Bill would tie salaries of Mich. teachers to student performance

Bill would tie salaries of Mich. teachers to student performance

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Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson said, Everything cannot get heaped upon the teacher." Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson said, Everything cannot get heaped upon the teacher."
DETROIT (WJBK) -

The Republicans in Lansing are pushing a new bill that would base teacher salaries on student performance. But will merit pay really help kids get a better education? Some say the answer is no.

Matt Hubert has been a social studies and Spanish teacher at Detroit's Northwestern High School for the majority of his 20 year career, but it hasn't been easy.

"Some students average anywhere from 20 to 40 absences per semester alone," he said. "It's really hard to teach a child that's not present for instruction."

Despite quite a bit of opposition, a bill was just approved by a state House committee that would tie a teacher's salary to a student's performance.

"It depends on the pay scale they're talking about, but I would imagine, based on what you've mentioned, that my paycheck would probably be diminished pretty significantly," Hubert said.

"It's really unrealistic because there are so many variables that come into play," said Keith Johnson, who heads the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

He said the bill fails. He feels it unfairly targets urban districts where many students are poor, are often truant and transient and come from unstable homes.

"We have to begin holding students accountable for what they're doing when they come to school and what they're not doing. Everything cannot get heaped upon the teacher," Johnson said.

State Rep. Pete Lund, a Republican who co-sponsored the bill, said it's not designed to penalize teachers. Instead, it would reward them for their work not their seniority.

"The main goal is to make sure that there's student growth," he said.

How to measure that growth is still being worked out. Critics say you can't hold a teacher accountable for a student's lack of motivation, but Lund argues teachers would be only compared to others in their own district who may be facing the same challenges.

"If you're being judged by your colleagues around you, the people in that school are going to have the same students that you have," he said.

"Let's not pit one teacher against another, which ultimately this will do," Johnson said.

"I think it's a community effort. I think everyone has to assume some sort of responsibility for the process," Hubert said.

Under this bill, teachers could also get a raise for an advanced degree, but only if it's in the subject they teach, for instance, if you're a math teacher, a master's in math not just in education.

Lund said it puts emphasis on what they teach, not the process.

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