Top teachers merit more

2013-04-30T05:15:00Z Top teachers merit moreA Wisconsin State Journal editorial madison.com
April 30, 2013 5:15 am  • 

School principals should know who their best teachers are, and those top performers deserve higher pay.

Jeff Charbonneau, honored last week by President Barack Obama at the White House as national teacher of the year, helps show why.

Charbonneau teaches chemistry, physics, engineering and architecture at Zillah High School in Zillah, Wash.

“I fight a stigma,” Charbonneau wrote in his award application. “Students hear the words ‘quantum mechanics’ and instantly think ‘too hard’ and ‘no way.’ It is my job to convince them that they are smart enough, that they can do anything.”

He’s succeeding. About two-thirds of juniors and seniors at the small, rural school are signing up for chemistry and physics. And nearly every student is graduating with some college credit, according to the Associated Press.

Charbonneau can award college credits to his high school students because he attained adjunct faculty status with local universities, and many of his fellow teachers at Zillah now are doing the same. Zillah offers 72 classes that can lead to college credits, and 90 percent of students go on to college, an apprenticeship or the military.

To help build enthusiasm for math and science, Charbonneau runs a statewide robotics competition and created an ecology program that includes hiking trips.

With America needing more young scientists to innovate and compete in the global economy, Charbonneau is helping fill that demand.

Yet he and so many other top educators across the country can’t get higher pay for excellent work. Their contracts don’t link compensation to performance. Instead, they’re paid extra for years of experience and advanced degrees.

That needs to change. President Obama has encouraged merit pay for teachers. So has Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Merit pay will help keep the best teachers in the profession. It also should convince more of our talented young people to pursue teaching as a career.

Critics, including many unions, claim teacher performance can’t be judged fairly. Yet every year, a variety of education groups distinguish and celebrate exceptional work. If they can do it, so can school principals.

Charbonneau and other top teachers deserve a boost for being the best.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. PapaLorax
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    PapaLorax - May 01, 2013 10:13 am
    A case of bad administration does not mean the model of administrative oversight is bad. Additionally, you can't argue that how they behaved in one setting would translate directly to a different setting.
  2. Norwood44
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    Norwood44 - May 01, 2013 8:37 am
    "retired. administration's. gripes. meetings. therefore. parents'. or parent's. because they support. idea." I am sure that those mistakes were unintentional and perhaps due to age.
    I don't agree with your statement that opposing the union is tea party mania. Good teachers should be paid more. Average teachers should receive training to improve. Bad teachers should be dismissed. As for evaluating teachers, everyone in America who has a job gets evaluated annually. Why is it that teachers think they cannot be evaluated? This is not rational. The entire accountability debate is a union construct designed to dodge accountability in one of the most important jobs in our culture. Public education in America cannot excel without better teachers.
  3. Norwood44
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    Norwood44 - May 01, 2013 7:24 am
    Great op ed. Unions do not encourage excellence, amongst their members or those they serve. They protect the average and below average employee at the expense of the great teachers and students. Madison teachers have a 175 page contract that insulates them from accountability and dumbs down the work force. We will never excel with this model. Great teachers should get great comp. Ineffective teachers, or unintelligent teachers, should be helped and then dismissed if they don't cut it. Teaching is too important to be average or worse. We need better pay and status for teachers so smarter grads go into the field. Top 15-20% of college grads don't go into teaching. Why? Because you aren't paid for excellent work. They are just paid for getting old. In 2010 not one of Madison's 2700 teachers was dismissed for any reason, including sub par performance. No better stat to clearly show that excellence isn't in the job description. Unchallenged MTI security regardless of performance is Job One. Not the way for public education to excel.
  4. xLiberal
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    xLiberal - April 30, 2013 5:44 pm
    Mschweger, you seem to be saying that there are no bad teachers in MTI. Really? Zero, nada, zip? I have a bridge to sell you.
  5. bun
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    bun - April 30, 2013 5:06 pm
    I was one of the top teachers at Madison Public School I am now retied. I however, did not always go along with the administrations position. One of my grips was that we were asked to attend meeting during our teaching time. I thought it was more important to be in my classroom with my students and not have a sub. Therefor I am sure my pay would have never been raised due to lack of administrative support. And you want some administrator to give out raises. You have got to be crazy. MTI is the parents best friend they support great teachers and can do little to defend any teacher. The Idea that unions are the cause of any problem is Tea party mania.
  6. PapaLorax
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    PapaLorax - April 30, 2013 4:09 pm
    my point is your ability to assess that science teacher is the same ability administrators should posses and use.
  7. oly65
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    oly65 - April 30, 2013 3:44 pm
    Basing EVERY thing on test scores are bad. There is a bigger percentage of teaching to do better on the TEST than there is on teaching students to be well rounded citizens. Ever heard of book smart but street stupid? Thats exactly what we will get from our students a bunch of harry potters that can do good on a test but cant think for him or herself. Our school takes weeks to teach students how to take the test and to get good scores by knowing what is exactly on this test nothing more. No need for arts or sports or industrial studies since they are not on any test that counts. My best teacher was my sience teacher and worked my but off for a C+. Better than the teachers that gave me an A for being able to write my name properly. Same as this test the students that are average probably are just as qualified as the top students.
  8. PapaLorax
    Report Abuse
    PapaLorax - April 30, 2013 9:46 am
    The unions have repeatedly put out that test scores are bad - and administrative review is not a good method. Therefore, since no good method exists quit talking about merit.

    Bah - it is not a good stance for anyone to behave as if evaluating teachers is too difficult.
  9. mschwaegerl2
    Report Abuse
    mschwaegerl2 - April 30, 2013 9:10 am
    To Legal--what crappy teachers does MTI protect? Can you name them? It is your civic duty to do so. The trouble is Walker wants to reward teachers based on student test scores. What are the test scores for Mr. Charbonneau's students? That other stuff doesn't matter.
  10. PapaLorax
    Report Abuse
    PapaLorax - April 30, 2013 8:34 am
    More then merit pay the pay scale needs to be severely flattened. Good young talent avoids teaching because the starting pay is so terrible. That is what needs to be fixed. Whatever the merit pay is, will be a small pool of bonus and not make a substantial difference in recruiting.

    This is one of those things that sounds nice, but in practice just will never be what people think it will be. My guess is a teacher like the one in the article would rather have $5k to re-invest back in the classroom then $1k in his pocket.
  11. legalizeit
    Report Abuse
    legalizeit - April 30, 2013 7:16 am
    MTI protects the crappy teachers and makes it harder for the best teachers to get paid what they deserve - which is a lot more than they are getting.
    And our kids suffer as a result
    SAD

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