Sowell falsely claimed Obama proposes merit pay be "measured by teachers themselves"

››› ››› MARK BOCHKIS

In a syndicated column criticizing Sen. Barack Obama's education plan, Thomas Sowell falsely claimed that under Obama's "merit pay for teachers" proposal, merit would be "measured by teachers themselves," rendering Obama's reference to merit pay, Sowell wrote, "meaningless." In fact, Obama has said that he will work with teachers unions to develop a system to determine merit pay, not that he would allow teachers to evaluate their own performance or independently choose the measures by which merit is evaluated.

In an October 7 syndicated column criticizing Sen. Barack Obama's education plan, Thomas Sowell falsely claimed that under Obama's "merit pay for teachers" proposal, merit would be "measured by teachers themselves," rendering Obama's reference to merit pay, Sowell wrote, "meaningless." In fact, Obama has said that he will work with teachers unions to develop a system to determine merit pay, not that he would allow teachers to evaluate their own performance or independently choose the measures by which merit is evaluated.

As Media Matters for America noted when conservative author David Freddoso similarly claimed that Obama "takes all the teeth" out of his idea of a "merit-pay program" for teachers by "promising" that "the measure of 'merit' " will be determined "by some yet undiscovered measure to be chosen by teachers' unions," the July 5, 2007, Philadelphia Inquirer article Freddoso cited does not support that assertion. Rather, the article quoted Obama as saying: "I think there should be ways for us to work with the NEA [National Education Association], with teachers' unions, to figure out a way to measure success. ... I want to work with teachers. I'm not going to do it too [sic] you, I'm going to do it with you." Similarly, in a November 20, 2007, speech on education in Manchester, New Hampshire, Obama proposed to "find new ways to increase pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them and not based on an arbitrary test score."

From the July 5, 2007, Philadelphia Inquirer article:

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama today endorsed the idea of merit pay for teachers before an audience hostile to the idea, the giant National Education Association, but he softened the blow by telling the union's national assembly that he would not use "arbitrary tests" to link pay to performance.

"I think there should be ways for us to work with the NEA, with teachers' unions, to figure out a way to measure success," Obama told a crowd of about 9,000 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. "I want to work with teachers. I'm not going to do it too you, I'm going to do it with you."

From Obama's November 20, 2007, speech in Manchester:

And where they do succeed -- where our teachers and principals go above and beyond the call to make a real difference in our children's lives -- I think it's time we rewarded them for it.

Cities like Denver have already proven that by working with teachers, this can work -- that we can find new ways to increase pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them and not just based on an arbitrary test score.

My plan would provide resources to try these innovative programs in school districts all across America. Under my Career Ladder Initiative, these districts will be able to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as mentors to new teachers with the salary increase they deserve. They can reward those who teach in underserved places like rural New Hampshire and across urban America. And if teachers acquire additional knowledge and skills to serve students better -- if they consistently excel in the classroom -- that work can be valued and rewarded as well.

Now, if we do all this and find that there are teachers who are still struggling and underperforming, we should provide them with individual help and support. And if they're still underperforming after that, we should find a quick and fair way to put another teacher in that classroom. Teacher associations and school boards in a number of cities have led the way by developing peer assistance and review plans that do exactly this -- setting professional standards that put children first. We owe our teachers that, and we owe our children that.

From Sowell's October 7 column:

Even when he verbally endorses the reform idea of merit pay for teachers, he cleverly re-defines merit so it will be measured by teachers themselves, rather than by "arbitrary tests." In other words, Obama placates critics of the educational status quo by being for merit pay in words, while making those words meaningless, so as not to offend the teachers' unions.

Posted In
Education, Teachers
Person
Thomas Sowell, David Freddoso
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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