Reason for Reform, NO to Merit Points!

Yesterday, Liberal leadership hopeful Kevin Falcon came out with his thoughts about our education system and what he would offer teachers if he was elected.  His idea was to give teachers incentives based upon (albeit not solely) the performance their students in the Vancouver Sun:

create a master teacher incentive program that would recognize exceptional and innovative educators and a model school incentive program that would reward schools for improvements in student achievement. 

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Liberal+leadership+candidate+Kevin+Falcon+under+fire+over+teacher+merit/4058337/story.html#ixzz1ABV8vdCf

Although some educators may cheer for Kevin Falcon’s incentive as a way to be rewarded for hard work (we do live in a Capitalist society after all), I personally take a pass.  This type of movement I fear could keep our education system in the 20th Century, unpersonalized, static.  To reward teachers for their students’ scores on standardized assessment actually promotes teachers to teach to the test.  That would narrow our education system, not broaden the minds of our students to think critically for themselves or be problem solvers.  Standardized tests – the name itself makes me think that the goal of them is to ‘standardize’ our students or make them in to drones that remember material for tests and forget it all a week later.  There is nothing genuine, authentic, or lasting about that type of ‘learning.’  I do understand that these set a baseline for education level but when has a standardized test ever ‘wowed’ a teacher or parent or student?  It hasn’t happened in my 15 years of teaching. As for the other ways teachers can get merit point such as extracurricular efforts, teacher are already doing them because we generally like what we do!  Lets not make them into yet another responsibility and keep them as a healthy choice for teachers.  No to merit points!
Instead, our education system needs to be progressive and empower our students to become thinkers!  Here is a snippet from David Rock’s great book Quiet Leaderhip that I think applies to education and every other aspect of human interaction:
being self-directed is the only way we learn, think, invent, create, solve problems, visualize, rethink, re-engineer – you name it, it all happens within a process of making our own connections.  It comes down to whether we improve people’s thinking or we get in the way of their thinking.  If we want people to think better, let them do all the thinking, then help them think.
If anything, we should be moving towards this type of leadership with our students, not teaching to standardized tests.  The great thing about this snippet is it applies to how teachers can facilitate learning, building a knowledge base and teaching skills upon how to use it, and not feed facts.  Teacher as facilitator of learning, not an opportunist on students to make them into a money-making commodity.
Please leave a comment if you like and thanks for reading!
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