Sunday, May 31, 2009

A better way to merit pay

I've been catching up on my reading this weekend and saw two blog posts about merit pay, via This Week in Education.  

It's timely for me because my school is in the process of applying for a grant to start using Q-Comp, Minnesota's version of merit pay.  Governor Pawlenty is a huge fan and has made a pool of funds available, at a time when the state is cutting funding left and right to try to balance the budget.  

We need to balance our budget too -- we can't be squeamish about things like principles.

But actually, we've found a way to do merit pay that sort of fits with our mission.  Only 10% of the pay increase is tied to test scores, and that applies to all teachers, not to any teacher in particular - so it gives us an incentive to work together.  The rest is tied to projects that teachers come up with at the beginning of the year.

For example, as a social studies teacher my project might be to design and run a class that utilizes oral history.  I write up the proposal.  If I'm successful in my stated goals, I get the extra pay bump.  Q-Comp even provides some funds for materials for my project (such as tape recorders, etc.). 

Teachers at our school who experienced Q-Comp in traditional districts and hated it are excited about doing it this way.  It's cooperative rather than competitive.  I'll keep you posted on whether we get the funding.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If Only.

Senior Prank Somehow Leaves High School With Increased Math Funding

MAY 21, 2009 | ISSUE 45•21

TEXARKANA, TX—A prank in which seniors at West Texarkana High arrived for first-period classes with their shirts and pants on backward has somehow resulted in a $50,000 increase in funding for the school's math program, bewildered administrators announced today. "We'd like to thank the state superintendent, I guess, and also the fine folks at Texas Instruments for all those brand-new graphing calculators," vice principal Ed Guerrero said during his morning announcements. "I'd send everyone home and make them change, but maybe we should wait and see whether our computer lab gets remodeled first." The incident comes on the heels of last year's district championship by the debate team, after which the school's football program mysteriously had its entire budget cut.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

To the student who left me a prank voicemail wishing me a "cock-tastic" day ...

... and asking when that paper is due so he can be sure to shove it up my ass for me ...

I give you points for creativity. But by no means is that the most shocking prank voicemail I've gotten from a student.

Keep working at it!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Okay, let me have it.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confiscated a reporter's cell phone today when it went off during his briefing.  Then, a second reporter's phone went off, and the dude had the nerve to take the call and walk out of the room!  I would have definitely given him detention.

Video below, via the Washington Post.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Problem unsolving

Each year in May my school staff takes a week in May and reflect on what has gone well, what's not working, and what changes we can make for next year. We break into task forces to address the various changes we need to make. It's a really productive and exciting time.

This week one of the things I brought up as "not working" was our policy on stereotypes and harassment. Those of you who follow this blog know that our teachers are, shall we say, divided on the issue as what is acceptable in a public school. The "policy" our staff has been using so far when an issue comes up is either to ignore the situation, send the kid to me (because Julie's the one who cares about these things), or totally overreact by suspending kids without proper explanation of what they had done wrong.

The task force worked on it and came back with a written policy: Anything that's clearly harassment or stereotypical will be punished. Any "gray area" will be dealt with by the individual teacher who sees it.

That means that, for example, if a kid is wearing something like this * in one teacher's class and I find it inappropriate, I may ask him or her to take it off. However, no other teacher minds, that student may wear it in every other class. This policy absolves our administrators from having to be the bad guy.

*Which, by the way, apparently one of our TEACHERS wore one year for Halloween, complete with PAINTING HIS FACE BLACK.