Only Half the Story from Dr. Kerchner
In an interesting piece of commentary, Dr. Kerchner argues that the push for pay for performance in education might have the same impact as free agency in baseball. He raises the possibility of teachers unions functioning as “agents” for the best teachers, distorting salary schedules and teacher distribution as teachers are lured to the best, most financially rewarding jobs.
His analysis reminded me of a Star Trek episode where the crew is transported into an alternate dimension where everything is the opposite of reality. In the alternate universe, the Stark Trek Enterprise is feared for its brutality and its crew and captain are evil and greedy.
In order for Dr. Kerchner’s analysis to be accurate, we would actually have to live in an alternate universe where school systems recognized teacher talent as a valuable commodity, the primary function of unions was support and create great teachers instead of defending the worst and ensuring that everyone was paid based on seniority.
Currently, we have shortage fields such as math, science and special education where districts, no matter how willing they are to pay extra for high need teachers, can’t do it because of local teacher’s contracts and the blinding intransigence of our statewide teacher’s unions to consider differntial pay for skills (much less pay for talent). As a special education teacher, I used to get recruitment flyers in the mail from other districts who had a shortage of special educators. But the incentives they offered were never all that great.
Teachers with hard to find skills and those who are exceptional at improving student performance should be rewarded to for their work. There are a hell of lot more of them than top tier professors or baseball players. Many of them work wonders in difficult circumstances while the burned out or incompetent teacher down the hall gets paid a lot more because of how many years they’ve been teaching.
That’s the reality of our current system. The scenario Dr. Kerchner describes could only exist in an alternative universe.
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