Bill Gates advocates merit pay for teachers

Post by Mike Klassen in

50 comments


Bill Gates in a TED talk about state government spending – watch video

Microsoft's former boss says public spending practices need to change with the times

Bill Gates along with his wife Melinda have become role models for philanthopy, and after shaking up the world with personal computing it seems that the former Microsoft CEO wants to shake up entrenched thinking among politicians and public service workers. It will be interesting to see how viral the ideas Gates proposes in this TED conference talk.

At first blush Gates dissertation might warm the hearts of those education advocates who decry the lack of spending in the education sector. There's no question Bill Gates is arguing for strong and sustained funding for public education by taxpayers. However, Gates does something few advocates in British Columbia try – he looks at the numbers, and explains the challenges without pointing fingers.

Many will remember an early campaign promise by BC Liberal leadership hopeful Kevin Falcon – a proposed plan for merit pay for teachers. The reaction from the teacher's union and other education system critics was we might have guessed. Falcon is an unbridled right wing ideologue! This is unworkable! It didn't go down well in other words.

Well, not only was the merit pay for teachers idea floated by President Obama in his last State of the Union speech, we see now Bill Gates advocating strongly for financial incentives for good teachers as a way to make our education system more efficient. Think the FSA tests, which happen in only two grades (four and seven), are a backhanded way to judge the quality of teaching at a school? Gates goes further by suggesting that we set up cameras in classrooms to study and grade the abilities of teachers.

Gates' broader argument is one that I think we should pay attention to. He says that deficit spending in US states is completely unsustainable. Money alotted to education will inevitably shift to health care mainly because governments are deferring future costs like pension plans for workers, instead of budgeting them as today's cost.

He describes this practice as something that would have made the thieves from Enron blush. He also says that it shifts money we should spend on our youth to our elderly. Or in other words, governments will be unable to invest in the future of their society.

I think Gates diplomatic demeanor during his presentation conveys the seriousness of the crisis he describes. Of fifty US states, according to Gates forty-seven are in deficit. Their budgets are "balanced" in name only. "At least a half dozen" states he says are in a worse financial pickle than California, which is basically broke.

He makes another good point – his most important one of the talk – that we need a more robust debate and a much improved understanding of how these mid and local level governments are spending their budgets. He points out that the State of California spends three times as much as Microsoft, and six times as Google, yet the analysis and critique by financial experts of the State's spending is a fraction of that which occurs for those private companies.

What's Gates' solution to this crisis? He has three broad suggestions.

  1. Better tools to educate ourselves. Put more data online and use the critical mass of internet to help the public to make better decisions. Better practices from one school district can more easily be adopted by another in this case.
  2. Use clear and honest accounting. In B.C., GAAP principles were adopted under the BC Liberal government, but what else can we do at the Provincial and local level of government? For example, the City of Vancouver stopped producing its annual budget book after 2008, and frequently posts PowerPoint presentations instead of written reports. These measures make government more opaque and challenging to understand, just the opposite of what we should be doing.
  3. We need courageous politicians who don't get booted from office by telling the public the truth about budgets. Leadership is a vital and rare commodity. Vision Vancouver and COPE, for example, supported the deferral of school closures until after the 2011 election. It's this kind of politically expedient decision that Gates takes aim at.

To get a better understanding of the political origins of the budget crisis California currently faces I recommend reading Steven Malanga's essay from City Journal, The Beholden State.

UPDATE: Coincidentally, Sunday evening's 60 Minutes program featured a story about a charter school in New York that is attempting some of what Gates proposes. See the follow-up interview with reporter Katie Couric, where she admits the 'jury is still out' on whether this school's approach will work or not.

- post by Mike

50 Comments

Malanga's story is absolutely correct. My wife and I lived in California for 10 years starting in 1994. It was a real eye opener. Not only have the unions managed to control the politicians, but their form of government becomes paralyzed very easily. The Dems in particular are beholden to the unions as well as the illegal immigrants whose children make up the majority of students in many classrooms. The illegals make liberal use of free medical care in the emergency rooms of county hospitals and also make up a significant percentage of the prison population. And of course the illegals make no payments to the state and federal tax rolls. But they have become a strong political force as the Latino immigrants who have achieved legal status vote in blocs. California is almost ungovernable.

