Teacher CompensationThere has been discussion recently within the federal that teacher compensation should be based upon student performance. Some programs that have the possibility of being...

Teacher Compensation

There has been discussion recently within the federal that teacher compensation should be based upon student performance. Some programs that have the possibility of being implented require students to reach a specific level of achievment. If they don't, the teachers have the threat of being put on probation untiil they meet a certain standard; and if they do not reach the standard, they can be terminated. Yet if student performance does increase, teacher compensation would increase (provided the state has the funds). Is it fair to base teacher pay  based on student performance and the teacher's performance in the classroom based on administrative observations, and parent/student responses of the teacher's instruction?

Asked on by npoore84

11 Answers | Add Yours

clairewait's profile pic

clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I agree that teachers should not be paid according to student performance.  I actually think that given the amount of discipline problems in most public schools today - most school systems would benefit if teachers were awarded (monetarily would be especially nice) for effective classroom management.  In fact, in a high school, it doesn't really matter what a teacher knows or how many neat tricks he has up his sleeve for lesson plans if he can't even get his students to remain quiet long enough to listen.

Across the board, biggest complaint from teachers in NC is needing more help/strategies in classroom management - but despite how many workshops are provided, it always comes down to how determined is the teacher to demand respect.  More often than not - I've seen teachers just throw up their hands in defeat - hoping for a "better batch" of kids next semester.  If entire schools of teachers were fighting for an equal amount of respect in the classroom as those of us "mean" teachers are - everyone's jobs would be easier.

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I don't think that merit pay is a logical idea when it comes to education.  In addition to all the reasons mentioned in previous posts about variables, etc., there is simply no way (especially in high school) to guarantee that a hard-working teacher will be able to help students overcome the many devastating home issues that are prevalent in today's public school students.  Similarly, at a high school level, I can contact parents regularly (if they provide a real number or e-mail address); I can conference with a student and offer tutoring and genuine concern, but in many cases that is not enough to keep a student from dropping out, choosing truancy, or from not trying on a standardized test that might be one of the factors in my merit pay.  This doesn't mean that I give up--it's just reality.

I have excellent rapport with my students, but that doesn't mean that I want my pay to be based on their evaluations.  I know students who don't like teachers simply because they don't give them as much "free time" as they want.  Is it ethical to ask a fickle child or teenager to determine someone's salary?

Additionally, merit pay has been tried in schools, and in many cases has exacerbated education issues.  In Steven Levitt's Freakonomics, he cites the infamous case in the Chicago schools where teachers actually corrected students' answers on standardized tests so that they could receive merit pay.

One other problem I have with merit pay is that I think that it could significantly hurt a school's AP program.  I have taught an AP English class at my high school for the last five years, and while my students' pass rates are higher than the national average, they don't come close to matching a nearby school that has an exclusive AP program for only the very top of their student body.  Thankfully, my principal maintains the philosophy that if a student is willing to do AP-level work and wants to be in the class, he deserves to be in it.  I teach students every year who I know will find it difficult to earn even a 2 on the exam.  While those 2's and 1's may affect our AP pass rates (and could be something that merit pay would be based on), I don't care, because those students rise to the challenge of the class.  They don't earn As and Bs, but they do come back from their first year of college and tell me that they're thankful that they took the class because they felt better prepared for college.  That's what I want to hear as a teacher from a myriad of students rather than "Congratulations on the 100% pass rate of your 9 AP students! Here's your bonus."

marbar57's profile pic

marbar57 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

No, I do not think teachers should be paid based upon student performance!  Schools should honor their teachers regardless of the teacher's performance.  I believe there will always be students in the classes who don't do as well as the others, and if a teacher is going to be paid based upon that student's performance, it isn't fair to the teacher! 

As a teacher, I have some students that require more of my time than other students do.  The other ones sail along with little intervention, explanation, or one-on-one time.  That's really very nice because then I can devote my time and attention to the students that don't quite "get" things. 

If the school wanted to honor their teachers base upon student performance, they should look at all the extra time their teachers spend with the learning-challenged students that take up their time! 

