get fed up?

  12. marinm

    MH, can you kindly point out which part of #8 is right wing propaganda?

    My guess is this part: Teachers that are kid touchers are allowed to continue to draw there teaching salaries thanks to union contracts.

    But, if you noticed, I never said the union defended the teachers for being kid touchers just that the contracts afforded them protection. So, I belive I said the same thing you have. Wait. Welcome to the right wing party!!! Your ascot is over on the table and we have wine, cheese and crackers. 🙂

    Pinko, I point you to Harrison Bergeron.

  13. Privatize the schools. Pay the parents vouchers. Let the schools pay the teachers. Since the individual schools would each be the best judge of what is the pay scale needed to attract good teachers at that school, problem solved.

  14. marinm

    I thought it was amazing that for what the county pays per student for Hylton or Forest Park that it’s more expensive than the tuition at John Paul the Great Catholic HS. And they have some fairly impressive teacher credentials.

  15. “Ever try to fire a teacher? The union would be all over you.” = RWP I had better watch where I put my AScot.

    Cargo, there is no evidence that would cure schools. Some schools are doing a fabulous job.

    What do you mean what the county pays for Hylton or Forest park?

  16. Marin, the cops are called on kid touchers immediately in Virginia. Kid touchers are not kept. Frankly, I get tired of hearing that on the news, on the blogs when I know for a fact that is isn’t true in this state.

  17. @marinm
    Who is Harrison Bergeron? Is that the kill-Obama-geometry teacher?

  18. Far out! I have to read it now.

  19. @cargosquid
    Problem solved so long as you have ethical schools that provide education for more than the rich.

    I’ve worked for too many private colleges (and even attended one) that ripp off students in the name of providing a free market and a chance for all to go to college. If we get rid of public schools, I promise the same thing will happen and the gap between haves and have-nots will widen enough to make the Grand Canyon look like a little crack in a sidewalk. If you think we have a bunch of illiterate kids walking around now, you can bet those numbers would multiply exponentially if private schools were allowed to completely take over the education sector.

  20. @Moon-howler
    Remember, the public will still be paying for the schools. But the money will come through the parents not the administration. Let the parents pick which schools they want to go to and pay them. The money could also be used for homeschooling. Let the schools charge what they want and if the parents save money, let them keep it. It the schools charge more than the voucher, then they have to be able to justify the higher prices with better results.

    The better teachers will get paid higher. That’s the problem I was solving. There’s no “curing” the schools. Its another bureaucracy run by humans. There is only improving some schools. The schools will not just provide education for the rich. The market isn’t big enough.

  21. KimS

    Moon-howler :
    Oh? What else do you call teaching all kids at the same grade level the same material and then testing the same kids at the same time?
    It doesn’t matter what NCLB was predicated on. In essence, that is exactly what what ends up happening. It is very flawed legislation that sounds good on paper and in practicality is dreadful.
    AYP which does keep changing is another entire issue and one that dictates how instruction is implemented in all too many schools.

    MH – the is nothing in NCLB about instructional materials or approaches. NCLB simply requires that a set and rising percentage of students pass a state standards based assessment. “One size fits all” instruction was created by people selling textbooks and education administrators who believe that centralized control and common instruction ensures more even student learning.

    My point is that you can’t blame NCLB for the approaches school districts adopted to meet its requirements. Some states have responded to NCLB by dumbing down their standards, dumbing down the assessments, or changing the definition of proficient. Virginia, in my opinion, has fallen into this trap. But, as before, NCLB didn’t cause this, the people who run the VA DOE / BOE are the ones to blame.

  22. Anyone who has ever attended a private school and compared it to a good public school knows there really is no comparison.

  23. CArgo, I know a lot of parents who just wouldn’t send their kids to school. And I expect our AG would sue someone saying they didn’t have to buy an education for their kid.

  24. Of course NCLB does not dictate curriculum or instructional materials. However, the law does sling down the terms of engagement. The rules are all outlined. States and jurisdictions have to abide by the rules of NCLB.

    The same objectives on grade level must be taught and tested regardless of whether a student is a minority, economically disadvantaged, esol or special ed. Doing otherwise violates the terms of NCLB.