Ungovernable by you, that's for sure. From the point of view of Canada's First Nations, you and I are illegal immigrants.

Oh, those Mexicans are parasites all right. Mind you, they do all the hard work there is to do in California (and several other states). They grow, harvest, process, pack, ship, sell and prepare all your food. They sweep your floors, clean your house and office, do your gardening, drive your kids to soccer practice, wash your car, sell you cheap knock-off brand-names, sew all your jeans in a factory near the border, sell you all that coke you're banging, all for cash and not much of it. guess who's going to be digging you ot of the rubble when The Big One hits Hollywood. Hard to believe any politician or union organizer would stoop so low as to involve people like that in public affairs. California was doing just fine before you stole it from the Mexicans at gunpoint. Payback's a bitch, isn't it.

Wake up. Remember what happened to that buffoon Lou Dobbs. Red and yellow, black, brown or white. All are precious in His sight. Even you, bob. Personally, I'm not so forgiving.

The Globe reported today that the City of Penticton was able to obtain concessions from the Union when they seriously considered contracting the service out. They probably didn't go far enough to get the best deal for the City but at least they had the right idea.

Unfortunately, the continued growth in a unionized public service means we will continue to approach the tipping point where it will be impossible to rein in the public service because they will be such a significant voting block. Think Greece where it took a fiscal crisis to prompt the politicians to take long over due action.

I think it is very telling that the blog comments go quiet whenever the cost of the public service is raised because it is not an issue Vision or the NPA is going to deal with.

@F.H. Leghorn:

There is no denying that the Mexican peoples are hard workers.

But, if they are working under the table and not paying taxes, there is a problem.

There are many unscrupulous employers that willingly take on illegals because it cuts down on their costs. It they pay them cash, then neither the employee or the employer are paying their fair share of taxes which has an effect on the economy and services as a whole.

@ F.H. Leghorn:
"California was doing just fine ..."

Perhaps you should expand on that, as that does not encompass the entire territory historically controlled by Mexico prior to Teddy Roosevelt and the advent of the Monroe Doctrine. Although not all, a large amount of mexican migration within the United States is towards places that families feel historically rooted to, such as Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada as well as California. Many Mexicans view all this as ancestral territory (and with good reasons)

And perhaps a nod should also be given to those 'Mexicans', who by virtue of being born in the USA are actually Americans, but get the shaft because of their ethnic background, culture and language, in spite of their high level of education and accomplishment.

And perhaps yet another shout-out should go to those Mexicans (illegals in the US and migrants coming from Mexico) who, thanks to the generosity of the American military, were able to obtain green cards in exchange for their military service in wars such as Kuwait and Iraq (and that program extends to their loved ones in the event of their sacrifice)

And finally - a wake-up call to Max, who cites for the most part very accurately there is a problem with under the table workers but only singles out only the Mexicans.Hope this was just a reactionary oversight.... because the last time I checked there were numerous people working under the table including, gasp, Canadians.

Under the table work is an equal opportunity employer.

The Thought of The Afternoon

'I dream of a Land where all are free to grow, feed, be sheltered and take advantage of the generosity of others. I dream of a Land with no LYSOL Guerillas in sight, I dream of a Land of Infinite Opportunism where we could prosper, and prosper some more and grow cultures after cultures of first cousins'
From the 'Land of the Amoebas and the lonely Paramecium' - JS

FHL,loved your comment.
Please, join us tonight in the Council Chambers at the Vancouver's Petri Dish Hall at 12th @ Cambie for the third installment of great entertainment. Come and watch how they crawl and jelly in front of the live audience. Recognized worldwide for their brainless decision making, you'll witness them trying hard not to make one. And BTW, there's not a Mexican in their dish, on the contrary.

