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Performance Pay in Practice


Teacher pay for performance is no longer just a theoretical idea. USA Today reports that at least eight states, and dozens of districts, are experimenting with basing teacher salary increases and bonuses on student test performance. Some districts are using higher wages to attract teachers to hard-to-staff schools and teaching positions.

In Chicago, for example, teachers in select schools can earn as much as $8,000 in annual bonuses for improvements in students’ test results; while in Nashville, an incentive of up to $15,000 is being used to target middle school math teachers.

More dramatically, teachers in Washington, D.C. could potentially earn over $100,000 a year if a proposed “pay realignment” plan goes through. The catch is that teachers would have to give up tenure protections and work under a year long probationary period before earning big salaries.

Some preliminary research on performance pay has shown promising results. But, the idea has received mixed reactions from teachers, with a survey in January finding that “88% support bonuses for those who agree to work in hard-to-staff schools” but only “35% support them for improved test scores,” according to USA Today. The American Federation of Teachers supports pay raises for an entire teaching staff if test scores improve and for individuals if they get advanced degrees.


I can't believe that teachers are motivated solely by more pay. And does more pay make them better teachers? I think not.
The October issue of Educational Leadership backs me up: they state that most teachers polled value "supportive administration" over "higher pay" in terms of job satisfaction.
I think pay bonuses for higher test scores is wrong.

I agree that better pay is not the sole reason; however, do not underestimated the attraction to of better salary packages. More pay in itself will not make us better teachers, but the extra pay will help us afford the advance degrees that do make us better teachers. They want to apply business practices to education, why not this one: How do you get the best employees, you offer the best salary package.
My problems with merit pay are the following:
1) How do you take into account the different levels of classes? How do you compare a class of GT students to a class that is composed of 33% or more of special needs students or ELL students.
2) How do you keep administrators from using the system to punish teachers or reward their friends?
3) One of the supportive features of education today is the sharing of knowledge between teachers. By making us compete with each other for better pay, you very likely eliminate that practice. Why should I share what gets me better pay with someone that could possibly take my pay away.


Really? Teachers share knowledge? Would that it were so. Not only is the day poorly structured to enable collaboration, but in my district when the school day was arranged for a common planning period to facilitate collaboration the union complained that requirements to build professional learning communities was taking away from teacher's planning time.

If I were to look at restructuring teacher pay (and no one has asked me), I might look at pay increases for things such as leading a learning community. I might consider bonuses to schools where teachers were able to collaborate on curriculum and brought about an increase in student achievement as a result. Increasing student achievement is a valid objective for school. Narrowing achievement gaps is a valid objective. While I don't know that current pay scales have created the problem of inflexibility that keeps us stuck, if I were an administrator, I would want to use every tool at my disposal to pry things loose and launch some commitment to, belief in and movement toward higher student achievement for all students.

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Recent Comments

  • Margo/Mom: Walter: Really? Teachers share knowledge? Would that it were so. read more
  • Walter WIlkins: I agree that better pay is not the sole reason; read more
  • Eva Sullivan: I can't believe that teachers are motivated solely by more read more




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