When I was coaching we usually had enough kids to create two, three, or four teams at any given age class. Unlike many other clubs we did not try to create A, B, and C teams. Rather, we tried to create somewhat even teams where the "better" players might demonstrate their leadership.
Each year we'd split up these boys, and each year we'd end up with one team that seemed, ummm, "challenging." These kids were in special education services at school, or had families in trouble, or somehow just didn't fit in. We ended up with that team because every year I'd just say, when others complained about trying to coach "kids like that," I'd say, "put him on my team."
You know, usually, the other teams would do better in the league than we did. Sure we kept getting better, yes, we had a lot of fun, but problems perpetually struck, and we lost many, many games.
Now, none of us got paid, but in Arne Duncan's world, if we had been paid, I would have been paid less. This is because Duncan combines a terrible assessment system (the standardized test) with a terrible assessment period (a school year) to come up with a terrible way to assess. As if I would have been paid based on games won in a U-12 season.
See, in Duncan's world it would not matter that when they got to high school it was "my" kids who led the team to a conference championship. Nor that they stayed in school. Nor that they learned to work with other kids around them. Just as Lehman Brothers brokers walked away with massive bonuses without a thought regarding long-term results, my fellow coaches would have been rewarded, and I punished, based on short term nonsense.
And maybe I would have chosen not to coach "those" kids. Maybe "those" kids would have gotten scattered among other teams and forgotten. Maybe "those" kids would have gotten the least experienced coach every year. Maybe... because that is what is being incentivized if you create merit pay for teachers without completely re-thinking educational assessment.
We can laugh at Arne Duncan. Yes, he is the only person in Obama's cabinet who thinks that bonuses based on short-term results are a desirable "reform." But it is not funny. Merit pay creates all the wrong incentives. It will ensure that the kids who need the most help get the least.
I supported Barack Obama, and continue to. But he never indicated any real sense of what education in America needs, and his choice of a Secretary of Education has proven disastrous. Please email the White House and ask that Arne Duncan be fired. Please. Or we will remake our schools in the image of George W. Bush's Wall Street. And that is something America can not afford.
- Ira Socol