The show is sold out so be early. Main floor or Balcony sitting.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

I have no doubt there are other 'illegals' working under the table.

But, as the I was responding to the topic which was 'Mexican' illegals, that is what I chose to stick to.

Cameras in classrooms, merit based pay, squash the unions, blame the teachers, blah blah blah.

Corporate profit margins at 18 year high.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-14/profit-margins-at-18-year-high-signal-bigger-s-p-500-dividends.html

But it's these greedy unions that are the problem.

Did you watch the talk? Where do we get the money for the unfunded liablility in the poor old teachers' pension fund? Tax the rich and the evil corporations, according to boo and Ms. Bacchus.

Corporations actually produce things that people want and need. School attendance is compulsory, not a matter of choice. 9 out of 10 K-12 grads don't qualify for post-secondary education after 13 years of amateurish, hit-or-miss instruction from highly-paid, supposedly highly-trained professionals. Most grads can't read, spell, balance a cheque-book or do sums. The teachers aren't greedy, they're over-priced, incompetent and unaccountable. That's not bashing or union-busting, that's the simple truth.

According to the union that's because they need even more money (the "chronic under-funding" alibi). They won't say how much and they won't allow the use of testing to measure student or teacher performance, but they'll let us know when their compensation package is big enough. Their focus is on inputs, not results because the results are so awful. That's why anyone who can afford to keeps their kids as far away as possible from the public system and the self-serving, crackpot ideology of the BCTF and its apologists.

The first priority of K-12 in BC has always been and remains jobs for adults, not educational achievement for students or value for the tax-payer.

I just can't get enough of this clip...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hhJ_49leBw

I stopped reading after "The teachers aren't greedy, they're over-priced, incompetent and unaccountable."

The amount of generalization, stupidity and ignorance in this one sentence is remarkable.

@boohoo

Yes it's a generalization but, for many, not one empty of truth.

My own personal experience of the public school system teachers has been about one third good to excellent, one third competent to doing the job and one third poor to unfit. The latter includes an individual who, in my opinion, should not be in charge of children. My experience of the system as a whole has been the need for constant vigilance and I certainly now regret not having made the financial sacrifice of going private.

Obviously this isn't a scientific survey so I can't expect to convince you that there is a problem, but it is what I have seen and the experience is unlikely to be unique. Most parents go into the system with a positive attitude, many come out drained and disillusioned. If teachers and other public service workers find themselves linked in the public mind with the parasitic transfers of public wealth to private institutions that have characterized the last few years it might be as well to wonder why before complaining that this is unfair.

FYI:

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) - The number is still going up. Over the last five years, thousands of union grievances over class sizes have cost taxpayers one million dollars.

The BC Teachers Federation says filing grievances is the only way to make sure schools respect class size laws put into effect in 2006. President Susan Lambert admits money could be better spent on resources in the classroom, rather than fighting to keep too many students out.

"We've got tens of thousands of grievances outstanding," she explains. "We've got probably thousands of grievances still gathering from this year. It happens across the province."

The Ministry of Education says it's an issue between teachers and the union, adding the law is working because 94 per cent of classrooms have less than 30 students.

Does anyone know if BC has securitized their tobacco-tax revenue?

Would that be the 'legal' tax revenue or the crops (tobacco)that are grown by our FN people and not taxed.

Billions of dollars lost right accross Canada.

@ Boo: I stopped reading after "The teachers aren't greedy, they're over-priced, incompetent and unaccountable."

Just to analyze the generalizations of Mr Leghorn you (generally) abhor so much:

1. FH Leghorn states teachers aren't greedy: do you agree or disagree? Seems to me most people going into the teaching profession do not go in just for money, so I find it truthful. Score 1 for Foghorn

2. FH Leghorn states teachers are overpriced: do you agree or disagree? Seems to me they are re-numerated (pay, pension, perks, and vacation) better than most hard- working people, and if the union was decertified they would be forced to accept compensation more in line with someone of their level of training. Score 1 for Foghorn.

