Education Letter to the Editor

Incentives for Teaching Demean the Profession

December 01, 2009 1 min read

To the Editor:

Since when is it necessary to provide teachers with incentives to teach well (“Researchers Probe Performance Incentives for Teachers,” Nov. 11, 2009)? I’ve had experience in both business and education—in business as a director of information services in the government and private sectors, and in education as a teacher, school administrator, and university professor—and am insulted by the attempt at the national and state levels to effectively bribe educators to teach children “better.”

In fact, all teachers should be insulted and outraged by this latest political and legislative absurdity. In my state of Texas, lawmakers and business leaders determined that teachers should be paid incentives to improve student performance, and thereby further success in school. It was doomed to failure, and, as confirmed by a report last month, didn’t work.

Teaching is not an industrial, assembly-line position in which the more pieces you finish, the more money you earn. The whole honorable point of becoming a teacher is that you want to build a positive educational foundation and a love for learning for each student, and then increase that child’s knowledge in ongoing increments so that he or she can move toward a successful future with a positive work ethic.

If states would provide teachers with professional salaries, there would be no need to complement their pay with incentives for additional income. Salary increases should be followed with a more intelligent and productive way of improving learning outcomes than the current “pass the state exam” mentality, and smaller student-to-teacher classroom ratios should be instituted.

An incentive plan for teachers represents irresponsible and inappropriate thinking, and sends a negative message about an honorable field. If we want to start an incentive program, perhaps we should give legislators rewards for each intelligent proposal they come up with.

Peter Stern

Driftwood, Texas

A version of this article appeared in the December 02, 2009 edition of Education Week as Incentives for Teaching Demean the Profession