Monday, October 01, 2007

Teachers and Merit Pay

Not surprisingly, teachers in Washington state don't like merit pay proposals that link pay to performance.

Teachers--it is coming. Your best bet is to get in front of the issue with a proposal that would work from your perspective, and it must link your merit pay and performance to student learning. Test scores aren't the end all, be all, but I don't think any political solution is going to completely dump test scores as a measurement.

For all my teacher readers out there (all one or two of you), if you could design a system, what would it look like?


rosepetal said...

Hi :)

I found your site while doing a search for Maryland education.

Your post on teachers and merit pay caught my eye. I am a teacher but also work on the "policy" side. I don't believe merit pay is the solution (students cannot be treated like objectified "outputs", or teachers like the "machines" that construct them in various ways). There are so many factors contributing to how well students do in schools, and teachers are only part of that. Some schools have VERY difficult children, and it would be unfair to pay those teachers less, because if anything, they do more every day than say, teachers in Potomac or Bethesda.

However, I do think teachers in this country are extremely unprepared and, to be frank, poor teachers. Something must obviously be done about this.

One possibility is getting rid of "Education" majors in colleges. You rarely learn anything in those majors. And as a mathematics undergrad, I wasn't even able to teach in public schools here in MD because I was not certified. To become certified is a long process, and that in addition to the low pay for teachers will turn off most well educated, intelligent people.

Obviously another HUGE problem is the pay of teachers. Unless you have so much compassion in your heart for children that you want to live in a one bedroom hole for the rest of your life, you cannot become a teacher. In Mont. Co., you get paid about 40k a year; this is in a county where a one bedroom apartment costs over 300k.

Going hand in hand with the pay is RESPECT for teachers. Where I was raised (Romania), the only other person children respected more than their teacher was their mother. Teachers here gather no respect, and for this reason, many intelligent self respecting people cannot handle the "stigma" that comes with the position. (In my circle of engineer and "science" friends, I get that look when I tell them what I do... it's very sad).

Alice Williams said...

In response to your question about what teachers would include in a merit pay system, I thought you might be interested in this report published by 18 highly accomplished teachers who agree with your contention that teachers needs to get in front of this issue. The publication is called Performance-Pay for Teachers: Designing a System that Students Deserve and you can access it at:

The authors of the report recommend that teachers be rewarded when they:
1) Help students learn more;
2) Develop and use relevant new knowledge and skills;
3) Meet special needs in the local labor market; and
4) Provide school and community leadership for student success.

They also advise on serious pitfalls for any performance-pay system, such as placing an artificial cap on the number of teachers who can access incentives. I'd be interested in your reaction to their thinking.

Alice Williams