3. FH Leghorn states teachers are incompetent: do you agree or disagree? Seems to me there is no fair and independent measure of competency given the union involvement in matters involving competency and discipline. I would say this is an overgeneralization, and without more open disciplinary procedures we will only hear anecdotes and not get to the hard facts. Reluctantly, a 0 for FH Leghorn on this one.

4. FH Leghorn states teachers are unaccountable: do you agree or disagree? See above - the union inserted itself into the professional process in a deliberate effort to control the profession, leaving it lacking independence and accountability. Score 1 for Foghorn.

Until teachers choose to form a proper and accountable professional association, with public accountability and certification the key (similar to lawyers, doctors, architects, et al) and in doing so remove from the BCTF all functions save perhaps for collective bargaining, they will continually be challenged to prove they are doing an adequate job, and it is a challenge they will continually fail to rise to.
Its all up tot he teachers and the time is nigh if they wish to deal properly with the role of professionalism.

Final mark for FH Leghorn (out of a possible 10)
academic mark (40%) 3 out of 4
participation (60%) 6 out of 6

9/10
Give FH Leghorn a gold star

Sure, like all generalizations there is some truth. Are there bad teachers out there? Of course there are. Just like any profession. But this utter disdain for teachers, the mocking of their professionalism, etc... what is it really about?

My wife is a teacher so of course I'm biased. But sitting here listening to people belittle teachers so eloquently on a blog because they don't like the union--sorry, that bs doesn't fly.

As for the grievances, yeah, look into it. My wife's classroom has EIGHT kids that are designated special needs, I believe the legal maximum is three. A colleague at my wife's work recently went to the board office and told the executive that if her kid were in her own classroom, she'd pull them out because it's overcrowded and underfunded. My wife can't check her work email at work because the computers are so dated it takes 30 minutes for the program to open. They haven't had new textbooks in any subject in about 5 years. The heat is only on between 9-2:10 so when she shows up at 7:30 she has to wear a parka while she works. I could go on. And her situation/school is not unique in any way.

"My own personal experience of the public school system teachers has been about one third good to excellent, one third competent to doing the job and one third poor to unfit"

The sad thing is that it wouldn't be necessary to replace a third of the teachers that are poor to unfit to make a significant improvement in the overall performance. Human nature being what it is, the fact that teachers are virtually untouchable for incompetence and receive the same compensation as excellant teachers has to be terribly demotivating.

The reality is that unions tend to reduce performance to the lowest common denominator and I think it is a credit to the professionalism of so many individual teachers that we have the quality of education we do. It could be much better - eliminate mandatory union membership and find ways to reward excellance through merit pay.

"The reality is that unions tend to reduce performance to the lowest common denominator"

What nonsense. Provide some examples of industries where this is true. I'll provide some examples where it isn't.

Film Production - the best crews are invariably union, attracted to the fair wages and clear rules for hiring and firing.

Media - top circulation papers and most watched tv channels are unionized.

Doctors and lawyers may call themselves professional associations, but they are unions by another name, negotiating pay, working conditions, and dealing with discipline issues.

Blaming unions for individual performance is ridiculous. Anyone who's worked in both union and non-union environments will have found stand-outs and low-lifes in both scenarios. It certainly isn't the ability of workers to present a collective front to employers that impacts employee motivation, but rather the skill and abilities of the employers/managers themselves. One of the biggest benefits of unionism is that it makes it easy to identify the managers who are in over their heads. If you can't manage effectively when there's clear rules for hiring, firing, and discipline, then it's surely not the workers that are the problem.

@ Chris Keam "Doctors and lawyers may call themselves professional associations, but they are unions by another name, negotiating pay, working conditions, and dealing with discipline issues"

- I don't disagree with some of your comments re: unionism, but I find this statement about doctors and lawyers, and its application to professional associations in general, entirely off-base (you missed the entire playing field there, in fact)

Professional associations do NOT regulate pay (where that idea comes from I haven't even a foggy clue), and do NOT regulate working conditions. Professionals (MD's, lawyers, architects, accountants, etc) are NOT subject to the same standards as union members under the employment standards act, and are SELF-REGULATING - SELF-POLICING entities. We deal not only with 'discipline' issues, but in issues of competency, and set and regulate the admission standards, in the interest of the public trust. It is how we remain self-regulating.

