If, arguably, we accept our ego's judgment that Manhasset Schools are superior to most others on Long Island, we still have no evidence that this "superiority factor" has increased or decreased over the years. Therefore, we must accept the idea that identified national educational trends apply to the Manhasset School District. Over the past 30 years, graduation rates and fourth, eighth and 12th grade achievement scores have trivially increased or decreased, but schools "have become astonishingly less productive." So reports a new book, Education Myths by Jay P. Greene, that thoroughly dissects 18 issues preventing us from improving our schools.
Clearly, the Manhasset School District is adequately funded. The school system performs well and has done so for many years. The district uses more money per student than do most of the Long Island school districts and yet its output - student scholastic achievement - is only on a par with some of the better districts. Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that over the past 30 years (1971-2000) the national experience has seen insignificant improvements in reading, math, and science scores, while inflation-adjusted spending doubled.
If student achievement does not improve, why pour more money into an adequately-funded program? The school board recently approved, retroactively, a new agreement with the teacher's union that increases their compensation by an additional 3.25 to 3.75 percent per year over the existing schedules that already assures them of a nominal 3 percent per year increase. All this without any incentives to increase productivity, improve teaching practices or weed out poor producers.
As all know, incentives cause behavioral changes. Remember Ivan Pavlov who conditioned dogs to slobber when bells were rung? In the work place, managers and workers alike are motivated to excel by positive incentives such as more pay for successful work and negative incentives such as dismissal for failure to perform. Without incentives, most people tend to drift. You know that, you've seen it in the workplace. Teachers are no different. Unfortunately, the contract the teachers' unions have under the State Taylor law runs counter to human nature. There is no such thing as merit pay or the risk for dismissal for a poor job. The contract in place guarantees generous pay increases over time. After a few years on the job, teachers have tenure for the next 35 years. Except for those first few years, a teacher has no incentive even to improve productivity or performance. Humans react to incentives. Teachers are human. Good teachers cannot be recognized. Drifters cannot be asked to leave.
Hidden within this year's budget is sufficient funding to provide this year for the anticipated new teachers' union contract. The board should make every effort to improve productivity to compensate for their own generosity. Next year's budget should demonstrate these improvements by showing no increase at all. Student scholastic achievement will not be harmed. At about $23,000 per student, funding is adequate. Management needs to become effective.