Students Take Teachers' Pay into Own Hands

By Maureen Mespell
By Rachel Martin


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November 29, 2011 Updated Nov 29, 2011 at 12:49 AM EDT

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) -- Students made a presentation at the Huntington County Community School Corporation (HCCSC) Board meeting Monday night on why the corporation should not consider merit-based pay for teachers.

In a room crowded with parents, students, and board members, four Juniors from Huntington North High School made a presentation for their Honors English class on why they are against implementing merit-based pay for teachers.

In April, legislators passed the merit-based pay system for Indiana teachers. The plan requires student achievement to be part of teacher evaluations and pay raise considerations, which is what the students are against.

Anthony Beerybennett, Sebastian Eckert, Cameron Hackney, and Ethan Saunders said merit-based pay is unfair because it is based on testing and not the experience or quality of the teacher—the current method of payment for teachers in HCCSC.

“It’s been proven that merit-based pay doesn’t help get rid of bad teachers or improve test scores,” Saunders said.

“The way the system is now works better because I believe with more experience they will have better teaching techniques and be a better teacher overall,” Hackney said.

Hackney also said merit-based pay could turn schools into businesses. “It brings money into the situation and puts teachers at a disadvantage.”

They also said it could cause favoritism between teachers and students. “The student that’s doing very poorly might not receive as much attention as the student who is doing well in the class, getting A’s and B’s because they know that student will boost the grades and actually get them the pay raise that they need,” Hackney said.

The group conducted a survey of 55 teachers in three different schools across the district, and results showed the teachers were against merit-based pay as well. Overall, Eckert said it would not benefit anyone, including students.

“The students are coming to school everyday to learn. Putting this in the situation of merit-based pay, the students are coming to school to better their teacher's pay raise, so it's a major effect on the students,” Eckert said. “There is no doubt about the education system that we have in place is working. It’s been working for decades and it’s going to be working as it’s been working for the past years.”

Eckert said if anything, changing the system would decrease test scores because teachers are not a student’s main influence. Saunders said a student’s opinion of a teacher could also play a factor. “I had a teacher come up to me and say she’s had students come up to her and say that they’d actually fail the class just to get her fired.”

“[Students] have teachers that they flat out just do not like,” Eckert said. “So they’re not going to put their best foot forward everyday to make their scores better. They know as the teacher’s getting paid, it’s just based off of their performance.”

Eckert said he interviewed teachers who said they’ve been putting their all into their job, but some students are just not catching on to the system and what they need to learn.

“Changing to merit-based pay would base off of performance. If they’re giving a hundred percent now and they’re still not getting the grades the kids want to have, it’s not going to be enough.”

Indiana’s NewsCenter called Kevin Patrick, School Board President, after the meeting. He said there is a long process before merit-based pay can be implemented into HCCSC and state-wide. Patrick said he hasn’t made up his mind one way or the other on the issue, but he is very proud of the student presentation, and it gave him some things to think about.

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