Should teachers receive merit pay based on their performance? A single salary system exacerbates teacher shortages in many critical areas and stifles the best teachers. Because monetary rewards are not directly tied to effectiveness, many of the best teachers leave the field. In schools with large minority populations, effective teachers may leave for better working conditions. In more advantaged areas, good teachers leave to work in administrative positions. Or, they may just leave the field altogether.
In contrast, two New York school districts have introduced merit-pay plans, though they are hardly merit-pay systems. There, bonuses are given to entire school staffs based on improvement in student achievement, usually measured by standardized test scores. Some states have even implemented incentive pay plans whereby the money from the bonus goes to the school to purchase resources for its classrooms and high-performing teachers get salary bonuses. But critics say that such schemes are not sustainable and are unlikely to give teachers more power than the results they achieve in the classroom.
The issue of merit-based pay has been studied by independent researchers for decades. Various studies have found that merit pay improves teacher quality, but it depends on the exact program studied and the variables assessed. A meta-analysis published in the American Educational Research Journal found that merit pay programs increased student test scores and improved teacher effectiveness. Although many teachers oppose merit pay, most of them assume that these propositions are true and support pay boosts based on academic credentials and experience.
While merit-pay plans have their drawbacks, the benefits of such a plan are worth a closer look. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Education suggests that states use growth models to measure student growth instead of predetermined levels. Merit-pay plans that base pay on absolute achievement levels may encourage teachers to leave classrooms or schools that are underperforming. They also can foster collaboration in two ways.
As these programs continue to grow in popularity, the debate over whether or not teachers should receive merit pay has become more intense. While some people are against the idea, others argue that pay-for-performance plans should be a’middle-ground’. Indeed, there are other alternatives to merit pay. Nevertheless, the debate is far from over. If we want to improve education, we must make sure that we have a clear understanding of how merit pay benefits students and teachers.
Merit pay programs are not sustainable. They run out in a short time and are usually awarded to the same teachers. That can make it difficult for schools to retain educators. It may also lead to an inflated sense of competence among teachers. As a result, merit pay programs may end up shortchanging low-income students and stifling the effectiveness of the educational system. The problem is so serious that legislation is currently being debated in more than two dozen states.
Many schools do not track teacher actions. They choose to learn methods that will facilitate the criterion. As a result, student achievement does not depend on the teacher’s performance. Moreover, teachers who bully their students are not considered meritorious. In many cases, students may not receive the best grades, which can have disastrous consequences for the teachers’ pay. But merit pay programs do make it possible for teachers to achieve higher pay and improve student achievement.
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