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Our school is adopting a system similar to the one used by the Haverford School in PA. It's a great system in which teachers are fairly recognized for their efforts.
It depends how merit pay is determined. I think that if the principal is the person deciding which teachers earned merit pay, then I think that this could be a fair program.
If merit pay is determined on test scores, then I feel that this program won't work: a "far below basic" student may be encouraged by a teacher to turn around and begin learning, but because the student is so low, it may take 2-plus years to catch up to the proficiency level. So who gets the merit pay? The first teacher who motivated the student, or the last teacher happened to be assigned to the student when proficiency was reached? Or the teachers between?
Merit pay would be great, after all teachers are paid a decent base salary.
It is so difficult, possibly even impossible to measure the effect a teacher has on a student. We can measure achievement, we can measure test scores, but how do you measure the sense of self worth a student has years after they leave the classroom of a teacher who cared about them.
I could never repay Darvel Gregory. He was probably the most influential Teacher I ever had. He added so much value to my life. I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today if not for him. What did he teach me? Did he show that extra attention that boosted my self esteem so I could conquer the world. Nope! He taught me to type.
How do you recognize that???? I have a Master's Degree, I blog, I write educational materials, I correspond, and conduct my communication on a day to day basis and I train teachers all which would be nearly impossible if I couldn't type.
I don't know how best to reward Teachers, but I think programs that allow teachers to recieve compensation, recognition, and remuneration for 'value added'. If a teacher can demonstrate that what they are doing is adding value (for example conducting out of school consultations via cell phone or Instant Messaging) they should be able to recieve credit for that. If a teacher can demonstrate a marked improvement in the scores of their students on Standardized tests, show advocacy for literacy, whatever a teacher can do to document they are adding value to the learning experience beyond what is expected in the contract should be eligible for monetary bonuses.
Here's the problem. What is expected??? The expectation for teachers already is that they martyr themselves. When you see a teacher giving up their 'duty free' lunch to help a student with a math problem, or spend hours in the evenings grading papers, or developing a web site so students and parents have access to class materials, it's just expected. We need a better rubric that documents exceptional teaching and then validates it with financial rewards.
When I taught in FL we had teacher bonus system and I thought it went really well, with the exception of having to share the $100K that the school got for meeting AYP and SIPs. We had to share the bonus with the cooks, janitors, aids and secretaries. Most of the teachers had no problem sharing it with the aids and secretaries because they came in direct contact with the kids and their education. But, to keep the others quiet and cooperative the principal decided to share the bonus with all of them as well. I think, if memory serves me correctly, the teachers split 60% and the others 40%. It ended up being about $1,300, which was really nice. There was another bonus that you had to apply for that was like a portfolio of how you, the teacher, made your AYP, which was about another $2000, I think.
What was really hysterical, was when one year the school didn't make it and the cooks, and some secretaries were really mad at us for not making the AYP. There was some really sarcastic and divisive remarks that were not healthy for the staff. It was almost worth not making it to show what kind of people they were.
There is no replacement for GOOD TEACHING, and good teachers know how to motivate and help struggling students already. Rewarding them for doing an excellent job creates a hostile environment between other professionals who need to make changes but are themselves unmotivated by the "carrot and the stick" (Read: merit pay). Those teachers clearly need more professional development, or a new vocation!
To base any teacher's rate of pay on the performance of a student -- or an entire school, for that matter -- is comparable to rewarding the Enron CEO for just being where he is, not based on what HE actually accomplishes. If we put money in the mix, it can cheapen the entire structure of education. Why should students learn in the first place? So they will make more money for passing tests? Where are ethical standards of working hard because it is the right thing to do?
For me, the entire reason I want to teach is so students can learn to THINK and make better choices. Having extra money is NOT always the better choice in this society. It has created an entitlement generation that believes more IS the American Dream; those are not the lessons we are really trying to teach here, are we?
Merit pay is a good idea only if it can be administered in such a way as to not further fuel the territoriality or jealousies that seem to exist in many academic settings (certainly in mine). I think it's a great way to get dead wood moving again. (Though said wood will still have something to say about it in the staff room. Sigh.)
The NBCT is already in place. Most States already offer a stipend to teachers that complete and pass their National Boards.
I think that this is both an incentive and a reward for teachers, that promotes quality teaching. Also, it takes the pressure off of local school districts to make an impartial decision as to who receives a bonus for good teaching practices.
Yes, if there's a way to level the playing field. You can't expect the teacher with students that all have involved parents, no RSP/SDC children in it to compete with the teacher that has all the below average kids. As a junior high teacher that gave the exact same test to see how they did on a set of math standards four times last year and saw how the scores went up and down with no pattern, I have to say that a multiple choice test can not be the standard chosen to evaulate a teacher's success.
Merit pay as an incentive to improve the teacher pool is logically sound as long as it is appropriately measures teacher performance and does not inadvertently create disincentives towards other important practices such as teacher cooperation.
The former would not be nearly as difficult as critics assert; it simply requires a statistical model tracking students individually as they pass from teacher to teacher so that statistically relevant trends can be recognized and further analyzed by education experts and statisticians. Every criticism leveled at such a system are factors that can be explicitly incorporated within it. We put men on the moon 40 years ago this July--does anyone really think we aren't smart enough to do this?
Behavioral economists probably have good insights on where to begin so as to avoid the latter. Things like ensuring competition is not over a common bonus pool seem doable. Obviously this would require identifying and accommodating relevant factors as the project proceeds, but again, it's not rocket science (and even if it were, we have rocket scientists and other fantastically intelligent people).
Whether or not this seems like the kindest thing to do to teachers or the best use of resources in impoverished schools may not be relevant. Student performance is the dominant issue and resources will always be limited, so we must identify and reward teachers who can make students perform in the current reality rather than deferring improvement until we already have the world we're wishing for.