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Survey Indicates Teacher Support For Merit Pay

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Nearly two of three of the teachers responding to a national survey on the issue of merit pay said they support the idea of paying better teachers more money.

Sixty-three percent of the 1,261 elementary- and secondary-school teachers in a "statistically representative" survey conducted by the National School Boards Association (nsba) in May said they agree that "teachers who are more effective in the classroom should receive larger salary increases than teachers who are less effective."

The survey is the first attempt to address "a glaring lack of information" concerning teachers' attitudes towards merit pay since its emergence as a national issue, according to the association.

Only 17.6 percent of the teachers in the survey said they support the current system of linking salary increases strictly to seniority and academic credentials.

However, 68.4 percent of the respondents said that paying teachers in certain subjects more than those in others, as some school systems and states have begun to do in an effort to attract mathematics and science teachers, is unacceptable.

The survey's results, which appear in the September issue of The American School Board Journal, were tabulated and verified by Jim C. Fortune, professor of education at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Full computer printouts of the survey's findings are available from the nsba at $95 per copy.

'Greatest' Say in Rating

Thirty-nine percent of the teachers responding to the survey said principals should have the "greatest" say in rating the effectiveness of their teachers. Others said those with the greatest say should be peers (25.4 percent); a teacher's department head (15 percent); or a combination of administrators and other teachers (12.1 percent).

About two in five teachers--41 percent-- said they would want "classroom effectiveness" to be given weight to that of the currently utilized combination of seniority and academic credentials in determining salary increases. But only 3.1 percent of the respondents said they would want "classroom effectiveness" to be the sole standard for salary increases.

Just over 26 percent said both classroom performance and seniority and credentials should be considered, with performance being given greater weight; 11.5 percent said both should be considered, with seniority and academic credentials receiving more weight.

Demographic Characteristics

The survey also distinguished the teachers' responses according to various demographic and professional characteristics. For example:

While 61.5 percent of the respondents who are members of the American Federation of Teachers (aft) and 62.1 percent of those who belong to the National Education Association (nea) said they approve of the idea of linking pay to performance, the figure for non-affiliated teachers is 76.4 percent.

Younger teachers are more agreeable to the pay-for-performance idea than their more senior peers. Of those with 15 or more years of service, 59.1 percent support the concept, compared to 85.3 percent of those with fewer than three years of experience.

Nontenured teachers (70.2 percent) were more likely to support merit pay than tenured teachers (61.2 percent). More males (66.3 percent) support it than females (59.9 percent). More high-school teachers (69.2 percent) support it than elementary-school teacher (55.3 percent). And more teachers working in rural areas (64 percent) endorse it than those teaching in urban school systems (59.4 percent).

On the question of who should evaluate teachers, 25.4 percent of those who were nea members and 27.5 percent of those who said they belonged to the aft said the school principal should have the greatest say in who gets merit raises, compared to 52.2 percent of those who said they were unaffiliated with a union.

The nea has not published a survey of teachers on merit pay issues recently, but plans to do so in the near future, according to a spokesman. The aft has not conducted a survey of teachers on the subject recently.

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