Teaching Profession

N.Y.C. Unveils Merit-Pay Plan for Teachers in High-Need Schools

By Vaishali Honawar — October 18, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

New York City last week announced a plan that would give cash bonuses to teachers at some of the city’s high-need schools that raise student test scores.

The 1.1 million-student district, the largest in the country, joins such districts as Denver and Minneapolis that have implemented pay plans with the blessings of their local teachers’ unions.

Experts called the development groundbreaking.

“It is very significant, in part because it is New York City and in part because it includes teachers and has been agreed to by the teacher union,” said Allan R. Odden, a co-director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

New York City’s plan could also be a shot in the arm for attempts to adopt such plans in the Northeast, he added.

The United Federation of Teachers has for years resisted efforts by the school district to implement performance pay, but union officials said this week that they are happy with the plan’s approach because it gives the bonus to the whole school and not just to individual teachers who raise student test scores.

“Respecting and understanding the importance of teamwork and collaboration is precisely why the UFT has opposed the idea of individual merit pay for teachers—especially when based solely on student test scores,” Randi Weingarten, the president of the UFT, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, said at a press conference.

The plan is also voluntary and would require at least 55 percent of the teachers at a participating school to vote to opt in.

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at the press conference that the plan “will help us reward our great teachers and foster excellence in our public schools.”

City and school officials are hoping the plan will attract the city’s best teachers to some of its lowest- performing schools.

School to Divvy Up Bonus

In recent months, the push for performance-based pay has been re-energized as a number of states have introduced such plans or been considering them. (“Teacher-Pay Experiments Mounting Amid Debate,” Oct. 3, 2007.)

And as moves in Congress toward the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act have gained steam, federal lawmakers have spoken in favor of performance pay for teachers. House education committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., included such a plan in his committee’s discussion draft for renewal of the federal education law.

But the national teachers’ unions have remained opposed to performance pay, particularly plans based largely on student test scores.

In New York, the plan is based almost entirely on raising student test scores. Roughly 200 of the district’s more than 1,400 schools that show significant gains in student achievement would receive an award of roughly $3,000 multiplied by the number of teachers in the school.

A committee made up of a school’s principal, another administrator, and two teachers would determine how to divide the bonus among staff members.

The plan, which would receive $20 million in funding in the first year, needs state legislative approval before it is implemented.

Is Policy Effective?

Matthew G. Springer, the director of the National Center on Performance Incentives, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., said the fact that city, school, and union officials had collaborated on the plan was “really important.”

Still, he added, there exists a slim body of research on the effectiveness of performance pay. A plan of the size of the one in New York City, he said, needs to be thoroughly studied.

“We don’t know if pay for performance is an effective policy. We don’t know how it should be designed. We know more research is needed,” Mr. Springer said. “It is just critical that a program of this magnitude is rigorously and independently evaluated.”

A version of this article appeared in the October 24, 2007 edition of Education Week


Teaching K-12 Essentials Forum Student Motivation and Engagement: Unraveling the Science and Strategies
Join us for this free virtual event in which we will discuss the current state of student motivation and engagement in our schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Personalized Learning Webinar
Expanding Teacher Impact: Scaling Personalized Learning Across Districts
Explore personalized learning strategies that transform classrooms and empower educators.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
How to Leverage Virtual Learning: Preparing Students for the Future
Hear from an expert panel how best to leverage virtual learning in your district to achieve your goals.
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Teachers Work 50-Plus Hours a Week—And Other Findings From a New Survey on Teacher Pay
Planning, preparation, and other duties stretch teachers' working hours long past what's in their contracts.
5 min read
Elementary teacher, working at her desk in an empty classroom.
Teaching Profession From Our Research Center How Many Teachers Work in Their Hometown? Here's the Latest Data
New survey data shows that many teachers stay close to home, but do they want to?
1 min read
Illustration of a 3D map with arrows going all over the states.
Teaching Profession In Their Own Words 'I Was Not Done': How Politics Drove This Teacher of the Year Out of the Classroom
Karen Lauritzen was accused of being a pro-LGBTQ+ activist. The consequences derailed her career.
6 min read
Karen Lauritzen stands for a portrait on the Millikin University Campus in Decatur, Ill., on August 30, 2023. Idaho’s Teacher of the Year moved to Illinois for a new job due to right-wing harassment over her support of the LGBTQ+ community and Black Lives Matter.
Karen Lauritzen stands for a portrait on the Millikin University Campus in Decatur, Ill., on August 30, 2023. Laurizen, Idaho’s 2023 Teacher of the Year, moved to Illinois for a new job due to harassment over her support of the LGBTQ+ community and Black Lives Matter.
Neeta R. Satam for Education Week
Teaching Profession Reported Essay Public Schools Rely on Underpaid Female Labor. It’s Not Sustainable
Women now have more career options. Is that why they are leaving the teaching profession?
9 min read
Illustration of contemporary teacher looking at a line-up of mostly female teachers through the history of public education in the United States.
Traci Debarko for Education Week