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Speaking of spooky stuff: Pay for performance haunts teachers

In the spirit of the day, Matthew Thompson, International Baccalaureate teacher at South Forsyth High School, offers this tale of ghosts of failed school reforms past.

By Matthew Thompson

“The English teacher turned left on Majors road after leaving school, determined to keep up his new fitness regime of walking home from work. At school late grading, it was dark and windy, but a full moon would light his way home.

As he turned he saw a figure of a man walking in front of him. He thought he recognized him.

"Hello," he called out. The man turned. "Hey, aren’t you the new teacher down the hall?"

"Yeah, thanks for helping me with online grading program." "No problem," he replied, "Hey, are you walking home, too?"

"Yep, if you don’t mind, I’d like to walk with you. I am kind of new to this world. I can go with you for a bit, but I bet I have farther home to go than you do."

"Sounds good," the English teacher said. His new traveling companion pointed. "Do you mind if we cut across that cemetery? I like reading the old tombstones."

"Ok…Hey, I never got your name…," said the English teacher.

His companion said, "I don’t mean to be weird, but I really like reading these old names. See, look at this one: “Whole Language.” Wonder when he died?"

That is a weird name, thought the English teacher. He read a few himself, “Back to Basics…IDEA…Nation At Risk…Working on the Work…”’ He continued to read, "Digital Natives…Professional Learning Communities…Writing Across The Curriculum….”

“…No Child Left Behind…What?!?”

They had stopped and his companion had his back to him facing the open yard. The wind whistled through creaking trees. Dry leaves stirred on the ground.

Looking over the gravestones, his new friend replied, "Glorious, isn’t it? It is the last resting place of all the educational reform movements. Each of them rises up, born from the laboratory of mad bureaucrats and roams the earth in search of teachers to feed upon. But eventually, after they have sucked and drained their fill, they return here. Having left education unchanged, the only evidence of their glorious reigns are these sad crumbling stones….

‘What? A graveyard for failed educational reform movements? That’s crazy!”

"Not crazy at all," his companion replied, still looking out upon the lonely bed of dead trends, "in fact, about this time of year—if there is a full moon—they say that these relics of educational movements rise from their resting places to walk the night and again seek to devour educators across the land…”

The English teacher started hearing a murmuring coming up from the ground. “raising expectations…standards based…student engagement…” It got louder and louder.

"What’s going on?!?" shrieked the panicked educator.

His traveling companion slowly turned. His eyes now glowed green. As he smiled, and the English teacher now saw him transformed from the human being that he had helped with his grades into something altogether inhuman and not contributing to student learning at all. His smile now revealed long fangs.

"You’re one of them!" screeched the English teacher, "You’re one of the failed educational movements that is coming back to life!!! Get away from me!!!"

"No," the figure calmly replied, growing and transforming into his true shape. "I am of those who have not had their fill. You see, I have yet to die…’

"Let me re-introduce myself. My name is… Pay for Performance.” His hands started to grow into large claws.

In a cruel mechanical voice, he hissed…"Have you completed your Teacher Keys Effectiveness System online forms?...."

The teacher’s screams echoed through the night, and could have been heard echoing on State Road 141.”


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.