Teachers express views on pay-for-performance law

Pay-for-performance is a concept nearly everyone understands, but a group of Bingham County educators say they will never qualify.
They are those who teach and guide students at Independence Alternative High School, which serves all five districts in the county.
"People in the community are under the impression that good teachers will be rewarded" under the state's pay-for-performance or merit pay law," said Dan Grimes, who teaches government at IAHS. "But that's not true."
"Pay-for-perforrmance goes out to schools that meet certain standards, not to the teachers," said Mark Kartchner, the principal at IAHS. "The school gets additional funds if its students meet those goals. The testing is in math, language arts and reading.
"If your kids perform well, your school will get the money. We're not really rewarding great teachers," Kartchner said.
Pay-for-performance is among three education laws which will be on the November ballot. They are already in effect but enough citizens opposed them to get the laws a second look.
"We have great teachers here," Kartchner said. "I personally feel we have some of the best teachers in the district.
"Our goal is to help students get through high school," Kartchner continued. "Our best teachers need to be with kids who are struggling."
Grimes was the Blackfoot School District's Teacher of the Year in 2010. He will be presenting his views of why the three education laws -- dealing with collective bargaining, pay-for-performance and mandated assignment of laptop computers to all high school students in the state - on Wednesday. The Greater Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce and the Blackfoot Rotary Club are sponsoring his appearance at the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center from noon to 1:30 p.m.
"Being a good teacher can mean being able to get a student through a class," said social sciences teacher Rose Jex.
"There are so many teachers that shape kids' lives," science teacher Becky Price added.
"What's wrong with the (pay-for-performance) law is we are a very good school," said IAHS counselor Randy Martineau. "The law doesn't reward good teachers; it rewards schools with high-achieving demographics. "
Grimes pointed out that staff members, such as paraprofessionals who are key to helping students achieve success, are not eligible for the pay-for-performance funds.
Eric DuPuis, an English teacher at IAHS, said, "far more hurtful than the money is the thought that we lack merit or performance. We're happy to take at-risk kids, but we don't expect to get slapped in the face for it."
If teachers are ineligible for the pay-for-performance because their schools didn't meet such things as annual yearly performance they will leave those schools for successful ones, Grimes said.
"Our ultimate goal is to get the kids to perform well," Grimes said. "If this group will never be eligible for pay-for-performance, it will lead the top teachers to leave (their schools)."
"How are you going to say to great teachers, 'stay here where you don't have a chance?' to qualify for the merit pay," Kartchner asked.