We are joined on the boards of our councils by 'Lieutenant Governor' appointees, so our councils are not all members of the association. An independent professional association is a privilege each field must earn AND maintain, and not a right along the lines of the right to unionize (a right for other workers I do not dispute).

The unit that advocates and argues on behalf of the teachers (BCTF) cannot be the same entity to police them. Those duties are in conflict. It is my steadfast view that unless the teachers take control of their profession by removing control of those policing/ accrediting functions from the union and vesting them in a properly conducted professional association, they will forever be doomed to the criticism and political antagonism that has been going on in the province for at least 35 years.

Attached are the findings of the Avison report :
http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/pubs/2010_factfinder_report_bcct.pdf

"Regrettably, it must be said that the disruption and dysfunction that has dominated the attention of the College Council, particularly since 2004, has put the core public interest, and the interest of students, at risk and it is now clearly time for some form of remedial action to be taken by government to address this situation."


Douglas:

Doctors negotiate with the gov't to set remuneration for their services. Public defenders do the same.

A professional association, the UBCM, Chamber of Commerce... they all represent their members' interests. So does a union. The salient point here is that belonging to a union is unlikely to have a bearing on quality of work. The desire to do good work is an individual choice.

@ Chris Keam-

when clarified, I tend to agree with what you are saying. Doctors behave like a union re: renumeration, and as for public defenders, well I did not know that, and learned something new today. That said, most lawyers are still independent entrepreneurs (or sharks, to use layman's terms). And architects, accountants, dentists, landscape architects, engineers, with prof. associations behind them, are governed accordingly and not as a union.

But the salient point you bring up is one which I heartily concur - it IS up to the individual, be they a lawyer, architect, bricklayer, artist, and so far beyond. Their status - be it union or non, professional (in terms of paying into an association) or no, what have you - is not as significant as whether they put themselves into their work.

As an aside I did an undergrad degree at UBC. The motto there was 'tu em es', - rough translation - 'It's up to you.'

Words to live by ,,,,,

Challenging conditions, no question. Luckily your wife only has to endure those conditions for 30 hrs/wk, 37 wks/yr. The taxpayers who stuff $4 Billion a year into teachers' pockets work 40-50 hrs/wk every day of the year.

FH,

Correction, teachers are paid only for class hours. My wife gets to work at 7:30 on average and is usually home at about 5:00. So she 'volunteers' for about 4 hours a day. Then she gets home. Checks her work email, replies to the dozens of emails from her colleagues, administrators and parents--all on her own time.

Of course she also teaches ultimate 2 nights a week for 'free', attends concours and other evening events as they come up, spends several weekends a year writing report cards, coordinates pro-d days and she goes to Quebec every year to babysit her students 24 hours a day for 6 straight days, all without a penny of additional compensation.

Those 'challenging conditions' are where we are expecting our children to learn.

You have no idea what you're talking about.

@ Boo "Checks her work email, replies to the dozens of emails from her colleagues, administrators and parents--all on her own time."

The salary of a professional is not based on hourly contributions, but summarizes the entire value of their input per annum. "Overtime" does not exist; "unpaid time" similarly does not exist. There is just the job, with ALL its requirements, and there is the (hopefully appropriate) renumeration.

I do not deny your wife works hard. IF however a teacher wishes to be recognized as a professional, then part of the deal is to abandon the notion of 'paid' vs. 'unpaid' time, which in my mind is a construct of the labour mentality, and embrace instead the notion "This is what I do as part of my commitment to my profession."

It is the union who negotiated for your wife a deal based on payment for 'class hours', as opposed to payment for 'a job well done.'

