Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Merit Pay for Teachers

"This article makes clear that many states are considering merit pay for teachers and teachers' unions are supporting it as long as they are part of the process and it isn't just administrator picked.

ere in Minneapolis, for instance, the teachers’ union is cooperating with Minnesota’s Republican governor on a plan in which teachers in some schools work with mentors to improve their instruction and get bonuses for raising student achievement. John Roper-Batker, a science teacher here, said his first reaction was dismay when he heard his school was considering participating in the plan in 2004.

“I wanted to get involved just to make sure it wouldn’t happen,” he said.

But after learning more, Mr. Roper-Batker said, “I became a salesman for it.” He and his colleagues have voted in favor of the plan twice by large margins.

Minnesota’s $86 million teacher professionalization and merit pay initiative has spread to dozens of the state’s school districts, and it got a lift this month when teachers voted overwhelmingly to expand it in Minneapolis. A major reason it is prospering, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said in an interview, is that union leaders helped develop and sell it to teachers."

KUOW's Weekday had a discussion this week about merit pay that you can listen to online (I haven't had a chance to hear it yet).

Should Washington state be thinking about this? Teachers?


Michael Rice said...


I would be very much in favor of some sort of merit pay system. I say this since I have 20 years "real world" experience before I became a teacher and that is how I was paid in the past. I really don't like the current system where my salary is based on my years of experience and the amount of education I have.

Now, as to what that system should be, I have no idea. It is really difficult to come up with measurables for something like this. According to the people at the district office RB does the best job in Seattle of raising up students who are below grade level to closer to grade level. Of course, most of our students are still below grade level, but we get them closer than anyone else. Does that mean we are worth more than say a teacher at Ballard that has most of their students passing AP exams and going to college? I don't know. I reality, the best solution is just more money in general for teacher salaries. Higher salaries will attract more talented people.

Anonymous said...

Part of me agrees with Mr. Rice.

I spent 20+ years out in the rat race, and I worked in jobs where it was relatively obvious who was better, and I tended to make more than most cuz I better than most.

However, there were a LOT of people doing various who made more than I did cuz they hung out with the boss, whether the boss was a drunk or a church freak or golf nut. Or, they had some other fake edge in life. Lots of the people who make more aren't better at much more than backstabbing and dodging blame, public or private sector, because a LOT of well paid jobs are kind of set up to avoid figuring out who is better and what is better.

So, how do we determine who is better, or, what is better in teaching? I don't know, and I haven't been impressed by public or private sector solutions.

Rarely do we get somethign stunningly better, like google, which deserves every penny people want to throw at them.

IMHO over 90% of the kids who are in calculus are so motivated by family / internal pressures that they barely need us,

whereas the (probably) over 90% of the kids who don't take calc are missing out on huge opportunities that they'll never even know about.

having finished my 2nd year teaching math in high school, I'd say that Mr. Rice is more valuable. I have a hunch that 80% of more of the high school math teachers would disagree. ;)

sorry to stay anon - I've just gotten so burned by WHACKBALL parents.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in talking about merit pay if we were paying our teachers more to start with. As it is folks, who suggest merit pay are usually talking about dividing crumbs, while engaging in contentious debates about how to allocate merit dollars. It's just not worth it.

If, on the other hand, we starte by increasing base pay by 20%, and made a 30% pool available for merit, then the discussion might be worth it.

I'm not a seattle school parent, and not a teacher. But I am a taxpayer who'd have no problem seeing my taxes go up enough to pay every teacher in the state of washington on that scale. Actually, I can't afford to see my taxes go up enough to pay every teacher myself (:-) how much would that cost, anyway?. I guess there are some folks in the state who could foot the bill themselves, but I'm not one of them). But I'd certainly pay my equitable share of an income tax to raise 50% more dollars for teacher's salary.

I simply don't care if a few "bad" teachers get to rise with the rising boat. If we changed salaries like that, I can see that our young people would start to to think about careers in education in a way that folks just don't right now.


Jet City mom said...

personally- I would have to say that my daughter has gotten burned by whackball teachers- who are still employed-

I would love to see merit pay to acknowledge those teachers who go above and beyond.

Teachers already average more than annual national wage, they certainly will receive more of a pension than most of us can even dream about , not to mention larger costs of living increases than the average worker.

Yet for those who earn it, I can see an increase- but not to hand that increase to everyone, regardless of behavior or even attendance.

Why can't we give larger stipends to teachers who stay afterschool to help with homework and sponsor clubs?

Why can't we push for increased pay for those areas most in demand i.e. science and math?

During the recognition for Raj Manhas at the last board meeting, it was mentioned that he was skillful at helping district employees see when it was time to "move on".

Why can't we have more of that?
Why do we pay 6 figures to former principals who no one can stomach in the schools?

Why do we allow teachers to go from school to school until they retire, that we can't find an appropriate place for and obviously retraining isn't helping?

Yes I know the union guarantees them a job, but watch your kid have a poor teacher one or two or three years in a row and see how riled up you get.

Richard Sprague said...

Of course we should pay teachers more, but let's not do it across-the-board.  As explained in more detail here, the KUOW piece is worth listening to but unfortunately the Washington teachers union seems not to acknowledge that the bottom 25% of teachers don't deserve a raise.

(btw, I love your blog but please enable links on your blogspot page so we can trackback from other blogs. )