Friday, March 13, 2009

The merit-pay 'radicals'

Blogging on Huffington, Klein & Sharpton make a long-winded and muddled argument for merit pay as a solution to the inequities of urban schooling. They are the leaders of the so-called "no-excuses" faction within the Democratic Party, (which includes John McCain) and Klein has led the way in recreating the nation's two-teir school system in NYC with a vengence.

The pair argue that equity in the distribution of teaching talent can come about by weakening collective bargaining agreements and distributing "bonuses" to individual teachers based solely or mainly on a single standardized test score. They insist that their "merit-based system is an obvious first step toward reducing educational inequality" and describe their plan as "truly radical."

They even name-drop Linda Darling-Hammond and Diane Ravitch to make their case more palatable to educators. The problem is that LDH has opposed their let's-pay-teachers-who-raise-student-scores approach in favor of a career-ladder and peer-evaluation approach as does Ravitch, who has broken with Klein's whole market-driven approach.

Of course there are fair and reasonable ways of rewarding schools and teams of teachers for excellence and for making the working conditions in inner-city schools more tolerable and attractive to career-minded professionals. They can only be developed with teachers at the table and not by undermining teachers' rights to bargain collectively. Obviously a far too radical idea for Klein and Sharpton.

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