Sunday, May 16, 2010

News Round-Up on Performance Pay

Here are some articles/ideas I've been reading about this week; these on teacher performance. (I note that some of these have been previously mentioned by other readers here and thanks for that; I tend to collect all the articles to go over at one time.)

Denver schools are trying a new teacher pay system called Pro Comp. I find it to be a fairly complex system of extra pay for different measures like working in hard to staff schools, exceeding expectations, advanced degrees. It started in 2008 and about half of Denver's teachers are enrolled. This system came about thru an agreement with Denver Public Schools and their teachers union and is funded by a levy. There was also a link at the Pro Comp site to the Center for Educator Compensation Reform, a clearing house for performance based compensation. There's just a ton of information there but I haven't had time to read it yet. A map at the site indicates that about two-thirds of the states have some form of merit pay (but not necessarily state-wide but by city).

In research done for the governor of Colorado, there were some interesting findings. One was that the overwhelming majority of teachers (93%) and parents (94%) feel that more than one measure of student achievement should be used to determine teacher performance (but sadly did not say what other measures or their weight). Parents did believe that teachers' contributions to student achievement should be compensated. Another one was:

"Performance-pay programs tend to attract and retain individuals who are particularly
good at the activity to which incentives are attached and repel those who are not. It raises
the overall quality of the workforce by altering the mix of low and high performance
teachers. "

Interesting. So is performance pay the way to find and retain better teachers? I've heard differently from teachers I've spoken with but this research also says that performance pay doesn't induce competition between teachers (but how about resentment)? Does money motivate someone to do a better job in a challenging profession?

The NY Times had an op-ed about a teacher evaluation system in New York state. The State Education Department and New York's teachers' unions have found agreement. Now it needs to be approved by the state legislature. The system is somewhat based on the New Haven, CT model. Going to check the model I found this part interesting:

[From New Haven's mayor] "Rather than resisting change as some teachers associations have done in other parts of the nation, New Haven teachers have chosen to make change, to help direct change, to be the change."

The district and union will also work out details of a differentiated compensation program to be based on schools' overall test scores, rather than individual classroom results. Teachers and principals in schools that win the bonuses will have the responsibility for divvying up the money. That structure sounds nearly identical to the program AFT President Randi Weingarten negotiated in New York City with Chancellor Joel Klein.

A few other items of note: Evaluations will differentiate among four levels of teacher performance, rather than the current two. The contract allows schools in higher-performing "tiers" to seek waivers of certain work rules in the contract, with teacher agreement.

It seems the American Federation of Teachers wants to get out ahead of this issue as noted in this article from Education Week.

“I was impressed,” said Charles Barone, the director of policy for the New York City-based Democrats for Education Reform, a political action committee that supports the use of data in teacher decisions. “I think [Weingarten] sees the writing on the wall and would rather have it on her terms than rammed down her throat.”

The AFT created the Innovation Fund to give grants for education innovations in public schools. From the Ed Week article:

The reform initiative is the centerpiece of the AFT’s drive to encourage school improvement efforts that are developed collaboratively between teachers and administrators.

“This will be viewed in retrospect as one of the most important days in real education reform,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said last week at a press conference here at the union’s headquarters to announce the winners of the financing. “Our unions are not afraid to take risks and to share responsibility for student success. We are not adverse to change; we are leading it.”

The Innovation Fund, which totals $3.3 million, has received financial backing from five private foundations. They are the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

But the fund’s down payment of $1 million came straight from members’ dues, Ms. Weingarten underscored.

“What better way to show [members’] wanting to make a difference to the lives of children than that?” she said.


LouiseM said...

Hopefully if these examples pan out, Washington will fall in line.

seattle citizen said...

F4K, question:

Why, if these examples have NOT panned out yet, if there is no data to show they work yet, would people be advocating for merit pay NOW? Wouldn't it make sense to actually wait and see?

This is a problem I see over and over again with "reform" stuff: Most of seems not to be based in actual experience and research, but in mere conjecture and hope.

Do you have any other research that backs up the idea that merit pay actually creates some significant improvement in student achievement (achievement measured broadly, not just by state tests)?

If not, why on earth would some people be advocating merit pay NOW unless there is some concrete reason why we would switch to this?

