Without Merit?

PHOTO / CAROLINE SQUATRITO
PHOTO / CAROLINE SQUATRITO

  “Honestly, the bill is designed to destroy the teacher unions.”

   That’s how Social Studies teacher Scott Craig describes House Bill 4625, with a serious expression and tone to match it.

   The bill, known as the teacher performance bill, was introduced to the Michigan House on April 24, 2013. By press date the bill is still in the process of getting through House committees.

   The bill is designed to change the way teachers are paid throughout public schools in Michigan.

   According to the proposed law, districts shall implement and maintain a method of compensation for its teachers and school administrators that includes job performance and job accomplishments as a significant factor in determining compensation and additional compensation.

   The bill also states that if a particular district has a current collective bargaining agreement the new legislation would not take effect until the contacts are expired.

   Birmingham teacher contracts expire June 30 and if signed into law before a new contract is negotiated this could significantly affect teacher salaries next year.

   Birmingham Education Association president Scott Warrow slammed the measure.

   “There aren’t any positives at all,” Warrow said. “It’s not meant to be positive, it’s meant to be a way to reduce teachers’ and administers’ salaries.”

   The bill was introduced by Republican representative Pete Lund of Shelby Township. Multiple attempts to reach Lund were unsuccessful by press time.

   “We want to reward teachers who are good teachers, whose students learn and grow, and that’s what our goal is and that’s one of the things this bill will accomplish,” Lund said, in an interview with Mlive on May 12.

   Mackinac Center for Public Policy also a conservative think tank told The Highlander it applauded the bill.

   “Ultimately merit pay is the most fair approach – it is fair teachers who strive for excellence and make an impact on students; it is fair for students who deserve those kinds of teachers; and it is fair to the taxpayers who support public schools and have a right to expect great results,” Ted O’Neil, Media Relations Manager for Mackinac Center for Public Policy said.

   Evaluation will occur for both teachers and administrators, according to the bill. And at least part of this evaluation will be based in part on data related student growth, as measured by assessments and other objective criteria.

   While merit pay already exists as a tool in most public school districts in the state, including Birmingham, it’s a relatively small amount, less than $500 per teacher, according to the Birmingham Education Association teacher contract.

   Should this measure pass, the merit pay portion could increase significantly.

   The bill, only three pages long, is still in its first draft.

   Warrow said that this type of evaluation will put an unfair pressure on students if they know that their particular teacher’s salary is dependent on them.

   Teachers could also experience an increased competition within their building for the most academically inclined students, according to Warrow.

   “If this were implemented over a five year period of time most of our best teachers would either retire or leave the profession and do something else,” Craig said.

   Part of teacher performance can be measured by standardized assessments, including MME and AP testing, assessments that are not developed or controlled locally.

   “That would, first of all, devote [teachers] to spend considerable amount of time focusing on that test, whether it was good for students or not, because now they’ve tied [teacher] salary to this result,” Warrow said. “Second is those tests aren’t good measurements by themselves of student growth and learning. They’re one time tests, they don’t measure growth. Therefore it would be a misappropriation of dollars to suggest that’s a way to drive education.”

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