Merit Is Hard to Measure In Public-Sector Context

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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

Vol. 25, Issue 34, Page 37

Published in Print: May 3, 2006, as Merit Is Hard to Measure In Public-Sector Context

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