Sahila said...

Ms Weingarten's dancing with the Billionaire Boys Club is frowned upon by many of her membership around the country...


On April 24, 2010 at the 2010 Labor Notes convention in Detroit, MI, Washington D.C. AFT Local 6 VP Nathan A. Saunders outlined what they are facing with school privazation being supported by the AFT national union leadership. According to Saunders, Randi Weingarten has taken tens of millions of dollars from the Walton Family Foundation and other anti-labor operations and are (sic) using this money to push privatization of education.

For audio see here:

Richmond UTR-CTA Teachers Protest CTA Push For Privatization & Charter Schools- On 11/30/2009 at a United Teachers of Richmond union assembly, teachers spoke out about the push by the California Teachers Association for privatization of the schools and the role of the UTR president in manipulating and rigging an election for their contract. Additional videos include YouTube - utrprotest-UTR Rank and File Teachers Occupy Executive Offices In Response To Rigged Ratification On Concession Contract http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eq6eInj5pA4 Richmond UTR-CTA Teachers Speak On Contract Fight, Privatization & Rigged Union Vote http://blip.tv/file/2878250 Position of CTA in support of Charter Schools | CTA http://www.cta.org/issues/other/Charter+Schools.htm

see here for audio

LouiseM said...

SC before you jump all over me, read my post again. I said if it pans out. That means proven to work.

Take a chill pill will ya?

seattle citizen said...

Read mine: I ask why some groups are pushing for merit pay BEFORE there is any evidence from these various groups that it works?

Why would people be pushing something if it's not known it will "pan out" yet?

Can you tell me?

seattle citizen said...

Here's a link to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute that evidently says that "performance pay" is very rare in the business world, and doesn't work. I haven't read the whole thing, but I'm just pointing out that the idea of "merit pay" is not new (decades old) it's evidently not used all that often in the business world (except where it relates to career trqajectory: moving up in position, something not possible in education) so why would we jump on that band wagon when it's been sitting there empty for decades?


Here's an abstract from ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center - a strictly non-partisan research gathering site, or library)regarding a summary of the research on merit pay:
Merit pay programs are based on the simple idea that educators should be paid what they are worth; yet these programs face a host of practical problems, mostly centering on the difficulties of developing and administering such systems. A review of research shows that money may not be the best way to motivate teachers, who are more influenced by the intrinsic rewards of teaching. A report by the Educational Research Service suggests that merit pay programs often prove unworkable. Taken as a whole, the research in the area points most emphatically to a single conclusion about merit pay; its potential rewards are uncertain and it should be adopted, if at all, with a good deal of care. Evaluations must be made by several persons working with specific, multifaceted, and clearly articulated guidelines. Merit raises should not be reserved for a few superior teachers but must reward all who achieve a specific objective. Plans should be considered that reward teachers with praise or recognition rather than money, and schools should help create systems that foster more satisfying work experiences for teachers. (Author/JM)

LouiseM said...

SC, what part of the word "if" do you not understand?

I guess I'm just naive to believe that if something ends up working elsewhere it might work in WA. But what do I know? Apparently not as much as you.

Guess I'll have to support this great public education system we have that has excellent teachers in every classroom and serves all students equally. Isn't that why this blog was started, because things work perfectly fine now?

seattle citizen said...

What part of " why do some propose merit pay now when it hasn't yet "panned out" do you not understand?

Regarding the problems with education:
There have been some very good suggestions on this blog about how to improve education (along with the suggestion that merely using WASL scores or MAP tests to decide education is "failing" is a huge mistake):
Accountability. I share the opinion voiced here by others that accountability, from the top down, is where it's at.
"Merit pay" and "teacher quality" are NOT accountability, they're buzzwords, the first a very old one and the second a new term invented for union-busting and for deflecting attention away from REAL issues and putting it all, somehow, on the shoulders of educators.

Does our citizenry hold our Board accountable? No.
Does the Board hold the superintendent accountable? No.
Does the Supt, hold principals accountable? No.
Yet some would say we must merely hold teachers accountable?