Final Mark for Boo (out of 10)
academic mark (40% ) 2 out of 4
participation mark (60%) 6 out of 6

Boo continues to participate very actively and is strident in his views, which is appreciated, . However, would like to see a deepening understanding of and encourage him to work harder with others towards developing common ground with those of opposing viewpoints. Contributions tend to be less deflective and more in depth when specifically challenged by opposing rhetoric.

Final Mark - 8/10
Give Boo a silver star

Actually, I've visted several school websites, and all in all, teachers are in class roughly 24 weeks out of the year.

"Anyone who's worked in both union and non-union environments will have found stand-outs and low-lifes in both scenarios."

The difference is that in a non-union situation the employer can do something about it - no promotion, no raise, less pay or maybe dehire the problem employee. In a union environment, that is just not going to happen. And if you think the other employees in a non-union environment are going to stand by and accept the same pay, status etc as the "low life", then you haven't worked in a non-union environment.

In District 39(Vancouver) the legislation specifies 185 days/yr. Most teachers bank their sick days for a cash payout at retirement. Quite a few take advantage of the world's best mat leave package and seniority and bumping privileges, or they take early and then come back to help themselves to the plum TOC (substitute) postings, sticking a knife yet again into the careers of their low-seniority colleagues.

They're too professional to supervise those students they care so much about during recess or lunch (let alone before or after school), so the District hired a bunch of CUPE part-timers to cover that. They held an illegal strike the last time out which was settled by a $5000 cash signing bonus and after the union executive was threatened with criminal contempt of court and sizable fines. It set an example of selflessness and caring which their students no doubt admire.

Teachers, needless to say, are blameless. Conflict and discord are the furthest thing from their minds.The real threat is from wealthy Americans with scary graphs. Just ask the Mayor.

FH,

I don't even know where to go with you, it is evidently quite pointless. You're so incredibly misinformed it's comical.

Douglas,

That's a great theory, but if it's to be held to teachers then the pay they receive is nowhere near compensatory to the work *most* put in.

I sympathize, boo. It's not easy to defend the indefensible. In such cases truth is the first casualty.

History has shown time and again that BCTF has no respect for the truth, no respect for the law and no respect for the rights of others. How do you make that look good? You can't.

But cheer up, you can always attack my credibility or intelligence or ancestry or political views. then wonder why nobody falls for teachers' claims of "professionalism".

FH,

You see, you like so many people are equating teachers with the BCTF. I assure you, 90something % of teachers don't give one iota's moment thought to the BCTF during their work.

I'm attacking your ignorance, your generalizations, your clear lack of factual information and obvious bias. Mine's out there, what's yours?

@Bill:

You're perpetuating bad information. I've never seen a collective agreement that didn't have clear language that spelled out how one was promoted, received raises, or got fired. That kind of information benefits both employers and employees. By comparison, in a non-union workplace, it's easy for a boss to play favourites and hire, fire or promote based on popularity rather than seniority or competency. That kind of work environment is a great example of creating an environment where people stop trying, because good work doesn't necessarily count for anything.

Good workers and good employers have no reason to fear a collectively bargained contract. Bad employers and slacker employees have every reason to worry about clearly defined criteria for promotion, discipline, and dismissal.

"The salary of a professional is not based on hourly contributions, but summarizes the entire value of their input per annum."

To return to doctors and lawyers as examples, a lawyer friend of mine told me that they account for and bill their time in 15 minute increments. G.P. Doctors bill based upon a typical patient consult taking 'X' amount of time. It's not as clear-cut as dividing people into categories of hourly wage workers and salaried professionals.

There are no collective agreements in K-12. Haven't been for 20 years. All contracts are imposed by order in council. Compliance enforced through court orders. The union is famously litigious. There is one criterion for promotion: seniority. Discipline is a joke and dismissal is practically impossible for anything less than being convicted of a crime against children. Or fraud, if all you have is the kids' testimony.

Both the employer (in theory, you and me) and the employees need to change their approach and try harder to meet the challenges posed by their grave responsibilities (not to mention their sworn duty).

@ chris "It's not as clear-cut as dividing people into categories of hourly wage workers and salaried professionals."

