RAISE Act Of 2016 Is Fatally Flawed

While I have yet to learn who is responsible for cobbling together the proposed RAISE Act of 2016, one thing is evident.

They know precious little about what motivates teachers and the realities of today’s classroom.  At its heart, this legislation assumes that money is what motivates a teacher’s performance.   That is laughable and has been substantiated by countless research efforts.

Go to any college or university in Alabama and ask a group of sophomores planning to be teachers if they chose education because they want to get rich.  You will be met with a roomful of laughter.

Yet the whole premise of RAISE is that we will offer bonuses to teachers if their students get better grades and magically, hard-working teachers will suddenly become smarter, harder-working and better trained.  This is the same premise used in shirt factories 50 years ago where some of my kinfolks sat at a sewing machine all day putting collars on shirts or zippers in pants.  It was called piece work.

It’s the classic (and often discounted) idea that we should “run schools like a business.”

A few years ago the Business Council of Alabama created the Business Education Alliance.  Here’s a statement from the BEA web site.

Just as competitors force businesses to improve quality, service and products for their customers in order to maintain a share of the market, school choice does the same for education. Failing schools are provided the incentive they need in order to improve or risk losing students to better performing facilities.

Would someone show me ONE, just ONE, example of where this has worked.  Students are not customers.  Teachers are not robots.

When my cousin Sybil put those collars on shirts in Andalusia, guess what?  Every collar she picked up to attach was just like the last one and the next one.  But when her daughter Hilda taught school in Pike County, where any of her students the carbon copy of another one?

I live in Montgomery and the giant Hyundai assembly plant is about 10 miles from where I’m sitting.  Each day hundreds of truckloads of parts come to that plant from suppliers all over the region.  Each part has to meet rigid specifications as to quality.  Suppliers are judged as to how well they furnish parts that meet specs.

Today, 730,000 students sat in Alabama public school classrooms.  NONE of them had the same specs.  Instead, teachers had to do the best they could with what they got from 730,000 different suppliers.  So making the claim that a classroom and an assembly line are one and the same is foolhardy and shows how detached someone is who believes they are.

Back to the teacher bonuses.  They are hardly new.  And hardly the way to the promised land of school improvement.

Look at this study, Incentive Pay Programs Do Not Affect Teacher Motivation or Reported Practices; Results From Three Randomized Studies.  Researchers looked at incentive pay programs in Nashville, Texas and New York City.  Incentives for teachers were as much as $15,000 in Nashville.

Here are some conclusions:  Teachers did not consider their programs as motivating.  Teachers did not have high expectancy that their personal efforts would lead to student achievement gains due to concerns about the influence of family environment on student achievement.  Analyses did not find that any of the three programs had affected teachers’ reported instructional practice or number of hours worked.  (However, teachers in Nashville did report they put greater emphasis on test prep.)  It is difficult to obtain teachers’ support of incentive pay programs if they think the performance measure is problematic.

And the bottom line conclusion: Given our findings and the previous literature that finds weak effect of performance pay for teachers, policymakers might favor other reforms.

Interpretation.  Ditch the RAISE Act of 2016!!!

10 Responses to RAISE Act Of 2016 Is Fatally Flawed

  1. Larry I agree with you on 95% of what you write. I also agree with 99% of what this post says about teachers being motivated by money. I’m not sure though that we want have some highly qualified teachers join our ranks though, and some poor ones leave us, if we paid them for quality of work. It is a dangerous slope and I’m not saying I support the RAISE Act because I don’t know all that is in it. But I think we have to give this one a hard look before we toss it out the window and fight the legislators once again. I think we may be better off to sure up our support for the TRS.

    • thanks for your thoughts. very appreciated. i have yet to talk to a single educator who supports this. i will be writing lots more about this bill because there is so much to it. good teachers who are tenured will not choose the performance track because the extra money is not worth the extra stress. i talked to a 36-year science teacher yesterday who can’t wait to retire in a few more months. and when your pay is determined by test scores, what do you do. teach to the test? which is exactly what everyone says we should not do.

      in addition, this sets up a state data system that will cost millions upon millions of dollars and sound like something dreamed up in washington. cost to local systems in time and labor will be enormous. send an email to: larrylee133@gmail.com and will send you a copy of the bill.

