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August 09, 2011 2 min read
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| VIEWS | FINDING COMMON GROUND

‘Pray the Gay Away’

Last month, ABC News reported that presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her husband, Dr. Marcus Bachmann, believe that through the use of counseling, gays can change their sexual orientation. Bachmann has not denied, nor has she confirmed, the opinions expressed in the ABC News story. It’s not the first time she has come under criticism for connections to anti-gay remarks.

As much as this opinion is not new, it still sends a harmful message to our students for two reasons. First, it tells LGBT students that the world is not a safe place to come out. Second, it tells anti-gay proponents that being gay is a choice, which also has harmful effects on LGBT youth.

Teenage years are hard enough with all the storm and stress with academic studies and relationships with family and friends. Feeling that you need to hide who you are for fear others won’t like you is painful, and that is what LGBT students often face.

Some LGBT students walk in our doors every day trying to be someone they are not, and our society does not make that any easier, especially when there are stories that you can “pray the gay away.” It perpetuates the fear within LGBT students that something is wrong with them, and when they come to the conclusion that they cannot change who they are, they are left with feelings of depression, anger, and insecurity, which can be devastating

The reality is that you cannot pray the gay away, and the more LGBT and heterosexual students hear this message, the more they will think it’s a reality. —Peter DeWitt

| VIEWS | ON PERFORMANCE

Zombie Post-Mortem: Why Merit Pay Will Rise Again

New York City recently announced the end of its merit-pay program after three years and $56 million. It’s good timing—the Atlanta cheating scandal has cast a pall over any attempt to tie compensation to test scores. The New York Times reports that “the decision was made in light of a study that found the bonuses had no positive effect on either student performance or teachers’ attitudes toward their jobs.”

That doesn’t mean this beast will stay down, though. Merit pay is the zombie of education policy—it just won’t seem to die. Why is that?

First, merit pay is a logical-sounding alternative to seniority-based compensation. While teachers generally get better over time,and people generally expect to earn more as they progress in their careers, the argument for paying for years of service isn’t as strong as it once was.

Second, merit pay still functions to allocate rewards to those who get the best “results.” As the evidence mounts that merit pay doesn’t lead to higher test scores, you can expect future merit-pay proposals to be justified as more fair.

Third, as Erik Hanushek has pointed out, results-based compensation has the potential to attract people to the profession who are currently drawn into other fields.

As the Times notes, U.S. spending on merit pay has quadrupled in the past five years, so the zombie is unlikely to be finally slain any time soon. However, given the mounting evidence that merit pay doesn’t do what people hoped it would do, you can expect to hear new rationales for the next round of merit-pay proposals. —Justin Baeder

A version of this article appeared in the August 10, 2011 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week

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