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.