Stephen Sawchuk of Teacher Beat interviewed American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten about the federal Teacher Incentive Fund. His lede is “AFT President Randi Weingarten said yesterday that she wants federally financed performance-pay grants to be bargained collectively as part of contracts.”
That’s not news, but Weingarten’s statements show why “collaboration” on these issues is shorthand for “surrender quietly.”
“This can’t be about a thousand flowers blooming,” Weingarten told me. “There are things we know are based upon research and practice as well as President Obama’s core principles, and that includes working together collaboratively.”
Commenter Jonathon destroys that line of argument:
“I agree completely, unfortunately in the experiences I have had with my local union research does not play a part in the bargaining process. If it did we would not be paying teachers more for earning advanced degrees and extra credits because research shows that these have little to no impact on teacher effectiveness and ultimately student achievement.”
What research you use also matters. The union-backed Economic Policy Institute thinks private-sector performance pay is a “myth” because only a small percentage of workers receive bonuses, commissions, or piece-work pay. The idea that someone’s base pay might be related to his or her performance never seems to have occurred to them.
Weingarten goes on:
“In a nonbargaining state, she said, districts should take their cues from models such as the Teacher Advancement Program. That school-reform model, run by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, requires 75 percent of teachers to vote in favor of adoption.”
This is rich. If a super-majority of 75 percent is required to ensure teacher buy-in, why don’t we apply it to union representation elections as well? Or contract ratification?
“If it’s simply a matter of looking at outcomes, not creating the stairs to success, it won’t work.”
This is what we get when we mix education and labor problems. Whatever you think of performance pay as an education reform, we can agree its eponymous goal is improved performance - of teachers and, by extension, of students. As union president, Weingarten’s primary goal for a performance pay program is to make it as simple for as many teachers as possible to get the pay. These goals are not mutually exclusive, but they’re not the same. That’s why the Denver plan took so long to put together, and why it hasn’t been replicated.
So, Weingarten says, this can’t be about a thousand flowers blooming. In Randi’s garden, there’s a single dead tree stump, and our job is to keep watering it.