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Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor

Some Why-and-How Questions on Teacher Merit Pay

August 25, 2015 1 min read
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To the Editor:

Some experts and educational economists would have us believe that rewarding “high performing” teachers with merit pay could improve student achievement. Why? Isn’t using value-added modeling to tie teacher performance directly to student achievement a way to expose those educators who are underperforming in comparison with their peers?

I’m not certain that an educational economist has ever set foot in a classroom or gotten a feel for the countless factors that make up effective teaching and learning. I would venture a guess that most, if not all, have not. But the daily reality for us as leaders in our schools is to make sense of our whole situation and decide how to accomplish what we believe is right for our learning communities.

Consider the following questions: What would happen if I were a principal and did not offer ongoing professional development for my faculty and staff? Will the economic background and need of the students in several classes affect the value-added metrics (or evaluation scores) for those teachers? How will student and teacher attendance rates affect merit pay?

Other questions arise, as well: How does one handle the issues of teacher competition that may be associated with merit pay? What happens in the special education classroom if the students don’t reach a certain level of proficiency by the end of the school year? What are the variables used to determine merit pay at urban, rural, and suburban schools? Are they the same? Should they be? How do we keep educators intrinsically motivated by extrinsic factors? How do district demographics impact merit pay for teachers? What about specialization in certain subject areas?

Tanya Fletcher

Music Educator

Penfield Central School District

Penfield, N.Y.

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A version of this article appeared in the August 26, 2015 edition of Education Week as Some Why-and-How Questions On Teacher Merit Pay

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