Furthermore, the whole concept of "teacher quality," as currently espoused, is predicated on standardized tests. You realize, of course, that the same MAP test that people are complaining on this blog about, the one that is being used to place students in inappropriate next levels (spring test not being used, only winter) is the SAME test that would "hold teachers accountable"?

I've put forth plenty of good suggestions, and commented on others, that deal with REAL issues chidlren have in school, issues that walk in the door with them, issues their parents have, issues the system has when it promotes them without making sure they have ALL the knowledge necessary, issues students have with standardized tests, issues they face when they are told that their "group" (poor...Hispanic....Black...) is "failing"

There is so much more to education than the bubbles on test sheets, and the accountability STARTS in the community and proceeds to the Board, the Supt and then on down to the educators and other staff, THEN to the students themselves - who's holding THEM accountable?

Why, then, when others aren't accountable is the onus suddenly on educators to be the ones left holding the bag?

seattle citizen said...

Screed part II:

There are plenty of things students need, at all levels. Advanced classses, remedial classes, special services, ELL instruction, librarians, counselors, a community that supports them 24/7. Yet all we hear is "teacher quality!" "Bribe the teachers if WASL scores go up and slap them around if they go down!"

In my opinion, the reform movement is a smokescreen and a power grab: Distract the public from the REAL issues (poverty, equity in enrichment, abuse, greed etc etc) and force the public's eye onto just the teachers, just those who are in the classroom every day doing their best to work with students who face great challenge in the crazy, and often unsupportive, world around them.

I wish to see art honored and paid for; I wish to see auto shop, and ELL and a plethora of opportunity for children, not the dumbing down of them, turning them into data points on someones profit chart.

NOVA stands as an exemplar of education in this city - its students routinely do very, very well on all sorts of metrics, they are unique, creative, purposeful in their world....and successful.

Why on earth isn't NOVA being replicated? NOVA is about as far from a standardized education as one could get (as is the Seattle Girls' School Ms Merlo is on the board of) and these schools, one public and one private, produce exceptional students.

Do you think that Lakeside would stand still for the standardization we are seeing in public schools? The people who suffer will be the poor and the people of color - those with power or money will opt out, or go to public schools that have the pull to innovate - under the current drive, the poor will he offered WASL prep academies (because the reformers have sold people on the idea that WASL/HSPE is the ONLY worhtwhile measure) while Lakeside and Roosevelt (if it's lucky) will continue to offer interesting and innovative education.

NOVA is the star of teh district, yet the district (and the reformers) are running the other way. Why is that?

Lastly, how will there be accountability in this new regime, of "teacher quality" and "principal autonomy" Who will the principal be accotunable to, and to what metrics? WASL?

LouiseM said...

SC you wrote all that text just because I made one statement? What did you expect to accomplish?


Sahila said...

Well SC - I'd like to thank for your post - I learned a lot, as I do from most of your offerings...

And its so good to have access to material other than the edu-babble/PR spin that so often finds its way into the Seattle Times, is being sprayed around town by the LEV, S4C, A4E, OSC and now the Washington Policy Centre, the Superintendent's say-nothing pronouncements and E-news and the dense material put out by SPS Staff, full of contradictions, obfuscations and errors...

seattle citizen said...

I hoped to share my ideas about education, about what I see happening to it, what my hopes are for it, with anyone who cares to read. I don't own the Seattle Times, so this is one small venue where I can share my thoughts.

You're not interested, fine. Scroll down.

seattle citizen said...

AND, F4K, you still didn't answer my question: Why would some people think "merit pay" is good to do NOW if, as you say, we should see if it "pans out" in the examples posted?

I provided some links to research on how merit pay doesn't seem to be used much in the business world, and how it doesn't seem to do much for educators, either. But I guess you'd say "nevermind" to that, too, eh? Why bother discussing or looking at research or countering argument when you can just attack me instead?

Ach, nevermind.

LouiseM said...

Who is attacking you SC? Point to me exactly where I attacked you.

I post a simple statement and you start peppering me with questions, asking if I have research to back up the idea of merit pay. Do I have to have research to express a hope? I mean really. A hope.

I think you've been on this blog too long.

seattle said...

"Why on earth isn't NOVA being replicated?"

