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Greg Farr

Ok, just call me Mr. Gullible! I fell for it hook-line-and-sinker. Good job, Chris!

p.s. and I suppose the prize is an April Fool's treat, too!

Reggie Engebritson

I'm reading and looking for the "hidden message" and thinking, "Oh my goodness! Is this really going to be happening? How wonderful!" and then decide to read more about it on Chris' website. I click the link and it took me two times (hey! I've had a long day) before I got the joke. Very clever, Chris!

Scott McLeod

No, not the obvious hidden message. A secret hidden message. Hey, anyone got thoughts on principal performance pay?

Peter Rock

Check out the first letter of each paragraph in Chris' post.

What do I win?

I used a similar tactic in a Fool's Day post a few years ago with the first letter in each sentence. I told my staff that they would be charged a dime for each outgoing email from their school account. I burnt a few teacher bad on that one. :)

Peter Rock

Oh yeah and about performance pay...

It's just as insane for principals as it is for teachers. Anyone who endorses such a thing is clueless. "Accountability"? Give me a break. Let's first have a discussion on what that word really means before we declare its existence through these asinine suggestions. Hey, McDonald's puts "employee of the month" pictures up in their restaurants...and they are successful. So it must be a good idea right? Let's do it! Hey let's put Coke machines in our schools to help fund education! We need money right? So it must be a good idea!

Oops. Sorry...there goes me being sarcastic and uncouth again.

Peter Rock

I can hear it now...

"Peter, instead of being sarcastic why don't you state why you are against performance pay for teachers and administrators?"

OK, fine. Because I care about students.

Not that reflective individuals need research to tell them what they already know, but research says that generally, the more people are offered bribes to do something, the less they actually take interest in the thing they are to do. Because administrators and teachers are to care for students, I see performance pay as a distraction from the task at hand. I see it as getting tied closely to high-stakes standardized testing results which are already an insane product of the predominantly U.S.-based "accountability" movement.

Seriously, those "educators" who support this stuff should speak up and explain themselves. People who support this must have a rather warped and biased view of human nature to begin with. Believe it or not, not all of us need to be thrown a bone to do what we do. Some may slobber like Pavlov's dog at the sound of the bell-o'-money but it's true - some teachers and administrators do it for the love of it. If educators are not being given a living wage then that is another issue, but please leave your behaviorist tactics at the door. Cash rewards are only going to encourage the wrong people to climb the ladder of education. In turn, this will just make things worse as those same people will write and implement policies based upon their perception of what drives people to learn and succeed.

Some questions:

What kind of educator will you attract by offering a cash incentive program? If one believes in life-long learning, how does one justify the inherent contradiction between that ideal and performance pay? Or is "life-long learning" just a vacuous phrase used flippantly in philosophy and mission statements and by unrealistic teachers like myself?

Jan Borelli

Oh yeah... like someone is going to pop up and claim they support pay incentives for increasing student achievement!

But, let me say that I am not unprofessional (on most days) nor am I crass and less driven by higher ideals than most of us here. However, I would like to receive some recognition (and in a money driven society... money ain't bad) for the outstanding accomplishments of my faculty and me. Does this make me money grubbing or unwilling to do what I am going to do (whether I am paid additionally)... no. It just means that I wouldn't mind a little ca-ching in my pocket.

Additionally, I have suffered the incredible slings of outrageous fortune when I took over an at-risk school. It seems we got beat up on a daily basis. We have now progressed wonderfully... do I hear everyone remarking about the incredible performance? Not really. In education (nowadays), we seem to like to focus on the negative.

So there you have it! Throw your rocks at me for being so crass as to think that money might be nice to have.

Steve Poling

Why not pay principals for performance? The school thrives or dies on their leadership.

A. Mercer

Having come out of the business world (worked 7 years at a large national bank before I switched to teaching), this model has had problems in the business environment. First, we've had CEOs doing things to inflate earnings/value for the short run that hurt a company in the long run.

Next, business is different than public schools. Not only do customers get to choose a business, but a business can choose not to do business with a given customer. We do not (or should not) have that luxury in public schools. This is a rarely talked about phenomena, but businesses do not want every customer, they want as many of the customers that will give them a good return or profit as they can get. They will make their business unpalatable to someone who they perceive may not be a profitable customer (charging high fees to someone who bounces checks, jacking up interest on a credit card account with slow payments), or they will just not do business with them. Once, I heard a senior vice president talk about a Nordstrom’s anecdote, where the store refunded money for a snow tire that was returned, even though they didn’t carry snow tires. He stated clearly that this was not a profitable way to run a business and it would not be an acceptable customer service practice at our (large) bank. In other words, the customer is right, as long as there is a profit in giving it to them.

I’ve seen schools try to do this “cherry picking” with certain students, but they are never as effective as a business in this practice (some of our local charter schools seem to be getting very adept at this practice). As public schools we have to take all customers.

Last, where is the money for these bonuses coming from? I can kind of see a model that is an analogy to the corporate world where the CEO is compensated with bonuses for increasing profits (in other words bringing in more money). The situation in education is much less direct. A well-performing school is arguably going to bring up real estate values and increase the tax base, so they are earning their pay in that sense maybe? Seems a little dicey to me though.

There are a lot of complaints about inflated CEO salaries because there is a perceived shortage of top CEOs, so the salaries for all CEOs (mediocre and otherwise) are rising. It hasn’t resulted in more, better CEOs from what I’m hearing, so I’m wondering if this would result in more great principals?

Peter Rock

Ms. Mercer says:

"First, we've had CEOs doing things to inflate earnings/value for the short run that hurt a company in the long run."

In order to implement performance pay, there must be some sort of measurement. But the problem is, the primary job of an administrator (or teacher) is not measurable. The primary job of an administrator is to care for students. Every decision an administrator makes should be based upon this intention. Therefore, performance pay can only open a possible door of corruption as it attempts to measure the unmeasurable.

Perhaps, as Jan states - "Does this make me money grubbing or unwilling to do what I am going to do (whether I am paid additionally)... no." - many administrators will rise above the temptation to fudge the process. But why even take the chance? Furthermore, one need not be blatantly corrupt. Perhaps an unsound policy tied to performance pay (high-stakes standardized testing?) would otherwise be challenged by a reflective administrator (caring for students). Perhaps an unsound policy will go unchallenged because that administrator knows his school will likely add some "ca-ching" to his paycheck (euphemistically referred to as "recognition"). In this sense, performance pay could push an administrator on the fence to the side of passivity (whether consciously or not) thus giving malpractice a tacit thumbs-up.

But there remains the obvious question I have. Assuming the base pay for an administrator is a living wage, how can one ethically defend the practice of performance pay when that money could be spent directly on the quality of resources available to students? How can one justify the padding of a wallet at the expense of students?

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