Saturday, February 19, 2011

Orangeburg educator questions "merit pay"

Donna Holman, a teacher at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School in Orangeburg, is also a columnist at the Orangeburg Times & Democrat, where she once worked as education reporter. Earlier this week, Holman published a column -- "More expectations, less funding" -- to ask simple, basic questions about the notion of a "merit pay" model in South Carolina.

Help me understand merit pay for teachers. I work at the high school level now and in 20 years, I have had the privilege of teaching students from 5 to 45 years old. I appreciate the fact that lawmakers see the critical need to do something about our educational system.

Be realistic. If you are going to base a teacher's salary on how well students perform, there has to be fairness - a system of checks and balances for the teacher and the student. If you are going to judge one teacher for his ability to impart knowledge of his subject area, you have to give that teacher a student with the requisite skills and a desire to better himself.

All too often, teenagers are entering high school reading years below grade level. There are more than a few seniors who take the exit exam several times before scoring the minimum required for a diploma.

Everything in our power should be done to more than "adequately" prepare our young people for success. They need resources, family support, healthy meals and excellent instructors.

I believe that most South Carolinians see the value of education, and we all realize that something needs to be done to better serve our students. But most people just worry and complain. Lawmakers keep cutting funding and keep raising the bar of expectations on those employed in public education.

Guess what, folks? It doesn't matter how much everyone keeps talking and how great policies sound. If we all - as parents, community members, neighbors and friends - don't step up, take a genuine interest in helping a child and then hold that child accountable for his own reading ability and learning, not much is going to change.

This Valentine's Day, show a child you love him by buying him a book. I challenge you to show him, whether he is 1 or 21, that you value learning and know that reading is fundamental to succeeding.

It really makes no difference who we blame or how much we complain. The only thing that matters is each child's reality.

It is important to help children internalize the fact that as the student, it is their responsibility to learn. A teacher can teach, explain, offer practice of skills and re-teach all day, but until a child understands that he alone must grasp the material, that effort is futile.

Are you doing your part to help young people understand that how far they go in life depends, to a large degree, on how much they invest in getting there?

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