But, I still maintain that teachers should be paid according to their education level and abilities, not how well or how poorly their students are doing!

teachertaylor's profile pic

teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I agree with auntlori.  Schools are not businesses, and they should not be run as such.  Student performance is the result of many factors, not only teacher merit.  Plus, schools do not always put teachers in positions that honor their knowledge and proficiencies.  For example, my school has just gone through massive budget cuts, so next year one of the drama teachers will be teaching in the English department.  I'm not sure what kind of job she'll do, and likely she'll be great, but what if her students do not "achieve" as much as those of another English teacher?  Is that really her fault (to the point where her salary should be affected)?

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Incentives based on performance and merit pay (bonuses) given for achievement are effective concepts in a capitalistic business world.  They generally make workers and products better. What works in that world is not necessarily transferable to the world of education, though.  I'm not whining or complaining, but there are so many factors outside of a teacher's control or influence which contribute to achievement--or lack of it.  That's not to say there are no lazy or ineffectual teachers who are not doing what they should out of laziness or ignorance; however, the reality is that teachers only actually influence (or teach) students for 45-50 minutes a day.  What happens in those other 23 hours is mostly out of a teacher's control.  Hold me accountable to a valid standard and expect me to go above and beyond the call of duty, but please don't expect me to be responsible for the sleep, dietary, study, relationship, parental, employment, time, or any other practices of my students.  I agree with the concept, but I've heard nothing which seems feasible to me--yet.

MaudlinStreet's profile pic

MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

The fact that this issue has become so crucial to people who don't work within education points to misconceptions about public schooling in America. As post #6 pointed out, there are so many variables that affect a student's performance, beyond what occurs in the classroom. I'm sure that we all have stories of students overcoming odds, perhaps being personally inspired by our efforts to achieve in the classroom. But I'm also sure we all have stories about those students who just didn't succeed in our classroom, despite our best attempts.

I do agree with poster #4 that if merit pay were implemented in my district, it would need to be based on comparing students to their own standards, not some arbitrary level. The difficulty then becomes determining those guidelines. Surely not average grades in the class (to be fair, I've never heard anyone promote that as a standard). However, administrative observations may also not be the best determinants. At my site, we have 4 different administrators in charge of evaluations. Again, since our careers deal with humans, there's too many possible influences. The same applies to parent and student evaluations. Frankly, I'd trust the students to report accurately before the parents, neither would be an ideal situation. Basing pay on standardized test scores offers a new set of troubles. Which tests? Will there be a bonus for each student? What if a teacher has more students than another? If the bonus is based on gains that a students makes, what if the student consistently scores at the top, and can go no further?

I would be open to the idea of merit pay, but I think the ideas that have been put forth so far are lacking.

martinjmurphy's profile pic

martinjmurphy | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

As to post # 4 concerning taking low achieving students and bringing them up to a standard.  My question is why are they low achieving?  Is it because their parents let them play video games all day instead of them completing homework?  Is it because they come to school with no breakfast?  Is it because they are truant? Is it because they have emotional problems because their parents are getting divorced?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, what can a teacher do about that?  As a teacher, I can't supervisxe them after school, I can't make sure the come to school rested and well fed. I can't make sure they come froma home that is split because of divorce.  I have no control over so much that effects education it is unbeleivable, but teachers still do an amazing job, regardless of how pay is determined.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Teachers must be paid according to the student achievement outcomes they produce for public education to have any credibility whatsoever. As a classroom teacher, I would much rather be paid for taking a low-achieving group of students and bringing them up to standard, with my compensation reflecting the difficulty of what I accomplished, than the current system of pay for longevity/additional degrees.

It galled me to no end as a new teacher to be working so hard and creating learning opportunities for the toughest kids in the school while there were lazy veterans making a whole lot more money for reading the newspaper while their advanced kids did largely self-directed activities.  I saw this phenomenon in every school where I have worked, in NC, GA, MA, CT, and Florida.

Teachers who fear that students will sabotage them because of pay for performance are teachers who don't understand how to build a classroom community of committed learners.

