Paul Soglin on Merit Pay


 Paul Soglin has a good post up on some problems with merit pay and related issues.

Time Magazine Gets An ‘F’ on Merit Pay for Teachers

The line, “It’s hard to argue against the notion of rewarding the best teachers for doing a good job.” in the Time Magazine article, How To Make Great Teachers jumped out at me.

It is very easy to make the argument.

There is a false assumption, an unarticulated premise, that workers, particularly teachers, perform better if they are financially rewarded with additional compensation.

We all work to make a living. We do better work for a variety of reasons. Actually most people do better work when motivated by pride in their job, not additional compensation.  That is why educators recognize that the most successful schools are the ones where the principal motivates the entire faculty to work as a team. 

If any kind of financial incentive is given, it should be to the entire faculty, not to individuals.

The Time article needs examination in other areas:

  • We never forget our best teachers – those who imbued us with a deeper understanding or an enduring passion… Wrong. I did not like Mrs. Gertz and frankly, I do not think she liked me. My sixth grade teacher was most unpleasant, especially when it came to adjectives and adverbs. She taught me how to write, she was not what I would call a great teacher. But she did her job.
  • …the nation will need to recruit an additional 2.8 million over the next eight years…Finding and keeping high-quality teachers are key to America’s competitiveness as a nation. The solution is not a merit pay system; the solution is recognizing the value of educators and paying them what they could make in the private sector.
  • Research suggests that a good teacher is the single most important factor in boosting achievement, more important than class size, the dollars spent per student or the quality of textbooks and materials. I am not sure which is most important, but the studies I read indicate that the quality of the faculty, the amount spent on education, which is reflected in class size, and parental involvement are the three major factors.
  • Why do teachers bail? One of the biggest reasons is pay. U.S. public-school teachers earn an average annual salary of less than $48,000, and they start off at an average of about $32,000…And there’s evidence that the best and brightest are the first to leave.  Hello, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), are you listening?
  • It’s too soon to say if ProComp (an incentive pay system) will raise achievement in Denver, but a pilot study found that students of teachers who enrolled on a trial basis performed better on standardized tests than other students. Great, but do the kids who performed better on the standardized test learn anything?  Now we have teachers teaching for the test,’ not teaching so that the kids learn to think.

Nate at Proletariat had some good thoughts about collaberation and merit pay a while back.

 Governor Jim Doyle and Barack Obama both support merit pay. Hillary Clinton does not.  More on presidential candidates and education here and here.


Thomas J. Metz

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Filed under AMPS, Best Practices, Contracts, Elections

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