FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Is There No Limit to the Insults Being Heaped Upon America’s Teachers?

by DAVID MACARAY

When Joe Torre left as manager of the New York Yankees following the 2007 season, it was not without rancor.  According to reports, Torre felt that, after years of faithful and productive service, he had been grossly disrespected by Yankee management.  Torre turned down a one-year $5 million salary offer, which, while a large chunk of change in the real world, was a hefty $2.5 million less than he’d made the previous season.

But it wasn’t simply the cut in pay that rankled Torre.  Rather, it was the insidious suggestion that Torre hadn’t properly applied himself—hadn’t tried hard enough to win—during the previous three disappointing seasons.  To Torre, evidence of that suggestion was demonstrated by the incentive bonuses the Yankees offered.

Per the terms of the new offer, Torre would earn a cash bonus if the team won the division, another cash bonus if they won the pennant, and a substantially larger bonus if they went all the way and won the World Series.  But instead of being energized or intrigued by the bonuses, Torre was insulted.  He took the bonus tie-in to mean the Yanks didn’t think he’d been “putting out” for his $7.5 million, and to a proud man like Torre, that was anathema.

Something similar is going on with America’s public school teachers.  Some well-meaning education reformers have suggested that one way to raise the country’s test scores is by offering teachers merit pay in the form of a “performance bonus.”  Whenever their students’ test scores rose, they’d be given a pile of cash.  Like the Torre situation, the two premises were (1) that the more money offered, the harder they would work, and (2) that the harder they worked, the better the demonstrable results.

While any public teacher could instantly tell you that a teachers’ dedication and a classroom’s test results don’t necessarily correlate, it took a respected “merit pay” study by Vanderbilt University to confirm it.  The Vanderbilt study showed that by offering middle-school math teachers cash bonuses (some as high as $15,000), there were no significant improvements in test scores.

Again, any public teacher could have predicted the results.  Money has virtually nothing to do with it.  Most teachers can rattle off the problems automatically: classroom discipline is lacking, students are tardy, students are absent, students refuse to do their homework, parents do little to support their kids’ academic progress, administrators are nothing but highly paid buck-passers, and the standardized state tests (which have ZERO bearing on a kids’ report cards or their opportunity to promote to the next grade) are arbitrary and flawed.

It’s not as if teachers aren’t looking for solutions.  Indeed, teachers are driving themselves crazy trying to come up with new ways, innovative ways, of improving their students’ performance—not just on the standardized state tests, but on everyday learning.

But with all the hysterical criticism, teachers are freaking out, they’re having nervous breakdowns, they’re leaving the profession in droves, looking for shelter.  While the job never paid that much to begin with, at least it was gratifying in the sense that teaching was considered a noble profession, as teachers were perceived as the “custodians” of the next generation of America’s leaders.  It was a very respectable job.

But that’s all been spoiled by Republican smear-mongers intent on ruining the teachers unions (which give generously to Democratic candidates) and are willing to do so by destroying the reputation of the teachers themselves.  The very notion that offering a teacher a pile of cash could make a night-and-day difference in test score results just shows how naïve and misguided these reformers are.  It’s ludicrous.

Just think about it.   What’s a teacher going to do for a $5,000 bonus? Is she going to say to her boss, “Wait a minute!  Did I hear you right?  Did you just say five grand?!  Whoa!”  Is she then going to say to her class, “Listen up, kids.  Beginning today I’m going to start teaching you the PROPER way, the EFFECTIVE way.  Starting today, I’m going to teach the living crap out of every one you!!  Why?  Because it means an extra five grand!”

Putting this whole thing in terms of cash bonuses not only ignores the fundamental problems facing America’s schools, it humiliates and disgraces a noble profession.  Is there no limit to the insults being heaped upon America’s teachers?

DAVID MACARAY, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.   He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail