Thursday, January 13, 2011

What do we do now?

Everybody is staking the farm on incentive contracts for teachers. Michelle Rhee got the idea rolling in Washington, DC. President Obama seconded it in the Race to the Top program. Mark Zuckerberg poured Facebook money into Newark to support it. A heart-stirring movie made it easy to believe in. Rhee is so convinced, she called it the "way to fix schools." And now the school district where I live is considering it for their teachers.

But then comes a study from Vanderbilt University that says incentive pay didn't help raise test scores.

Now what? We're being pushed--no, driven--to focus on the data. The district where I work has a 'data team' that, well, looks at the data. For what I'm not exactly sure...I'm not on the team.

In any case, we keep getting bombarded with data, and we keep getting told that we must commit to 'evidence-based best practices.'

The editorial discussing the study ends with this almost comically dry observation:

The Vanderbilt study will be far from the last word on teacher merit pay.

Just what will be the last word? When will we know we've heard it? What will it be based on? Data? Common sense? Campaign contributions? Gates Foundation grants? Rock-paper-scissors?

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