NOVA doesn't usually fill, and even the couple of years they did fill they only had a 1 or 2 kid waitlist. This year their 9th grade class is under enrolled. No doubt NOVA us a great school but it's not in huge demand. Certainly not enough demand to warrant replicating it at this point.

Schools that warrant replicating are schools that continually fill, and can not accommodate all of the families that want them: Roosevelt, Garfield, Ballard, TOPS, Bryant, Thornton Creek, come to mind....

seattle citizen said...

"Who is attacking you SC? Point to me exactly where I attacked you."

"SC you wrote all that text just because I made one statement? What did you expect to accomplish?"

"I think you've been on this blog too long."

"you start peppering me with questions, asking if I have research to back up the idea of merit pay."

No, I asked you one question, still unanswered, which was why SOME people would be pushing merit pay already if, as you say, we are waiting to see if it "pans out."

There is already research that says merit pay does not work, links to which I posted, so I guess we don't need THAT, so I will not ask you questions, I will merely make a statement:
Merit pay doesn't work - These cities that are trying it around the country evidently haven't done their research: If they had, they wouldn't be jerking our children around by subjecting them to reformist ideology which has proven ineffective.

Sahila said...

The example nearest to 'performance pay' I can think for comparison is commission sales, where you get a very basic payment - so you can get to work each day, basically - and a percentage 'bonus' on sales you generate.

I've worked in several jobs where that was the pay structure - euphemistically called an 'incentive package'... now, I'm good at what I do and I was able to make a living in this paradigm...


I managed to make a living because I put in a huge number of hours getting to as many potential clients as possible. It wasnt about quality of product, quality of relationships - it was a numbers game... which is what ed reformers are focusing on here... its about numbers, not about quality and relationships...

And the lack of security and control over the outcome made it a very stressful work environment.

Marry that with working within a completely unsupportive, under resourced work environment, with management making huge demands (because my efforts directly impacted their bottom line, which was their sole focus) and I made the decision that it just wasnt worth it...

Teaching will be the same with the imposition of 'performance pay'...

Is that the 'energy' we want to expose our children to?

seattle said...
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seattle said...

"which is what ed reformers are focusing on here... its about numbers, not about quality and relationships..."

Why does it have to be quality and relationships VS numbers, or quantifiable accountability? Why can't we have a little bit of both? We've seen schools fail that fall on both sides of the Spectrum.

I understand that there are many things a teacher does that are intangible and that can not be measured. But there are also many things that a teacher does that can and should be measured.

Personally,I prefer a middle ground.

LouiseM said...

SC you call that attacking you? Your skin appears to be quite thin for someone who spends their time on this blog demanding people prove their merit to you by always supplying research.

I made a simple statement of hope if something was proven to work and you turned it into something else.

Now attacking you would be me calling you an insecure ass. Which I'm not doing at the moment.

Sahila said...

Melissa - are we going to have moderation on this thread because of Fighting for Kids inflammatory posts?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, let's all calm down.

Look, I know that sometimes it's not just a person's POV but the tone/manner it is said in. I have said this before - words have meaning so choose your words carefully.

Please don't call people names (I, too, wrongly did it one time on this blog). It won't help.

I know there are clearly some strong personalities on the blog but please try to present your case in a fashion that doesn't slam someone else.

seattle said...

I'd like to add that when people share their opinions, ideas, or even just their wishes and hopes for the district that they should not be asked to "prove" their points or present research. It's fine to ask someone to back up, with research, a statement they make as fact. But otherwise it should be OK for someone to just share their ideas.

seattle citizen said...

Toni, there is repetitive posting here of opinions. Mine and others. I feel that there is repetitive posting of "pro-reform" points, as obviously people who want these changes are lobbying for them. An opinion that we can "wait to see if they (merit pay) pans out" is asking for the question, "why is being done if it hasn't panned out already," and also for, "there's years of research that suggests it DOESN'T work, so I asked for omment about that.

I apologize if I seemed to pushy in asking for research, but with all the hootin' and a-hollerin' about merit pay and "autonomy" and, what was that new name for vouchers..."Follow the student funds" or whatever, I feel it necessary to argue against this concerted effort to spread dis-information (bad surveys, often groundless claims, both about students, teachers and schools, and even more often about these four or five "great reforms")

So I alomst always ask where someone gets their ideas for these things. F4K didn't make a statement, no, but as there have been other comments by this poster on these reform talking points, I asked for an opinion:

Why are they being tried if there is research that suggests they don't work, or little research that says they do?
And then I asked for whatever research F4K might have that would shed some light on the subject.

