The Obama administration is considering merit pay for teachers as part of plan to revamp education (3/11, A-1, “Top teachers should get better pay, Obama urges”).
Consider the teacher facing 25 students who struggle with poverty, living with single parents who hold minimum wage jobs. Consider the constant threat of unsafe neighborhoods. Remove the principal as support. Substitute a “book” in which to record disruptions. Observe emotionally scarred kids quarreling, vying for attention and lacking basic self-discipline. Observe the teachers, haggard from fatigue and frustration.
Over the past 20 years, teachers have been mandated more parental responsibilities. Before these changes, discipline problems were addressed at home. Today the teacher is expected to parent and can be criticized for a student’s lack of self-control.
Often the merit rests in showing up every day, in caring, in the effort to educate so the cycle is broken. The responsibility for molding self-discipline in a child rests with the parents.
Merit pay might work as an incentive, but the protocol has to include teachers who continue to care, especially in circumstances where test scores might not, or cannot, fully reflect the dedication of those educators.