Aya Academy of Excellence


What if Merit Pay Were a Board Game?

I unplugged my TV over a year ago and have found that an upshoot of less TV in my home is more time spent as a family playing board games.  Monopoly is by far the game of choice for my children and trumps, no pun intended, all other games.  As news of the DC testing scandal continues to embroil in the news, questions are arising regarding the wisdom of employing students’ test score data for the basis of merit pay.  I wonder, in this game of finger pointing, career advancement and total win or lose, what merit pay would look like if played on a colorful board with 2-2,000,000 players.  To that end, I present  “Flop-opoly: Merit Pay for Educators.”

Every fun board game has cool tokens.  You can certainly devise your own, but a bag of money, a sheet of pink paper, and an erased scantron should make a pretty good start.  Each symbolize how errant a course it is to give extra ‘candy’ to some and not others for results and not behaviors.   To fire a teacher with poor data which does not take into account behaviors such as providing tutoring for students and reaching out to parents is short-sighted.  Anyone who has taught in a challenging setting in which students were severely academically deficient knows that data is not always reflective of a teacher’s hard work and effort. The promise of more money is the lure any sly hustler uses to promote far-fetched schemes including amassing real estate for no money down – just ask Bernie Madoff.

An engaging game will also allow each player to use strategies to win or lose.  Flop-opoly ensures that almost everyone is a loser, the goal of every good board game:

Chance Cards:  You cannot select your administrator, students, parents and sometimes, even your school in real life.  Same here in Flop-opoly: Merit Pay.  Out of the deck of 50 cards, only 5 will provide the opportunity for a player to make their own choices.  Isn’t that true of real life too?

The Board: Like Monopoly, Flop-opoly, has many varied settings.  In an ode to the silver screen, spaces will include schools and classrooms featured on the big screen – Black Board Jungle, Stand and Deliver and Akelah and the Bee. 

Advancement: To win in Monopoly, you must amass the most earnings, to win at the Merit Pay System you must accumulate high test score data.  To earn in Monopoly the best strategy is to gobble up property and houses.  In Flop-opoly, the best strategy, at least as it appears in the news, is to redistrict and snag a population of kids already academically on target.

Seems like a fun game?  Monopoly sends you to jail while Flop-opoly sends you to the unemployment line.  In Monopoly, with a roll of the dice you can be the owener of posh Park Place and in Flop-opoly with the grace of God, and a few friends in high places you can snag a teaching job in an A-rated school.  At home with kids, there are days when our game of Monopoly goes on seemingly forever, for teachers caught in the crosshairs of the merit pay system, I hope this game is truly a flop and shelved forever.

ETA: I would like to add that I am a proponent of paying teachers more for more service they provide.  I believe that when a person does more, the net effect can be better results.  However, with schools being run like failed 500 corporations, a teachers individual effort can often be overshadowed by factors way out of their control and I do not believe they should be adversely punished in light of this.



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