    I don’t care too much for that expression ‘dumbing down.’ It is just a way to be insulting. I heard that used too much various curriculums in PWC.

  25. Elena

    Can anyone say “cherry picking your kids or for that matter schools”.

    NCLB absolutely began the extremism of “teaching to the test”. That isn’t how I want my kids learning.

  26. Diversity Gal

    1. PLEASE STOP SAYING VIRGINIA HAS TEACHER UNIONS! We are NOT allowed to have them here, as we are a right to work state (we CANNOT strike). Our professional organizations work much differently than the unions of other states.

    2. Working on a common curriculum is quite different than everybody learning at the same pace/same level. Trained, working professional educators in this state know that they have to differentiate instruction. It is something we are evaluated upon. Yes, one of the goals is to make students proficient in the material. Another goal is to have each student progress from his or her current level. Much time and energy is put into assessing the reading and math level of students in order to provide them with the education they need to continue their progress.

    Enrichment is present in the gifted program as well as extension activities that teachers have in their classrooms. Many of the projects that teachers assign include choices that will help to meet each student’s needs. Also, leveled reading groups with different activities and even mixed-level small group instruction are oft-employed educational strategies for meeting the needs of a diverse group of students. Contrary to the belief of some on the outside, teachers are encouraged and work hard to meet the needs of average, high-achieving, and gifted students, too.

    3. The privatization model is no longer supported by arguably the country’s most well-respected education scholar, Diane Ravitch (who worked in both George HW Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s administrations in education positions); she used to be a big supporter of NCLB. Here is a quote from her on a March 5 interview with Democracy Now!:

    “And I think that with the proliferation of charter schools, the bottom-line issue is the survival of public education, because we’re going to see many, many more privatized schools and no transparency as to who’s running them, where the money is going, and everything being determined by test scores.”

    Her new book is apparently called The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

  27. Lucky Duck

    Marinm, when you tie teacher compensation to individual student performance you enter dangerous territory. How do you account for the student who just refuses to participate in class, even when his or her parents have been notified? What happens if the parents just don’t care (and it happens)…who fires the student? If the teacher attempts every strategy they know to reach a student and gets no response, what happens to that teacher’s salary? Have you ever had a fellow employee who did not do their share of work? Did the supervisor have their pay docked or was the employee fired? Sorry, can’t do that in a public school.
    I have taught college in Virginia and those students were motivated because they were paying cash to be there, but I have been in dozens of public school classrooms and I will tell you, there are students who just don’t care and regardless of the effort any teacher puts forth, they fail, because they themselves did not put forth the effort. Its a sad fact in this world, there are a certain percentage of people that fail because of their lack of trying, not based upon the effort of those trying to help them. If you want to tie my pay to those people, give me the authority to fire them, like we do in the working world when we tie pay to performance. Don’t tie a teacher’s hand when they only control a small percentage of the product.

  28. Excellent points made by Lucky Duck and Diversity Gal.

    marin, DG has capitalized and bolded the part on unions. Memorize it please. There is a huge difference.

    I still feel that NCLB is very detrimental to the learning environment. It sounds great on paper. In actuality it is problematic. Working on a common curriculum does not mean everyone learns the same amount in the same amount of time. However,grade level kids are tested on these objectives at the same time. Granted, some are ‘tested’ through VGLA. Same objectives. I stand by the NCLB implication: all kids can learn the same thing at the same pace. And NO, they can’t and don’t.

    Differentiated instruction is pretty difficult to do with 30-35 kids in a classroom. People that do this well sure don’t need their pay cut.

  29. Lucky Duck really brings it home when he says not to tie the teacher’s hand when they only control a small percentage of the product. How well put!

  30. marinm


    1. Understood that they’re called something other than union, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck… I notice you brought up the STRIKE word. As a teacher and I presume a member of a professional teachers association are you looking for the ability to strike?

    2. Professors teach a diverse set of students and pay is tied into performance. Our entire secondary education system is built on a free market principle where a student selects the school that fits with what s/he wants and is willing to pay. It really isn’t that much different from a voucher system if you think about it. And, with college enrollments up across the US.. It doesn’t look like people have an issue with how that system works…….

