Teaching is an exhausting job that might even feel thankless at times. Teachers spend countless hours outside of school working and sometimes hundreds or thousands of dollars out of their own pocket on classroom décor, activities, conferences, workshops, or school supplies for students who can’t afford their own. There are no “summers off.” There is too much curriculum to cover in a short period of time, but teachers make it work. Educators are the most resourceful people on the planet. Expert level “out of the box” problem solvers. It’s enough to make the rest of society wonder why teachers even stay in the classroom. It’s not to build a financial empire that’s for certain.

What are your thoughts on the Performance Based Pay System?  Sound off on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/northgwinnettvoice.  Look for our poll, cast your vote, and tell us what your opinion is.

Walk into any teacher’s classroom and you will find tons of mugs, posters, and other assorted knick-knacks with quotes like “Teachers are in it for the outcome, not the income” or “Teaching is a work of heart.” The payoff for most teachers is their legacy, not currency. Teachers go into teaching to make a difference, not a fortune. How do I know? Because I have spent almost 20 years of my life working with students inside and outside of the traditional public school setting.

Recently I was mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed in that familiar way I often do. Every once in awhile a post will stop me in my tracks. Sometimes it’s because it’s super heartfelt and restores my faith in humanity. More likely it’s a snarky quote that really resonates with me. Conversely though, I come across a post that stops me mid-scroll because it really ruffles my feathers in the wrong way. Half a sentence was all it took to start my blood boiling recently. I didn’t even need to read the article because the details don’t matter for me with some issues, especially when my own children are involved. Just the mention of the phrase “performance-based” being associated with teaching leaves a very bad taste in my mouth as a parent and educator.

Do I think teachers deserve a raise? Yes. Do I think teachers deserve supply money? Yes. This isn’t what fires me up. What does fire me up is any kind of compensation system involving teachers receiving salary bonuses for student performance. And folks, it’s rolling out to be implemented in the Gwinnett County Public School System.

Want the details about how it’s going to work? Check elsewhere because like I said it doesn’t matter.  In my opinion, it’s wrong for many reasons. It forces teachers to teach to the test and there isn’t a level playing field amongst schools.

What do I mean by teaching to the test? Only teaching exactly what is prescribed in the standards/curriculum and never veering off course for teachable moments. I have a shirt from well-known entrepreneur, Marcus Lemonis that says his motto of “People, Process, and Product.” And it’s in that order. The priorities of a school system should be the same. It’s off brand in a sense to treat students like machines designed to produce output. There is a whole child involved.

With the massive size of the county, there are inherently different income levels and populations at each school. Some schools have an active PTA and parents who donate supplies no questions asked. Other schools struggle to get parents to show up for conferences. Some schools have a high population of transient students or English Language Learners.

Did you know non-English speaking children are required to take some parts of standardized tests? A child could enroll in school from another country on a Monday and might be expected to take portions of county or state assessments the same day. No accounting for culture shock and no period of adjustment. This is a hot-button issue for me that I won’t go too far off topic with now. My point is students at a school like that are not going to have the same test results as students at an affluent school. Is it fair to the teachers who work tirelessly to meet the needs of those English Language Learners? No.

It’s bad enough that student evaluations are used for performance reviews. If you gave little Johnny detention for not doing his homework the day before, you can bet that he has an ax to grind filling that out. What is the expected outcome for teachers with extra money for based on how children score on standardized tests or any test? That they are more motivated to teach? It’s just asking for an unhealthy sense of competition and jealousy between teachers, not to mention temptations for cheating. Performance bonuses open up a Pandora’s box that should stay closed.

By Andrea Runnels

*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The North Gwinnett Voice.  


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