Middle school teacher Ariel Sacks, one of the bright young educators in our Teacher Leaders Network, was recently invited to share her thoughts on professional compensation with readers of the New York Daily News. In a brief essay for the newspaper’s “Be Our Guest” opinion feature, Ariel wrote:
If New York City teachers finally come together and demand change, we could for the first time create a smart performance pay system in the nation’s largest public school system. The conditions are ripe. We need to speak up.
Performance pay is not a radical idea in any other profession. But it has been shunned by teachers, and I understand why. Many of the proposed plans have been developed without our input – and without a true understanding of the challenges and complexities of the job we do.
But we shouldn’t throw out the chalk with the chalk dust. Performance pay done right could be one of the best things to happen to teachers, to our schools and to our profession.
Ariel also pointed readers to the April 2007 national report by a TLN TeacherSolutions team that offers new ways to think about teacher compensation, including approaches that draw on multiple measures of performance, not just student results from standardized tests.
Not surprisingly, Ariel’s draft was heavily edited for space and “simplified” for mass consumption. For example, her submission never referred to “merit pay.” While some of the nuance was certainly lost, she says the experience has helped her come to see that while stepping out from the classroom and into the public debate can be unnerving, being a teacher leader means “accepting the ever present possibility of being misconstrued or misrepresented, but continuing just the same, believing that the core of the message is powerful enough to reach people in an important way.”