I agree with most of this post, but not the last paragraph.  I completely agree that merit pay is the right way to do things, but I do not believe that student evaluations should play a major role in determining who has merit.  I disagree with the idea that a teacher can build a "classroom community of committed learners" so effectively that s/he need not fear a few disgruntled students' opinions.  Even the best of teachers have students who dislike them and their classes.  I do not think it would be fair to penalize those teachers while rewarding others who get good evaluations because they give easy grades, etc.

drmonica's profile pic

drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

Teachers must be paid according to the student achievement outcomes they produce for public education to have any credibility whatsoever. As a classroom teacher, I would much rather be paid for taking a low-achieving group of students and bringing them up to standard, with my compensation reflecting the difficulty of what I accomplished, than the current system of pay for longevity/additional degrees.

It galled me to no end as a new teacher to be working so hard and creating learning opportunities for the toughest kids in the school while there were lazy veterans making a whole lot more money for reading the newspaper while their advanced kids did largely self-directed activities.  I saw this phenomenon in every school where I have worked, in NC, GA, MA, CT, and Florida.

Teachers who fear that students will sabotage them because of pay for performance are teachers who don't understand how to build a classroom community of committed learners.

sboeman's profile pic

sboeman | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

I agree with the previous post.  In theory, merit pay for teachers sounds like a great idea-those who don't teach well don't get paid.  From a teacher's perspective, though, it seems incredibly unfair.  First, I welcome struggling and special ed. students in my classes, and the counselors keep this in mind when scheduling; hence, I am already at a disadvantage.  Don't we need more teachers who welcome the challenge of difficult students?  Will my check be diminished because of this stance I take?

Also, I may receive higher ratings for some classes and lower ratings for others by parents and students: I teach drama, a very fun and active class where students can get up and are encouraged to act crazy, but I also teach English courses which can be much more laborious and dry (in general, not my classes:)).  Wouldn't a teacher receive higher ratings if the student viewed the class as fun rather than daunting?  Also, parents would probably only gather information from their sons' and daughters' perceptions, and parhaps a parent-teacher conference or two-hardly a fair and accurate judgment, in my opinion.

Merit pay: good in theory, poor in reality.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

You know, if students weren't human and could be counted on to put aside personal opinions of teachers and other school authority figures (or even if they were paid to come to school as if it were their only job), I would venture to say it would be appropriate to put such a compensation program in place.  However, since even adults are subject to anger and vengeful feelings (and not all adults in the world of capitalism do their jobs well--in fact, it's been my experience that there are MANY bosses out there who have those under them do all the work while they go play golf, read the newspaper all day, or something other than the duties they are assigned), I doubt that it would be a foolproof assessment of teacher success and student performance.  The minute students figure out that their teachers' pay is based on how they do on a test, they will figure that they can hurt those teachers they don't like by tanking a test.  Will they think about how it will effect their own education?  Most will not as teens (or the majority of them) do not think about consequences before they act rashly.  They live in the here and now and do not consider the past or the future when deciding how best to live their lives. 

That doesn't even consider the school population, either.  You may have inner-city schools where kids are fearing for their lives and focusing more on daily survival (in which case, a test score is the furthest thing from their minds) and on how they will help their parents put food on the table and pay for the light bill.  Will there be exceptions for teachers who work in schools like this instead of the country club rich kids whose parents all expect them to be doctors and lawyers?  You may have an amazing teacher at a low-income school in the middle of the projects or whose students are mostly learning disabled who deserves compensation but his/her kids don't show a huge growth...is it fair that this teacher is penalized?

Unless there were several aspects to student performance (not just a single or even a series of test results) to determine a teacher's effectiveness in play, I do not support this type of pay system.  I work very hard to make my English classes fun, full of learning activities with little or no wasted time, and a risk-free environment where everyone is responsible for learning--not just their own, but their peers' learning as well. Overall, I know that my students are successful. However, I also have LD kids, ADD kids, ADHD kids,504 plan kids, EH kids, kids who live on their own, kids whose parents are divorcing, kids who play video games until 3am daily, kids who work shifts that last from right after school until 11pm daily leaving no time for homework, and kids who don't eat healthily or regularly. Regardless of the classroom rapport I have with them, some of them are so angry that they will lash out in any way they can. It is absolutely ridiculous to think that you will be every student's favorite (or every parent's)or that they will be mature enough to do their best so that their teachers will receive the pay they deserve based on student achievement and student/parent feedback. There are just too many variables at stake for which teachers should not be held responsible.

We’ve answered 318,928 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question