Merit pay not the right answer

April 30, 2008 11:00 pm

o the editor:

On April 23 the Baker City Herald published an editorial praising the Chalkboard Project's CLASS Project. Here is a different perspective.

Educators in Oregon's public schools deserve professional pay for the important work we do in ensuring that students succeed in the classroom and in life. Professional pay is a key element in attracting and retaining quality educators — and a quality educator is the one of the best predictors of student success. A large percentage of teachers leave the profession within their first five years because of the low pay relative to the amount of education required and the pressures educators face to do more with fewer resources while meeting the stringent requirements of the federal "No Child Left Behind" law. Professional pay helps to keep quality educators in our classrooms.

The Oregon Education Association supports innovations that enhance student achievement and move Oregon toward the goal of professional pay for educators. We appreciate Chalkboard's efforts working with local school districts and Education Associations to look at creative ways to support educators in their work. We applaud the local associations who have worked diligently to assess the needs of their members and students in their districts to determine what may work best for them.

That being said, the concept of "merit pay" is not a viable option. Research shows that it does little to increase student learning and adversely impacts educators' ability to collaborate and be effective in the classroom. In essence it is like tossing money into the middle of a crowd and watching the ensuing battle. Competition does not breed collaboration, an ingredient essential to healthy and effective schools. Student test scores can go up and down drastically depending on the students being tested and the viability of the assessment tool. Educators should not be punished for having a large number of special needs students in their classes. Because of these factors, should Sizemore's ballot measure reach voters in November I urge a "NO" vote.

Educators want the best for students and tools that will lead all to success. Ask us what we need; we'll tell you!

Judy Trohkimoinen

Baker City