Kriner Cash the recently crowned Superintendent of Buffalo Schools is a huge fan of merit pay. In Memphis he beat the bushes for private donors and rustled up 1.4 million in practically no time that he earmarked as a merit pay fund for teachers. Memphis is a brief spot in time in Kriner Cash's history with merit pay though. It gets better.
In Martha's Vineyard Kriner Cash was allowed to write his own evaluation then granted merit pay bonuses for how well he thought he achieved a list of goals he set for himself at the start of the year. If you want to read that again go ahead but I'll repeat: He wrote his own evaluation then received merit pay bonuses depending on how great of a job he thought he'd done. Trust your instincts on whether he got the bonuses or not. For seven straight years the board in Martha's Vineyard paid Cash these bonuses plus an annual 5% pay increase.
It wasn't until 2003 when a scandal in the culinary arts program involving a teacher, Peter Koines, stealing students funds, kitchen gear and pie fixings -- yep, the dreaded pie fixings -- caused an unusual backlash against Cash and his bonuses. The board split on paying him his bonus for "outstanding service" and when the community meeting of about 100 souls was convened there was much empathy for the disgraced teacher who'd admitted his theft and no shortage of hostility for Cash whom many felt had bungled the investigation. When a board member questioned the automatic style of granting Cash merit pay bonuses every year pointing out that the system has only 2 scores an A+ or a failure, Cash suggested they could make gradations of his bonuses. Using a page from the ed reform handbook where they "run it like a business" Cash added “I don’t think it should be taken off the table. “Other professions have it — what they call bonuses — a way of acknowledging fine work for a difficult job.”
Paul Vanlandingham, a resident of West Tisbury and a culinary arts professor who blew the whistle on (pie fixings thief) Mr. Koines when he came to the high school as part of an accreditation team, suggested that the superintendent should not be writing his own evaluations. With the clock showing nearly half past ten, Mr. Cash tried putting a positive spin on a grueling evening. “This was a great meeting,” he said. “Evaluation, when thoughtful, is a good tool for improvement.”
So true, especially the "when thoughtful" part. Full Story
Carl Paladino and Friends in their hallucinogenic teacher hit piece "Vision Statement of the Board Majority" include merit pay for teachers as a major plank in their platform. We all know merit pay doesn't work for teachers and hasn't over three decades and dozens of scholarly research studies. In fact it's led to some of the more scandalous cheating episodes of recent note, including the one in Atlanta where teachers were given jail time and the mess in D.C. where Michelle Rhee was never investigated and allowed to run away and sell fertilizer instead of going to prison. But the reformy class thinks it's swell to treat teachers the same as used car salesmen. Lacking any familiarity with concepts like team and collegiality, people like Paladino think it would be a great idea for teachers to withhold materials and information from each other and to actively work against each other and undermine the efforts of colleagues all for the sake of a cash bonus.
We all realize merit pay is a dog that doesn't hunt in school buildings but just for the sake of accountability let's play along with Sampson, Quinn and Carl and put it on the table as if it were a viable component of the educational milieu.
My question to everyone with stars in their eyes over Kriner Cash as a Superintendent is why are you all in a rush to pay teachers based on "merit" -- which really means test scores -- yet here we are with a Superintendent who shouts merit pay from the mountain tops and none of you ever considered for a second that he should be paid according to the merits of his performance? --aka test scores ?--
- Why is it you want to pit Mrs. Wagner and Mr. Dombrowski who've taught 4th grade together for 12 years and have it humming like a swiss watch against each other? Yet when Kriner Cash strolls into town in his shades and his ring around the rosy lapel pin you all go weak in the knees and throw a 27% pay increase from what Pamela Brown got at him? Is that because Dr. Brown was after all, just a girl?
- Is it because you're so bedazzled and intimidated and thanking your lucky stars as board member Sharon Belton Cottman said, "we're lucky he'd even consider coming here?"
- Why is it you are all so willing to play hardball and strut your tough guy strut against 22 year old first year teachers who bust their backs teaching tough kids in underfunded schools yet when this guy sails into town announcing he never even applied and you'd have to be crazy to want this job, you all go to mush and start throwing money and perks and a buyout package at him?
- Why exactly do you have such a clear double standard when it comes to the way you treat teachers and the way you're treating a man who lives and dies by the merit pay sword?
I think it's clear the board negotiated from a position of weakness with Dr. Cash. He held all the cards and both sides knew it. They were afraid to put him in a merit pay scenario because everyone including Cash knew it wasn't going to end with him getting the bonuses. How would it, unless he was going to be evaluating himself as he did in Martha's Vineyard. The reality is that none of the board really has any faith that merit pay improves education. They know it's a gimmick and a con that can be used against teachers to underpay them and shame them and blame them for test scores that are affected by so many things a teacher simply can't control. But they'll use it against teachers as a stick while pretending it's really a carrot to get better teaching out of them.
They were afraid to use it on Kriner Cash because he too knows merit pay is a scheme and a scam and the only way you ever really ring the bell and go home with the cigar and the huge stuffed minion doll is when you can somehow rig the process. Say, by evaluating yourself, for example. If any of the Board Majority ever wanted to show their faith in merit pay as a legitimate educational policy this was their chance but they stepped back in sheer cowardice and allowed the opportunity to pass like a waist high fastball right over home plate. Because they know, like we know, that it never, ever works. Let's remember this when they try to stick it into our upcoming contract.
Sorry folks, but if it aint good enough for your lead geese then it aint good enough for us ganders neither.