Doesn't seem unreasonable.

But my tone, I know, can be angry and insistent - that's because I AM angry and insistent, that whoever is collabortating in this effort to continue crammimg stanardized tests down the throats of our children in order to drastically, and in my opinion, negatively change education simply stop. There doesn't appear to be a basis for this drive, there is little posted to back it up, so why is IT (Reform) so insistent?

We're data driven, on this blog, so show me the data.

seattle said...
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seattle said...

You are entitled to your opinion SC. Some agree and some don't. Just don't forget that this is a community blog, predominantly frequented by parents and teachers - not corporate think tank executives.

I think your "angry and insistent" tone is misdirected. Save it for the organizations that you are so fed up with and don't direct it at parents offering a contribution to a thread, who do not have an agenda, and only want to share their thoughts, ideas and opinions - Just like you do.

And BTW SC, you don't just "ask for a comment about the topic", you demand research and data. If it is someones OPINION they don't have to provide you with research. It's just their opinion or idea or view. Take it for what it's worth.

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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seattle said...

Sc said "and, what was that new name for vouchers..."Follow the student funds"

Two totally different things. "Vouchers" are offered to families to allow them to bypass public schools and use the voucher toward private school tuition. That is drastically different from "follow the student funds", AKA WSF, which is what we used here in SPS for many years. I liked it much better that the punitive WSS that we use currently.

seattle citizen said...

Regarding research, I'm not in much position to demand anything, so no worries there.

But it's reasonable to ask, demand, beg whatever that those who ake a position explain why they take their position. They don't have to answer.

If they are merely mouthing platitudes, I would ask that they explain why. I know much of it is born of frustration for thier children's sake, but many of these deabtes have been going on since before their children were born, and will continue after they are grown up and the parent/guardians move on to other issues, as many do.

Meanwhile, IF what anyone says is a mere platitude, "sounds lie a good idea" sort of thing, I will question their asumption and ask them why they think it's a good idea.

Not unreasonable.

I'd be happy to save my venom for those who are part of one of these Foundation-funded edu-reform "think tanks" (you say people on this blog are not these people, but I'm sure you're wrong, that some indeed are, especially recently as the contract negotiations get going. There's a slew of people trying to push the same talking pints (and again, where's the research?) and some are here selling the same line.

seattle citizen said...

My comment about Liv Finne's favoring of WSF on the other thread, when I asked, "oh, you mean vouchers," was directed at Ms Finne because she obviously favors privatization, charters and vouchers. She cited that author as supporting vouchers. I beleive that when Ms Finne speaks of WSF, building autonomy etc she is doing it in the context of charters. Since she also supports vouchers, I can only assume that her goal is to turn WSF into a sort of voucher in a "free market" of schools, those schools charters, and the charters, by being semi-private, become the recipients in that view of vouchers, not WSF.

I like WSF, too, if the school is fully public, not run by some outside organization, and accountable to all district policies. Otherwise, it's just giving tax money to whoever convinces the district that "WASL scores will go up."

Sahila said...

For Toni and all others who think that seniority is the first and/or only factor considered in RIFing...

Layoff is done by category
and then by seniority...

The certificated teacher contract is on the SEA website.

Its a very interesting document, and reading it will dispel some of the current myths around RIFing and teacher evaluation and salary - such as Liv Finne's assertion that teachers get paid for 12 months while only doing 10 months work...

Details re evaluation and RIFing start at page 106 of the contract... there are also salary scales listed - you'll see that teachers are not exactly being handed bags of gold for the work they do and for the qualifications they hold....

seattle said...

"I can only assume that her goal is to turn WSF into a sort of voucher in a "free market" of schools"

You know what happens when we ass ume

seattle said...
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seattle said...

Interesting reading indeed Sahila

A few quotes from said document:

"The SPS will provide the SEA with a master copy of the Bargaining Unit seniority list and two (2)
copies of the building seniority list given each principal/program manager prior to the beginning of
the staff adjustment process."


