Monday, December 24, 2012

Merit Pay for teachers

Daniel Pink is popularizing what people who study creativity have known for decades: that intrinsic motivation works and extrinsic motivation doesn't, or works in a very limited capacity.

When Daniel Pink discusses the issue of merit pay for teachers  he says things that are important, things that need to be said and aren't said by enough people who attract attention to their voices the way he does.  However, there's one small point he makes that is so wrong and that is so worth harping on because of how wrong it is (when a small, bad, wrong idea is coupled with sensibility, it can sometimes be the only thing that survives).

Here's the point in question.  Pink says, "Raise the base pay of teachers – and make it easier to get rid of underperforming teachers."

The second and unnecessary part of this statement is my point of contention.  

Good teaching can't be quantified, it is cumulatively observed, in truth, by supervisors, colleagues and students and, in line with Pink's ideas, by the teacher himself.  The community, in its collective response to an educator, says how good an educator is.  

What bothers me about Pink's point here is that it seems to be so incongruent with the rest of his position on motivation.  Doesn't he advocate for not using classical conditioning (reward and punishment)?  Wouldn't making it easier to be gotten rid of enhance negative performance and return to the short-sighted view of motivation that he's so against? 

Also, I love Daniel Pink's ideas, the way he presents them, etc, I've known about the benefits and truth of intrinsic motivation since I was in college 15 years ago.  In fact, an understanding of intrinsic motivation is a large part of what made me want to be a teacher.  What disappoints me so much is that Daniel Pink says anything positive about Michele Rhee when he must've heard how teachers despise her tactics.  How can anyone have a true sense of autonomy when they believe they can be fired randomly at any point for any or no reason (which is what Rhee was notorious for regarding both educators and administrators).  

Anyway, I think Pink is great and he's just what the world needs but I hope he reads this and really considers how wrong he is about this point.  Getting rid of underperformers first begs the definition of what performance is and, I thought, he was advocating for a paradigm shift which involves a redefinition of what performance is--also, isn't it true that, if teachers are working under the classical motivation model, that their performance isn't accurate to begin with?

Actually, I think that Pink's motivation 2.0 is really in support of tenure, not in opposition to it.  

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