Teaching by the least common denominator

Shweta Saraswat

Jim is a professional. He works hard every day to do the best job he can on any given project and his customers have reaped the rewards of his natural talent and the pains he takes for his work.

Bob works alongside Jim; he’s unmotivated, not particularly talented and puts in minimal effort.

However, since Bob has managed to stay with the same company for several years, his pay is double that of Jim’s despite his continual lackluster performance.

Situations like this would never fly in the top competitive industries of America.

Jim would be promoted and Bob would be on the street. Why, then, is it acceptable among teachers?

Without teachers, we wouldn’t have surgeons, anesthesiologists or chief executives, all of whom are normally paid triple the amount of the average public school teacher.

With odds like these, no wonder TIME magazine claims one of the biggest reasons teachers leave their jobs is pay.

Reading TIME’s recent article on various methods of merit-based pay for teachers that are being experimented with across the nation, I was first excited by the idea of giving better teachers higher pay.

Reading on, I realized that teachers will be measured mostly on the performance of their students.

Agreed, a good teacher can raise the test scores of many students, but can we really put a teacher’s annual salary in the hands of students who may or may not do well on intimidating standardized tests?

Such scores, which can be influenced and affected by various factors outside of the teacher’s control, can’t possible dictate the ability of a teacher accurately and completely enough to determine how much they should get paid.

TIME describes how many public schools in Denver are on the Professional Compensation (ProComp) program, in which grade school teachers are rewarded with bonuses for things like working in a “high-needs” school, for “exceeding expectations on state exams” or for scoring good evaluations from superiors.

To me, these things combined define a good teacher: someone who is committed to teaching no matter how uncomfortable the circumstances, someone who regularly raises the average scores of his or her students and someone who earns the respect of colleagues and superiors.

The program should be expanded to include community college instructors who similarly raise the standards in their classes.

It’s time for America as a whole to reform the education system by adopting programs like ProComp nationwide.

By offering rewards and privileges to better teachers, school districts will make teaching a truly professional field.

Introducing merit-based pay brings competition, which will allow the best to rise to the top and the rest to catch up.

Rewarding good teachers is not enough; bad teachers who are managing to hang on to their jobs because of their tenure are doing nothing but ruining their students.

Community leaders and school districts need to take the initiative to weed out ineffective teachers through frequent observation and performance evaluations.

We cannot lower our expectations for education; the standards need to be raised.

I honestly feel that teachers have been taken for granted over the decades. It’s time for them to be taken seriously and evaluated as such.

Where else should we apply the principles of quality control if not among the very people who every day shape the future of our society?

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