Pay for performance mismatch

I always have to laugh when I hear reformers demand that teachers should be fired when they don’t produce results. The implication is that laggards in the executive suite are canned when they don’t deliver, while those in the classroom are not.  But a recent analysis found that even laggards in the corner office continue to receive raises (“Big Companies Pay CEOs for Good Performance – and Bad,” The Wall Street Journal, May 18).

In fact, for the fourth consecutive year, the biggest U.S. companies set CEO pay records, even though a majority posted negative stock market returns to shareholders.  What makes the comparison even more absurd is that CEOs have the power to hire only those they want.

Contrast the above with the situation in traditional public schools.  Teachers must accept in their classes all students who show up at their school’s front door regardless of ability or motivation.  Further, disruptive students cannot be summarily expelled.  Yes, it’s true that firing a chronically underperforming teacher is difficult.  But it’s not impossible because all tenure does is guarantee due process

Critics of traditional public schools argue that students suffer when weak teachers are allowed to remain the classroom.  In the corporate world, shareholders suffer, but CEOs who finally are fired walk away with more money than a hundred teachers could ever earn in a lifetime career.

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2 Replies to “Pay for performance mismatch”

  1. I’d be interested in hearing how ‘result’ is defined by these alleged reformers. There are certain concrete measurements in place for CEOs. Yes, they are paid obscene amounts with all sorts of generous side deals. However, if they do not produce, they are gone.
    Teaching is a more subjective profession. How do you measure teacher success? Is it entirely based on student grades? Classroom behavior? Future student success?

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  2. dkhatt: Excellent question. Most reformers emphasize standardized test scores as the No. 1 basis. They invariably cite such scores in comparing charter schools with traditional public schools. Teachers unions are blamed for protecting underperforming teachers from being fired, citing the firing of CEOs who don’t produce. But comparing teachers and CEOs is absurd because they work under completely different conditions.

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