The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Doctoral Student (and Full-Time Teacher)

December 9, 2009

Merit Based Pay– What a Novel Idea!

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 4:44 pm

According to this Washington Post article, the 2nd largest school district in Maryland, Prince George, is going to begin merit-based pay. I feel like I am in the minority, I am completely supportive of merit-based pay. I am especially supportive of the system of merit-based pay that PG will be implementing.

Most teacher that I have met are anti-merit-based pay. One argument is that it’s not fair for teachers to be held accountable for student success, because some students just don’t want to learn. Or some students have disabilities that keep them from learning at the same pace as other students. Or some teachers get the “challenging” classes. Frankly, I think this is an excuse. As a teacher, it is our job to teacher students, regardless of the challenges. Selling cars in this economy cannot be an easy task, yet a car salesman has to do it to earn his check.

I will agree with the anti-merit-based pay teachers on one account. I do not believe it is fair to base student success on a “Proficient,” “Advanced,” or “Not Proficient” rating. Instead, students’ success should be a measure of student growth. Using value-added data, we should measure the student growth from year-to-year. With a score of 0.0 equaling exactly one year of growth from one school year to the next. A year of growth is good, at minimum we should expect this. However, scores higher than 0 should be acknowledged (and rewarded). With a teacher’s guidance, a child was able to learn beyond a year’s knowledge in a single year. Now, this idea is assuming that value-added data (projected growth from year-to-year based on a student’s previous growth) is fair and accurate. In a perfect world…

Prince George School District’s merit-based pay is a bonus pay system. All teachers have an initial salary, guaranteed no matter what, with the opportunity to earn up to $10,000 in bonus money. That’s right, 10K!!!!! PG’s system is doing it right, the merit bonus is not based solely on test scores, 25% is for student test scores, with another 25% for teaching high needs areas, a third 25% for classroom evaluations/performance, and the last 25% for professional development initiatives. Teachers who piloted this program averaged bonuses of about $5,000 (an extra 5k, who’s going to turn their nose up at that?!?!). It reminds me of performance bonuses in the corporate world.

I may ruffle some feathers, but I think that if you are a rockstar teacher you should be compensated for it. In education, we have too many people reaping the benefits of tenure and a scheduled pay scale, without much accountability. It’s not fair to the kids, our clients, so to speak. PG’s merit-pay system allows for scheduled raises, but also gives the opportunity for rockstars to be appreciated and acknowledged. Everyone wins.