    3. If the college system were run like the public school system do you believe we’d be better off? Why not run the public system like the college system?


    The basic idea of a free education makes it such that kids don’t value the education they receive. So, you have the kids that just don’t care, don’t pay attention or act out. Those kids should be removed from the system and allowed to enter the workforce without government penalty. You’ll find that when given that ‘option’ that some will return back to the education system as they’ll suddenly see the value of it. For those that don’t? Those resources are re-allocated to those that can better use those resources.

    Our current system is designed under the false idea that every kid should goto college. NO! There are just some kids that don’t want to, don’t have the intelligence or the desire. Some kids WANT to work blue collar jobs. Some want to work in factories. Some want to be Head Fry Cook. And, thats OK. We *need* that. While we need engineers, designers, technicians and doctors we also need people that are willing and capable to pump gas, cook a burger or be a clown at a birthday party. There is nothing wrong with that.

    A problem that I see at the college level is this big push for academics and the idea that a practical (versus a classical) education is ‘better’ and what should be strived for. But, I won’t get into a long discussion on that on this thread. 🙂

    To your point; a kid that doesn’t want to learn and is removed from the school for that reason shouldn’t count against the teacher. For any others — terminate.

  31. Diversity Gal


    I am actually a former teacher and current school counselor. I remain up-to-date on teacher-specific issues through continuing education, staff development, tutoring children after school 4 days per week, collaborating with teachers, etc. I am still an educator, though, as part of my everyday job is to instruct classroom lessons, and I am active in my own professional organization.

    Do I want to strike? Not at all. I don’t think I’ve ever had the urge. However, it has occurred to me that actual unions in states like New York have much more input and influence in decision making. Legislators in Virginia do not necessarily have to be concerned that their decision is in line with the experts working in the field, and have more of an opportunity to take advantage of duties and hours educators work, as well as in other areas. Anyone working in the state will tell you that a ton of unpaid hours and duties are pretty much expected.

    I am not saying that I want all aspects of true educational unions, I just want you to understand that there is a huge difference between VA associations/federations and true unions. We truly don’t have the power you may imagine that we do, but I am glad that we have professional associations. Educators collaborating for best practice and advocating for the needs of students and employees alike is a good thing.

    OK…about a college model. Professors work on tenure, much like teachers in true union states. Is that what you think would be a good model here, instead of the continued evaluation model we have for all teachers in Virginia? Also, I think it’s not really valid to compare students K-12, who would never be expected to pay or take out their own loans, with college students. Think about the difference between elementary school student maturity and college students regarding accountability. When you are talking selection, K-12 would really about parent selection, and higher education is MUCH more about student selection and responsibility.

    You may think that our current public educational system is designed for every student to go to college. I don’t think so. It is designed to give each child an opportunity. You do know that vocational educational programs are still going strong in public education, right? In high schools, you will find a number of students who take vocational classes, and then are sent for internships at local businesses. The cosmetology and auto programs have always been well-utilized, but more opportunities exist now in up-and-coming programs like culinary arts.

  32. Diversity Gal

    That should be “really be about parent selection,…”

  33. KimS

    The VGLA isn’t a test (and it’s being phased out). The VGLA is a binder of work submitted in lieu of taking the test. Someone then reviews the binder and assigns a score to the student. When you see large increases in one AYP group in a given year it generally means that use of the VGLA increased in that population.

    Virginia had already adopted and implemented uniform standards of learning for each grade level / high school course when NCLB was passed. The theory being that what students learn at each grade level would be known and common across the state. The National Common Core Standards Initiative is based on that same premise – that a set of minimum standards establishes a common foundation of knowledge across the country. So a kid at Grade 3 in Va would have the same core knowledge as a kid in Minnesota.

    I agree with Diversity that working on a common curriculum (or towards common standards) doesn’t mean (or shouldn’t mean) everybody learning at the same pace/same level. It should establish a minimum set of core knowledge and skills each student must acquire or demonstrate to progress to the next level. It should mean that instruction and instructional materials are designed to ensure that all students have the opportunity to acquire those core knowledge and skills and that students who already have that minimum knowledge and skills are pushed above the standards to the extent of their abilities.

