Day: March 10, 2009

The First 50 Days of Barack Obama

It is now 50 days since Barack Obama took the oath of office.

Overall, he has made a great start, but he faces many challenges and has already shown evidence that he wants to tackle many things at once.

He has inspired the American people and kept public support despite a rapidly declining stock market.

He has shown the proper balance of judgment and political acumen that is required of a successful President.

We can only hope that the next 50 days will see much more progress and success, but again Obama has had a good beginning and given the American people hope!

His actions in many areas reversing George W. Bush is the best about him, as he has shown understanding of the many injustices that have occurred in the past eight years, and is trying to change the playing field and promote the best in America in many different areas.

One thing is certain:  all Americans, whether they supported him or not, should wish him the best, as his successes will be to the benefit of the nation!

Barack Obama and Merit Pay for Teachers

President Obama today came out for merit pay for teachers, so as to reward the best teachers and promote competition among teachers for excellence in the classroom.

As an educator myself, the concept of merit pay sounds very appealing.  I certainly do NOT believe in blindly backing the National Education Association in its opposition to any major change in the way teachers are judged. 

However, I also see REAL problems with Obama’s approach.  The method of judging excellence is in reality a very subjective one, which can involve politics and personalities.  And the question arises:  Should a teacher be considered for merit pay solely on the basis of student performance?  I would say NO to that, as I am well aware that even the best teachers at any level still have limited impact on a student’s performance.  It is still the responsibility of the students and their parents that homework  is completed and to come to school with the right attitude and desire to learn.  Fighting a lackadaisical attitude by students and parents can be overwhelming even for the best teachers.  Nothing can guarantee good results on testing, but yet the concept of merit pay seems to be based on student performance alone. 

Certainly, teachers who disrespect their students and are lazy and have no desire for excellence should leave the teaching profession, but a teacher’s own drive and motivation and seriousness of purpose and dedication MUST be part of the equation of judging for merit pay, not just student performance which can also be artificial and manipulated and often has been in the past.

It all comes down to what Colin Powell said today on a CNN interview:  Students have to have the right attitude and motivation, and parents need to put the burden on their kids to PERFORM and show respect for teachers and authority.  Even the best teaching must be based on more than pure test scores, if we are to gain the best and the brightest in the teaching profession in the future.