Sunday, January 17, 2010

Worried about Teacher Merit Pay

I am worried about all of this talk about merit pay. Kim Marshall's essay last month in edweek made some great points but I think one of the most interesting ones is that it will undermine team work in a school.

I have been in education for seventeen years and at least in the schools I have worked in during that time, team work has come a long way. It has been a long slog of change to get stubborn educators (definitely including me) to be more collaborative in our professional learning work. Could merit pay turn that back? The jury is obviously still out on that one but hopefully they take those things into consideration when developing these new policies.

The other thing that I worry about that Kim does not mention is just that it might be too damn hard for principals to enact. I share the supervision with my assistant principal of about seventy five people. The demands of the principalship are huge and now we will ask these already incredibly taxed people to spend countless more hours thoughtfully linking student test data to raises for teachers. I will need a lot of help with this one.

My other worry is that in the end, whatever version gets enacted, still has little to no effect on what happens in the classroom, but we have to spend even more time on it to justfify monetary raises.

What does have a strong effect on classroom learning (my belief at least): a positive professional culture in a school. Will merit pay help to develop that?


  1. Conversations on merit pay always make me wonder why we pay more to teachers who have been there longer. Or to administrators. Or to superintendents.

    I don't say this to be flip, but how do those criticisms of merit pay that are legitimate in the first place become illegitimate when directed at teachers with experience, or when directed at school employees who are not in the classroom?

  2. Sterlace, that is a good question. Merit pay basically makes my head hurt just thinking about it. I think my fundamental worry about it is simply that as a principal, I won't be able to do it well. I hate to speak for other principals, but I do my job relatively well, and I have trouble thinking about doing that well. That all being said, I also worry about this dominating policy conversations for the next decades and not having the desired outcome on student learning that was hoped. But yes, to your point, time in the job should not be the only way to get more money.

  3. why we pay more to teachers who have been there longer..! This is the common questions that occurs in discussion...
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