Merit Pay for Teachers

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Most organizations purpose of a reward system is to attract, retain, and motivate qualified employees. There are several different types of rewards or incentive systems to compensate employees. Merit pay is the most frequently used system which rewards teachers with base increases or bonuses for acquiring and demonstrating specific knowledge and skills needed to meet educational goals such as improving student achievement. The million dollar question is, does merit pay increase teachers' performance?

Those in favor of merit pay argue that teacher performance should be based on a broad range of factors that in combination adequately and fairly measure teachers' success, including standardized test scores; evaluations from principals, staff and students; professional development and other factors. Additionally, they argue that incentives should be provided to teachers in an attempt to get more qualified applicants to teach at harder-to-staff schools and to increase the teacher retention rate. Others argue that it's all about student achievement. It's also believed that merit pay provides recognition for a job well done. It's argued that even if higher teacher salaries do not translate initially into higher achievement for students. In business, employees receive bonuses, promotions and raises because of their quality of work; supporters of merit pay believe educators are equally entitled to this benefit.

David Figlio and Lawrence Kenny, two University of Florida professors, recently came out with positive findings regarding merit pay. In a national study funded by the U.S. Department of Education, they collected surveys from 534 schools from among over 1,000 public and private participating schools. Their findings: students at schools with teacher pay-for-performance programs scored an average of one to two percentage points higher on standardized tests than their peers at schools where no bonuses were offered. (Keen, 2007)

Those opposed to merit pay...
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