Merit Pay – Pay for Performance – Evaluations

First time blogging at 6:45am but I couldn’t sleep last night because too many things were going through my head.  The biggest of those was the new push for education to move to Merit Pay or in other words Pay for Performance.  This also ties in teacher and principal evaluations as part of the process.

Most business’s I would assume have some sort of merit pay system set up and I’m sure it does a great job of holding employees accountable.  I like a system of merit pay.  If I do well in my job – I should get rewarded for it.  I also like the idea of Merit Pay for Educators, but on different terms then what it looks like it’s being set up for.

In education (unlike most other business’s) is a third variable.  A human variable.  Current proposals for merit pay in education include a factor of student performance (based on his/her score on a standardized test).  This I’m not for.  A third party (human variable) exists here.  A teachers pay could then be influenced by a student’s score on a standardized test.  Before I go further I do need to point out why I believe merit pay is good for education or at least mention how it could be used.

Merit pay for education should mirror that of merit pay for other industries.  If you work hard, improve instruction, go the extra mile, and have good evaluations – I’m totally for it.  Teachers are contracted for a certain amount of time during the day, and most teachers work much more than that.  I’m definitely for a system that rewards teachers for extra time spent improving instruction.  I’m definitely for a system that rewards teachers whom continually get good evaluations.  I’m definitely for a system that provides an incentive to keep great teachers in classrooms.

As for the student performance on a standardized test (this test being the State Assessment) I’m not for it and  here are my reasons why.  First of all the State Assessment carries no weight for a student.  In other words the score that a child receives on this test does not affect them in anyway, shape or form.  It does however provide valuable feedback to educators.  It gives us a target point at which the student is performing.  It tells us what a student struggles in.  But in terms of the student’s report card or transcript – it is not noted.  The student can perform poorly on the test and still be aloud to participate in extra-curriculars.  My point – the test does not affect them.

My second reason (and I think I’ve touched on it in a previous blog) is the fact that the schools have no control over what happens to a child at home.  I’ve always said that if a child does not receive something at home that the school should do everything in it’s power to provide it to them.  For instance – a child not cared for at home, a child whom’s parents are going through a divorce, a child whom is abused at home, a child that has been shown no discipline, a child that lost a loved one, etc etc.  I could go on here.  These are factors that affect a student’s performance in school.  The school can do everything in it’s power to create an atmosphere that is caring, and one that is conducive to learning.  We can also provide an atmosphere which is safe, but when it comes down to it – if a student does not want to perform well on that 1 test, or if a student has so much going on in his/her life at home that taking that test is the last thing on their minds – they won’t perform well.  I just don’t think you can use this as a factor for merit pay or as a factor for letting teachers/principals go.

So I will close with this.  Merit Pay – Pay for Performance (in my mind) is a good thing.  Rewarding people for doing good and punishing people for doing bad is how we progress in the world.  We need to do something to keep great teachers in schools.  We just need to make sure that educators are measured by the right parameters and not something that is ultimately out of their control.