  2. I’ve not read the act, Larry, but the concept of teacher pay based on student performance is certainly flawed. It WOULD be good if ALL teachers were better paid and if principals were properly trained and inventoried to provide strong instructional leadership and honest, accurate teacher evaluations. I won’t hold my breath!

  3. Mr. Lee. I do completely agree with you. As an educator of 20 years, I have worked in the most affluent schools in Alabama and two Title I schools. Student’s progress at a faster rate in schools with less family stress (essentially the more affluent communities). This does not mean that the teachers are “better” and therefore deserve a bonus. What it does mean, though, is that if the Raise Act does pass, it will be harder to find good teachers who are willing to teach in communities with high poverty rates. Education is about giving our children the tools needed to be successful in tomorrow’s world. The Raise Act, in my opinion, does not help our children who live in poverty. (I believe that number in Alabama is over 50%)

    • Susan, you make an excellent point. Remember we were told that the Accountability Act was all about helping kids in failing schools and we see how that turned out. Not. And remember that the same folks who promoted the Accountability Act are promoting this bill. Even a country boy like me can connect those dots.

  4. I never see “students’ aptitudes” mentioned in reference to merit pay. It would be interesting to hear the response from the person who wrote the Raise Act.

  5. Senator Marsh and other legislators plan to look into providing a pay raise for teachers “with strings attached”. Marsh stated the taxpayer wouldn’t approve a raise without the accountability of teachers’ evaluation (45%) based on the test scores of their students and/or relinquishing tenure. Public education teachers have NO input into the selection of students in their classroom. In a Title I (high poverty) elementary school, teachers may receive 24-28 students with 6 different academic levels. They teach: reading, math, social studies, science, language arts (including grammar, spelling and writing), and have a 30 minute plan period; a 20 minute lunch (with the students); required paperwork to indicate the outcomes of students; i.e. they taught 3 special needs, 2 ELL students, 1 homeless and 3 moved from another district with a different curriculum. In comparison, a teacher that has all advanced placement students may only teach 1 level and one subject. How many teachers will be eager to teach children in the first setting? How many lawsuits will the state legislature initiate by setting up this lose-lose situation? What about investing in training and specifically for administrators to assist, document, and provide assistance and feedback to teachers? What about a beginning and ending assessment that provides growth rather than just an ending regurgitation of information? What about providing 2 teachers in every elementary classroom so teachers can team teach and provide small group and 1:1 learning? Finally, what about providing an average salary based on the rest of the states? The Teacher/Portal website provides the national average for teachers: http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state/ According to their data, Alabama is one of 6 states with the lowest AVERAGE SALARIES: Alabama $47,949; Arkansas $46,631; Florida $46,598; Kansas $47,464; Mississippi $41,814; Missouri $47,517. All the other states range from $48,000 to $72,000

  6. Thank you for telling the truth. If this passes, I fear it will set us back to where we were when I started teaching in 1971. As a reading specialist, I worry that we will move back to the old days of skill and drill and worksheets and forget the need students have to read and write massive ammounts of texts.. I am deeply saddened by this attempt to undermine the professional learning of teachers who need many different ways to instruct every reader in their classroom. Reading instruction and success is dependent on accepting the fact that children use many systems when reading, writing, and thinkng. Teachers need to know every possible way to help children access the correct systems for the nature of the literacy task. Your analogies are fittng, because each reader might use a different combination of systems to comprehend and create texts. It takes just the right assessment and a diligent teacher with the desire to tap into each students’ strengths as well as areas where the student needs supprt because all students differ. Talking, listening, observing, and assessing take time and skill. None of these are cheap and they all require a teacher to continually develop as a reading teacher. Please continue to write and talk about this and I will do the same.

  7. I agree with what everyone is saying. Another thing that gets me is students’ and parents’ surveys play role in teacher performance evaluations under this act. So teachers will need to decide whether to pacify the parents and get a good evaluation, or they can do their job and risk their job. There is just so much that makes me angry when I read this bill.

    • The more I study this bill and the more educators I talk to, it is obvious it should be called the BIGGEST LOSER. Someone wants to roll back the clock on our students while they set some folks up to make LOTS of money. Shameful

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