Huth: MNEA is opposed to personal attacks, not performance pay

Monday, June 15, 2009 at 12:00am
Erick Huth

EDITOR'S NOTE: Metro Nashville Education Association President Erick Huth wrote this commentary in response to Liz Garrigan's Broad Logic column that appeared in the Monday, June 8 edition.

Liz Garrigan’s commentary confirms performance-based pay and charter schools are emotional issues soaked with ideology. There can be no doubt that Garrigan and I see the world through a much different set of lenses.

Garrigan, whose style is laced with caustic, often humorless prose, has made a career of attacking those with whom she disagrees. I believe freedom of the press comes with a responsibility to be honest and fair. However, Garrigan’s most recent attack against me was not only absurd but intentionally untruthful.

Garrigan somehow read into my recent commentary in The Tennessean that I was categorically against performance pay. While the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association remains open to the idea, everyone must acknowledge there are challenges to implementing performance pay, which must be addressed by policymakers and teachers alike. To argue that any performance pay plan thrown together to satisfy political pressures will necessarily produce results or reward intended performance is naïve.

Contrary to Garrigan’s assertions, the MNEA has engaged in performance pay plans for teachers in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. For the better part of a decade, we have had an agreement with the Board of Education to provide a supplement to teachers who become certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

MNEA and the Board agree NBPTS certification is proof of one’s merit as an educator and, therefore, we reward those who achieve the certification. I personally believe our supplements for NBPTS certification are consistent with the “Knowledge and Skills Based Pay” concept advanced by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Our NBPTS compensation is pure “merit” pay based on measured performance.

MNEA also has agreed to a plan to provide incentives for teachers to move into positions generally considered hard to staff. Those who transfer to Napier, Shwab, McKissack Ninth Grade Academy, Wharton or John Early schools will receive a 5 percent supplement next year. Certain other teachers will receive a bonus for transferring to high priority schools next year as many did last year.

Also, MNEA and MNPS have partnered with Vanderbilt University in a study on performance pay for middle school mathematics teachers. The National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt is conducting the research under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The 2008-2009 school year was the third year of the study, and throughout the project teachers have received annual incentives for performance in mathematics as high as $15,000 in one year.

MNEA is not absolutely opposed to performance pay. What we are opposed to is performance pay for political or ideological reasons. In fact, we are open to continued discussions about effective uses of performance incentives.

As for charter schools, they have their place in our society and some are successful. However, all charter schools are not more successful than other public schools. Current educational research supports my position that charter schools are no more successful than other public schools. Therefore, Garrigan’s argument rests solely on anecdotal information, hearsay and ideology.

Those who must reduce their ideological views to name-calling and fiction clearly have a weak argument. Garrigan’s repeated attacks on my character, the character of my immediate predecessor, and the MNEA prove to me she has malicious intent. I can accept that Garrigan does not like me or my organization, but her words reveal an inner hatred that is hard for me to understand.

I believe my views of charter schools and performance pay have some legitimacy because I base them in part on peer-reviewed educational research. I will acknowledge ideology plays a role in my opinions but my views are not wrong or evil because they happen not to resemble Garrigan’s.

5 Comments on this post:

By: martindkennedy on 6/15/09 at 5:49

... but my views are not wrong or evil because they happen not to resemble Garrigan’s.

No, they are wrong and evil regardless of what Garrigan thinks. You are a union leader - who really cares what your opinions are or what motivates them? You're trying to get the highest pay for teachers regardless of performance. Your agenda hurts good teachers and poor children. Throwing hissy fits at people like Garrigan does not change the reality that you oppose expanded choice for poor kids. Liz Garrigan displays no inner hatred. What you sensed was total disgust. Feeling disgust for people who thwart genuine reform is understandable.

By: girliegirl on 6/15/09 at 8:13

The biggest problem with performance pay that I've witnessed up close: a teacher (and yes, even a student teacher) can "train" her students to perform well on those standardized tests, the child will have very little "true application" of the material outside the classroom. These facts are pointed out during the student teaching phase of most Secondary Ed majors in colleges today. As the head of the Sam Houston Math Dept said to me, "I don't want a Dog and Pony Show. I want a kid who can solve real life problems using the skills that we can provide him."

By: Dragon on 6/15/09 at 9:26

The standardized tests should measure the knowlege imparted to the student. A good test would test the skill of the student in applying that knowlege. On a very simplistict level, the student should memorized the multiplication table before being asked to determine 10% profit on little Suzie's lemonade stand.

By: BlueInTn on 6/15/09 at 12:43

MNEA is a joke. Just go to their website and see how poorly it's done. Their leadership is lacking. They don't care about the schools or kids. They care about getting raises and keeping poor perfoming teachers in place so they can pay their membership dues.

By: govskeptic on 6/16/09 at 1:20

I'm always amazed at those in educational higharchy that use the phrase and fuss about "teaching to the test" to complain about testing.
Most of us parents just want them to teach rather than bitch about their pay and working conditions, training days, and benefits. Just get busy and teach something. To the test, logical thinking, right now it's nothing by many to these "tenured" 9 month no accountability loafers.
That's why many new energetic teachers either change occupations or go to another school system. God bless the good ones that hang in there and do a good job in spite of all.