- its not as clear cut to be sure. And it differs even further as one split the hairs further along lines of the differing occupations. Brevity does force generalizations.

It is not however to split hairs that I distinguish between the unions and the professional associations, but to point out that there differing principles that govern their operations. Each has different rules, operating assumptions, and a different raison d'etre.

As for the teachers, they currently operate with a strong union and a weak and dysfunctional professional association (a statement even the BCTF seem to agree with after the Avison report). It is my personal belief they should opt for one over the other, and the BCTF will never do anything but polarize the topic and alienate a good half the population.

The very fact there is so much polarized debate shows the current model governing, disciplining and organizing teachers has failed. If teachers wish to be taken seriously and respected they need to (and have the current opportunity as well to) rebuild their professional association properly from the ground up, in a manner suitable to meet both their and the public's needs. .

Nice fiction, Chris. You know that the overriding criteria for job advancement in a union environment is seniority and not the best qualified person. And once there it is impossible to get rid of a marginal performer.

Merit pay for teachers? Forget it because the union will fight tooth and nail to stop it. Why? Because it would give teachers a direct way to influence their individual compensation and lessen their dependence on the union.

If the union model is so advantageous for employers and employees, why is membership on the decline in the private sector? As the demand for unskilled labour declines and demand for skilled labour increases, workers want to be compensated for what they are producing and not some artificial rate that limits their earning power.
Yes, union membership in the public sector is high but perhaps that's because, thanks to weak politicians, the public sector unions have been able to obtain compensation packages higher than the private sector, union or non-union.


Just to clarify a few points.
In Vancouver teachers cannot cash in their unused sick days at retirement.
As well retired teachers may join the TOC list but receive no preference as Vancouver does not allow requests for specific TOCs.
Finally the employees that supervise students at recess and lunch are not represented by CUPE but by the IOUE.

In the construction industry, some contractors are union, some non-union.

The non-union contractor needs two framing carpenters, he hires the two framing carpenters most suited to his needs.

The union contractor needs two framing carpenters, he hires five framing carpenters. They work for two or three days. He then asks the foreman who the best two framers are. He then informs the union they overestimated the amount of work involved and he really needs only two framing carpenters going forward. The three not recommended by the foreman return to the union hall to await another call, while the other two stay on the job.

That's how its done in the real world, kids.

Bill,

"Merit pay for teachers? Forget it because the union will fight tooth and nail to stop it. Why? Because it would give teachers a direct way to influence their individual compensation and lessen their dependence on the union."

That's one theory. The other that I've heard from teachers themselves is that it will just create an atmosphere of competition in the classroom, trying to 'outperform' a colleague in order to be perceived as more worthy. But teachers teach in individual classrooms with individual children across a range of ages. What one teacher does might help a kid learn in the short term, others might have life long impacts or not be readily apparent for years. How do you pay based on that? How do you determine what's important? What about the music teacher? Art? How do you judge an art's teachers worthyness? It's such a flawed system.

sv,

"Just to clarify a few points.
In Vancouver teachers cannot cash in their unused sick days at retirement."

Same in Richmond, I was going to point this out, among the other lies he was spouting but it's pointless.

"The other that I've heard from teachers themselves is that it will just create an atmosphere of competition in the classroom, trying to 'outperform' a colleague in order to be perceived as more worthy"

Every organization that offers performance based incentives must deal with the potentially disfunctional outcomes that can arise by individuals focusing on their own objectives. It's called management. It's not perfect and it's not always fair but overall better results are achieved.

Bill,

Please explain to me how you can pay an art teacher based on merit. Based on how 'good' he/she is as a teacher. A gym teacher. Even a math teacher. How.

"Nice fiction, Chris. You know that the overriding criteria for job advancement in a union environment is seniority and not the best qualified person."

Bill, in the spirit of this thread about merit based pay and quantifiable performance, please provide proof of your position... and point me to a collective agreement that doesn't put final say on who gets hired or promoted in the hands of management, or one that forbids promotions and pay raises outside of the minimums defined by seniority clauses. Seniority-based advancement is a way to define the base level, not the ceiling.

