Merit Pay~ good or bad?I am a 6th year teacher who had a conversation with a 20+ year veteran teacher about Merit Pay.  He said that if states and districts allow merit pay then teachers will get...

Merit Pay~ good or bad?

I am a 6th year teacher who had a conversation with a 20+ year veteran teacher about Merit Pay.  He said that if states and districts allow merit pay then teachers will get more catty.  He says that teachers will fight over students so their overall class scores look good, no one will want to change students mid-year because of possible negative effects on test scores and class structure are concerned, and faculty morale will be horrible.  I didn't think anything could be worse than NCLB, but could this possibly be worse?

Also, I have a neighbor who is on an urban district's school board.  He mentioned that the janitors are the ones who should be the ones to evaluate teachers.  So, I asked one of our custodians about that and he said that he knows who the good teachers are by who stays after school the longest.  I smiled and didn't say anything else.  But I thought about teachers  who have to get home to their kids after school and take papers home to grade there; the custodian doesn't see that.

Maybe an evaluative committee should be the judges rather than just principals.  AND our own evaluations of ourselves should be included in that where we get to defend our teaching strategies and lessons.

Expert Answers
litlady33 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bad bad bad. There are just too many variables in each classroom to be able to determine whether a teacher is good based solely on test scores- and that is how they would do it. If I have a classroom of regular and special education students, and my colleague has only honors classes, would it be fair that she gets more pay because her students would inevitably score higher on tests? Also, I may be the best teacher in the world, but if I have a student who misses 50% of classes and does nothing to make that work up, and whose parents clearly don't care whether she gets an education, what can I do? Is it fair that her test scores will determine my pay? I don't think so. Policy makers are trying to turn education into a business. Well, businesses can choose their employees based on who will give them success. I can't choose my students. I want every student to have a fair shot and I will do my best to teach each student regardless of what I am getting paid, but I think the idea of merit pay is absolutely ludicrous.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Merit pay is such a tangled topic! Teachers are professionals, but our "products" are young people and their achievement. The problem is we only have a small window of "control" over the product. I can create thoughtful lessons and use research-based teaching methods, but I can't control the myriad of factors that ultimately affect student achievement such as natural I.Q., parental support, quality of food and shelter available, motivation etc. Merit pay needs to be based on an objective measure of teacher quality, but I don't see how objective measures on non-objective, multi-faceted human beings would ever work out to be fair.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I particularly agree with the part about the principal having the most power in the situation concerning merit pay. As a teacher who served under several mediocre principals during my career, I saw first-hand how friendships affected evaluations and, eventually, merit pay. I also witnessed how principals played favorites and used personality conflicts in their decision making. The idea of merit pay is good in theory, but MANY worthy teachers will be left out in the cold simply because they stand in some sort of unfavorable position with their boss.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a bureaucracy, education has such nepotism that merit pay, teacher of the week, etc. often go by favor and not by worthiness.  Besides, it is often difficult to judge the merit of a teacher if the one judging has only been in an institution for a couple of years.  Principals must be part of a community, part of a school long enough that they can see the long-range results of an instructor, not just how well a person adheres to the state mandates, how many passes he/she writes, and other trivialities....Too much is political in education.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another complicating factor is that not all teachers teach the same types of subjects that can be measured (for determination of student progress as an indication of merit) in the same way. Physical education teachers are working to achieve very different kinds of outcomes than are vocal music teachers than are first grade teachers than are high school science teachers than are learning disability with integration teachers than are.....

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I, too, agree that merit pay determinations would be far too subjective. I tend to believe that too many "good" teachers would be forgotten based upon the relationship that they may have with the administration. Also, teachers would tend to fight for the students who would boost their overall averages.

While I would love to make more money as a teacher, I think that merit pay would come with to many consequences.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Good in theory, hard to do in practice.  It's very hard to determine who should get the merit pay because it's very hard to determine who is and is not a good teacher in an objective way.  If you just leave it up to principals, it becomes a contest of who can get along best with the principal.  I love the idea of good teachers getting higher pay, but I don't see how it can be done objectively.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I hadn't thought about those possibilities, but they certainly seem imaginable. Nevertheless, there has to be some way to determine merit that is reasonably objective. It may be difficult to find and implement such methods, but surely developing such methods is a worthy goal.  Can anyone suggest some practical ways to prevent the kinds of problems outlined in the question?

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The biggest problem I have with merit pay is that based on my experiences in multiple schools and districts while I worked in them or for the university, most schools have no idea how to evaluate teachers effectively.  How can they pay them based on evaluation if the evaluation is faulty?