"The performance ratings (evaluation) of employees shall not be a factor in determining the order of layoff under this Section"

But I think what Sahila is really referring to is this:

"Displacement of staff from buildings, layoff, and recall shall be by seniority, within categories,
subject matter areas, or departments."

For elementary school, this would have no bearing at all, since teachers are not assigned to categories or subjects. In elementary school almost all layoffs would be seniority based. For middle and high school, once again, we see that within a category the riff is based on SENIORITY. If funding is cut for high school counselors, then counselors are laid off based on seniority. The counselor with the LEAST SENIORITY is let go.

RIFFs are still very much seniority based.

seattle citizen said...

Cogent comment, Toni, thanks for sharing!

seattle citizen said...

I meant your comment about me being an ass. I guess I should have said that from Finne's comments I INFER that she is talking vouchers for semi-privatized charter schools when she talks about WSF.

But if you want to poke at me instead of comment about the issues, that's okay.

seattle citizen said...

But you know what happens when we in fer....we get hot in the summer.

seattle said...

SC, maybe you can explain the part seniority plays in the SPS RIFF policy to Sahila?

Sahila said...

Toni - you are still mistaken... categories are the first consideration and then seniority...and categories do apply to elementary schools - did you read the list of categories?

and why wouldnt the union want to know what factors the District is considering when layoffs are being planned... if I was the union, I wouldnt trust the District to take those actions without oversight...

And if a teacher's evaluations are bad and not remediated over a period of time, they ought to be gotten rid of within the schools and not at RIFing time - WHICH WOULD DEPRIVE THEM OF DUE PROCESS... failure to get rid of bad teachers is a failure of principals and the District, not of the union...

You read into the contract what you want to see, I read into it what is really there...

seattle citizen said...

Sahila is spot on, something I've said over and over:
IF the evaluation process was benig used as it should (the existing process, some new process, whatever) THEN any issues would be remediated during the course of the year, and IF RIFS were necessary, then seniority would be the fair way to go, as all staff is already evaluated and determined "good," "bad", or "working to improve."

To use some sort of evaluatory sorting scale at RIF time opens up the opportunity to sweep away teachers who "don't get along," or disagree with the principal or whatever.

My opinion is that those who want other metrics to come into play at RIF time are those who want the principal to be able to fire at will, and I just don't think this is a good idea.

(Note also that the recent Catholic School RIF in....Bellevue? was determined partly on categories (like us) and partly on "ability to attract students at registration..." So if the class was popular with students the teacher is good and should be kept? Ice cream every day! No tests! That'll bring in the crowds, even though it says nothing about teacher quality...)

seattle said...
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seattle said...

RIFFs due to the "ability to attract students at registration..."

I read that to mean not attracting as many registrants to the school, thus the need to reduce staffing. I did not read it to mean that a teacher not attracting enough kids to his particular class should be let go.

And Sahila, you can read the document any way you please. When it all boils down RIFFs are made based on seniority. I've been on committees at schools twice now during a time of RIFFs and seniority is all that is looked at.

If the district is cutting 1 LA teacher at every high school, the LA teacher that goes at each high school is the one with the least seniority. That is the way it is now and has always been.

seattle citizen said...

Here's a piece of research on the cautions to be followed when looking at perfmormance pay. I didn't purchase the book, but the website has the preface and an abstract of the first chapter that suggests most private business, especially those with professionals dealing with more abstract information rather than "product," do NOT use performance pay based on numbers.


Dorothy Neville said...

"If the district is cutting 1 LA teacher at every high school, the LA teacher that goes at each high school is the one with the least seniority. That is the way it is now and has always been."

I don't think that's exactly the case, please someone correct me though if I am wrong. If each of 8 HSs loses one LA teacher, then the least senior LA teacher per school is displaced. At the school level, they are displaced and put into a district wide pool for RIFs. So from one school, three LA teachers might get RIFed and two of the displaced but more senior teachers would have to move.

seattle citizen said...

"Merit pay plans are less common in the private sector than people think, research shows. Only one in seven employees is covered by a merit pay plan and most of those workers are in real estate or sales."