While most proposals dealing with merit pay or pay for performance have been put forward by policymakers or interest groups, this is the first that I have seen that is actually developed by teachers. Some of the ideas have merit, but to be honest I had not thought about changes to the base pay system. What this proposal suggests is that changes to the base pay structure look at three levels of teaching experience, novice, professional and expert. Their thought being,
If you don't have a career ladder that encourages teachers to advance in their profession--and be paid accordingly as they advance--tinkering around the edges by provideing $2,000 bonuses for a handful of teachers will not secure the stable, high-quality professional workforce we need.This is very true. I have always thought that if we are going to pay bonuses, they need to be real bonuses, on the scale of 20-25 percent of base salary. A bonus of $2,000 will be eaten up by taxes (bonsues are taxed at teh highest marginal tax rate possible, and then you get it back (if at all) in tax refund). Tiny bonuses won't do the trick. Reorganizing the base pay system would then, probably free up some money for merit pay. However, one cautionary note, when reorganizing a system so that a career ladder becomes clearer, there may be some short term losers and that would need to be addressed.
One of the items in the Executive Summary noted that teachers should be rewarded for helping their students make significant academic gains. While student achievement is the bottom line performance for teachers, it cannot be predicated upon a single test result. I whole heartedly agree and I hope that the full report has more information on this score, but I need some more input here. What do these teachers believe should be the basis or a factor to be considered in measuring student and therefore teacher achievement? Surely it cannot be the grades in their own courses, we need some basis of objective measurement. Without it we are simply floundering in teh dark of subjectivity and that serves no one's interest, least of all the students.
Finally, one thought that really jumped out at me was a team structure. Highly successful teachers and those most likely to obtain bonuses have an incentive not to share their findings and methods with others. What the proposal suggests is that performance pay plans should incentiving the sharing of professional knowledge. Again, I don't know the full details of what is being propsed, but the initial idea strikes me as both logical and expensive. If bonuses, real bonuses are to be paid out to a group then the cost gets higher. But by the same token we need to encourage the sharing of professional knowledge amoung teachers in the same school/system. I very much look forward to how this is proposed in the full report.
I will have more reactions when I get through the whole report.