The Merits of Merit Pay

You get it done or you're done: You're out, you're fired, you're gone.

It's called pay for performance and it's the reality under which we all work. But not quite all; and in New Jersey, not quite all teachers — many of whom are fighting the new governor's plan there to base what teachers make by how well their students do.

Teachers say this merit pay has no merit — that teachers are different.

So I say to those teachers: Why not prove how different? Why not prove to your students that they are defined by the difference they make and not the space they take up. When they grow up, they either perform on the job or lose the job — any job, all jobs.

The salesman who misses his target, then becomes a target. The CEO who sees his company's stock swoon, then his corner office gone. The anchor who doesn't rate on camera, then loses his job on camera.

Hmm, scary stuff — but real world stuff.

I know kids aren't widgets, but teachers ignoring the cold, cruel world for them is wacky. And it sends a dangerous signal: That it's OK not to measure up; it's OK to dumb down; it's OK not to move the needle or the scores and somehow think you can still score a job; that it's OK to be just OK.

No, it's not OK.

Try telling that to the parents of those kids, who know it's not OK to mail in a job and assume you'll always have a job.

They know better; their kids deserve better. So try doing better, by not only saying you're about helping the kids, but — and here's a thought — proving it.

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