Further, as both the help-wanted ads and the much-derided training wage provisions show, time spent in a position is a generally accepted way to assess competency.

"If the union model is so advantageous for employers and employees, why is membership on the decline in the private sector?"

Silly example. Here's a silly counter-example - If food is so popular, why are more people going hungry?

"As the demand for unskilled labour declines and demand for skilled labour increases, workers want to be compensated for what they are producing and not some artificial rate that limits their earning power."

See my previous remarks. There's nothing preventing management from rewarding outstanding performers at levels higher than the minimum set out in a collective agreement. Happens all the time for actors.

"Further, as both the help-wanted ads and the much-derided training wage provisions show, time spent in a position is a generally accepted way to assess competency"

Actually it isn't. Experience requirements are a screening tool like education or technical training and sets a minimum standard that the employer is looking for. If experience was the way to assess competency then it would make the recruiting process a lot simpler.

If you cannot devise a model to reward good teachers means you cannot differentiate good teachers from mediocre ones. I do not believe that this is true and obviously Bill Gates doesn't either.

Bill,

You aren't answering.

And to your previous point
'Every organization that offers performance based incentives must deal with the potentially disfunctional outcomes that can arise by individuals focusing on their own objectives.'

This is the thing Bill--teachers aren't focusing on their own objectives. Teachers don't get into the profession for the glory or the pay. They are focusing on the kids. 30 individual kids that require (as possible) individual instruction with unique teaching methods for each. What checklist or matrix can you possible create that would capture what teachers do, how they do it, how well they do it, what impacts it has on individual children in the short term and long term, all the extra-curricular things teachers do, etc etc etc.

"If you cannot devise a model to reward good teachers means you cannot differentiate good teachers from mediocre ones."

Well, you can. It's called life. How many times have we heard a successful individual thank their teachers? Countless. The problem is the results don't come in on schedule every June. A person is the sum of their teachers and parents and life experience and there's many a good student that flamed out and many a mediocre one that had an amazing impact on the world.

Everyone keeps saying we need to revamp learning away from rote memorization and creating people who follow orders and show up on time, yet demanding abitrary measures of a student's skill, to determine a teacher's worth, ensures we must treat each student much like the other and does a disservice to both our children and our society.

Yes, lawyers bill at 15 minute intervals and when their performance is substandard, you fire them and find another. The provisions in the master agreement between the BCPSEA and BCTF make it near impossible to fire a teacher for poor performance. Teachers work about 42 weeks per year. According to their own ( BCTF) work-life balance survey, about 70 % of teachers work an average of 49 hours per week or less. That means in a calendar year, average hours per week is about 39.6 hours. That is about the same as the average unionised white collar worker. Teachers retiring in 2009 with 30 years’ service made about $76,000 in base not including benefits and pension (pension costs at about 15% of base), the average pension for a teacher retiring with 30 years of service were about $46,000 in 2009. That same retired teacher gets subsidized benefit coverage during retirement and is entitled to an indexed pension. Taking the example of the teacher with 30 years of service who retired in 2009, the present value of their pension is a cool three quarters of a million dollars. Now you can see why the BCTF and its members resist performance measurement and any human resource policy associated with performance. BTW, the last actuarial report showed Teacher pension plan with a $1.8 billion funding deficit. Guess who will pay for that???? Given the reward of near certain job secuirty and a lifetime income, merit based pay seems reasonable.

"Teachers don't get into the profession for the glory or the pay"

Well that should be welcome news to Minister Abbott - contract negotiations should be a breeze. Certainly no risk of a strike because that would be bad for the students.

@ Chris: "There's nothing preventing management from rewarding outstanding performers at levels higher than the minimum set out in a collective agreement."

What tools do management have to deal with those who fall below a minimum standard? Given the Avison report, this also has to be addressed - and is for many members of the public more to the point.

Bill,

Way to splice one sentence out of my entire post, mock it and ignore the rest.

Good job.

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