In response to many posted opinions about merit pay for teachers

I can understand how, to the general public, it makes sense to associate teacher salaries and positions with their students’ achievement. When you look at statistics on paper and see that, hypothetically, there are 27 teachers in one district whose students’ test scores are consistently low, then they should be replaced. The problem is this: teachers cannot control the test scores. Often, the teachers with low test scores are the teachers who are assigned tough classes because they have the classroom management skills to be able to handle some of the tougher students who pose distraction problems for the rest of the class. Students’ home lives, mood, adolescent drama with friends or whether or not they ate breakfast can affect their scores and none of that can be controlled by a teacher.

Are there bad teachers out there? Yes, of course, because there are bad dentists, bad layers, bad CEOs. BUT, it needs to be pointed out that teachers have professional certification, continued evaluation of our skills by administrators, and must regularly turn in our lesson plans in order to be accountable for our actions in the classroom and our approach to teaching. We usually have masters degrees and are required to maintain our certification through professional development workshops that keep us current and offer new understanding and approaches to our lessons. We take pride in what we do. We care about students’ achievement in life, not on tests. We push our students to work, to think, to become the best possible version of themselves that they have the potential to be. We inspire, we encourage, we hold students accountable for their actions. We prepare them to be responsible adults who are capable of seeking out opportunities, following curiosities, and building a path for themselves. Standardized tests can’t measure that. Students who have performed poorly on standardized tests have succeeded in real life, becoming leaders and creative thinkers in their fields.

There are ways to get rid of bad teachers who are consistently doing a disservice to their students by showing the behaviors that are not in line with what the professional values should be. Good teachers want to get rid of the bad teachers, too – not only do they give teaching a bad name but they often make our jobs harder because we cannot rely on them as colleagues. Showing the public student test scores and associating them with only one factor in the students’ lives, however, is lying to the public about the state of their educators.

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