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Education Letter to the Editor

Merit Is Hard to Measure In Public-Sector Context

May 02, 2006 1 min read
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To the Editor:

Two points were missing from the otherwise outstanding Commentary by James W. Guthrie and Matthew G. Springer on merit pay for public school teachers “(“Teacher Pay for Performance: Another Fad or a Sound and Lasting Policy?,” April 5, 2006):

First, in the private sector, merit can fund its own reward: It increases the firm’s revenue. But in public schools, merit does not generate additional revenue, except over the long term and very diffusely, through increased property values to tax. Moreover, teachers recognize that they are competing for a piece of a fixed pool of merit money, which discourages cooperation and mentoring.

Second, merit is very difficult to objectively measure without profit-driven competition and market-determined prices. Those reflect much more information than do the teacher-observation criteria and student test scores used in public-sector merit evaluations.

John Merrifield

Professor of Economics

University of Texas at San Antonio

San Antonio, Texas

A version of this article appeared in the May 03, 2006 edition of Education Week as Merit Is Hard to Measure In Public-Sector Context

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