    That’s what it should mean. Reality is very different – not because of the law and the expectation it sets, but because of how schools districts have implemented the law. School districts have responded by teaching to the standards. Differentiated instruction is a term tossed around but rarely delivered outside of reading. I have yet to see any level of differentiated instruction for any of my kids in math, history / social studies, or science. Enrichment in the gifted programs excludes those students who are capable and willing but not necessarily “gifted” (and gifted doesn’t mean capable).

    The net effect is that kids aren’t taught beyond the standards and we get a month of cramming before the exam rather than focusing on knowledge. Its not the law that’s to blame, it’s the way the law was implemented at the local level.

    And the Common Core Standards Initiative is NCLB on steroids.

  34. @marinm
    “Professors teach a diverse set of students and pay is tied into performance.”

    Marin, this is a HUGE problem in post-secondary education. In some schools, student evaluations make or break a professor….which leads to professors grading leniently, watering down the curricula and becoming ineffective. Those professors who refuse to give in get whacked on the evals. And let’s not even start with where any professor can get a bad rap from any dissatisfied student for any reason.

    Furthermore, many colleges are so financially unstable or so bottom-line driven that the slightest complaint over a grade by a student causes the school to cave. “Pay your fee and get your B” becomes the norm. Instructors are at the mercy of administrators and a minority of spoiled students.

    Now, I am not saying there aren’t academic snobs who thrive on failing college kids and that some of them deserve bad ratings because they are simply bad teachers. Most of us who have gone to college have had professors who were brilliant in their fields but horrible at teaching. And I am not saying something should not be done about poor teaching ability (I am all for requiring discipline specialists to complete education courses). But I am saying that pay-for-performance doesn’t work at any level of education. In some cases, it’s like firing a doctor for not being able to cure cancer even when that doctor has done everything in his/her power for the patient.

  35. This whole brouhaha is about the problem of paying better teachers and letting go the bad teachers and how do we evaluate and award the teachers. One of the problems is that our school systems are so unwieldy that there is no reasonable way to evaluate and award teachers. The only way to evaluate a teacher is to determine if the students are learning. And by that, I mean, not to a test. The SOL’s are a joke. When schools are subject to ever greater one size fits all programs like the SOLs and NCLB, the ability to evaluate local conditions erodes. The true evaluations come from parents. Its up to the parents to do THEIR jobs and make sure that the kids get a good education. Since parents are restricted from choosing schools in a public system, there is no mechanism for simple evaluation. If my child is having trouble learning at a certain school, and I determine that part of the reason is the teacher, I try to move her to another teacher, and to a different school, if necessary. If you privatize the schools, and make public the funding, that allows the parents to vote with their feet. Put the power back into the local school boards. Parents can influence them. Trying to get the SOLs changed is impossible. If I don’t like the way Henrico teaches, I can move somewhere else without too much trouble. If I don’t like the SOL method of teaching, I have to move out of state. Return power to the local area.

  36. Kim, you are determined to disagree with me. Now why do you think that I put the word ‘tested’ in quotes? I know VGLA isn’t a test, but very few people here want the boring facts. And for the record, it isn’t just one person who evaluates a VGLA portfolio.

    You are free to approve of NCLB if you want. I strongly disapprove of it as it now stands. If you want to think that I am wrong when I state that the premise surrounding NCLB is that all children can learn the same amount in the same period of time, feel free.

    If grade level students X have y time to learn specific objectives z, regardless, that sounds pretty much like what I am saying. Do some kids not have to learn some of the objectives? Do some kids get a longer school year?

    Any increased instructional time is generally outside the normal school day in after school programs. Some innovative schools take a way PE, music, art or other things kids like. There is one thing for certain, time cannot be created. NCLB affects every kid in America in a public school, regardless of state.

  37. Marin, DG has told you Virginia does not have teachers’ union. She never said she wanted to strike. (and so what if she did) Virginia can form a teacher’s union, but it won’t have collective bargaining and its teachers will not be allowed to strike. If they do strike, the teachers involved immediately lose their Virginia state license. So a union would be rather counter-productive.

    Virginia’s teachers prefer to join professional associations that don’t walk or talk like ducks. You continue to argue over this. Listen to DG. She knows what she is talking about.

Comments are closed.