Is Pay for Performance Practical? | A Blog for Principals and Teachers – School Matters

 
 

Is Pay for Performance Practical?

 
 

 

 

Depositphotos 25127823 s 300x225 Is Pay for Performance Practical?For more than 40 years the educational world has debated the value of offering pay-for-performance as a teacher incentive. This can come across as insulting to educators. The assumption is that if we offer additional pay, teachers will work harder. It implies that teachers know how to improve student achievement but are not doing so because they are not sufficiently motivated and value financial rewards more than student success.


On the other hand, it is known that high-performing educational systems pay their teachers more than lower-performing schools. However, is this actual proof that educators will teach better for higher pay or is it that higher quality teachers work in areas with larger budgets? Generally, teacher salaries are based on credentials and years of experience, both of which have been shown to be poor indicators of teacher effectiveness. In addition, offering merit pay might level the playing field for some teachers thinking about leaving teaching for other professions which are more publically respected.


In lieu of this, some countries have begun offering higher salaries in undesirable areas to encourage teachers to go there. That doesn’t seem the same as judging teachers based on an arbitrary system or encouraging teacher competition over teacher cooperation in order to “win the bonus”. What has proved successful is offering pay-for-performance in areas which have limited resources and therefore, are unable to pay all of their teachers well. In this particular situation, bonus incentives have been found to not only motivate teachers to work harder to bring more success for their students but also keep teachers in those districts.


Should a school system decide to implement pay-for-performance incentives, it can only work if teacher evaluations are considered fair, valid, reliable and accurate-especially by the teachers themselves. Observations by trained evaluators, standardized test scores, and contributions to school-improvement can all be factors in choosing who receives merit pay. However, to get people to agree by what standards they are evaluating teachers can be a bureaucratic nightmare.


Another issue to consider is whether rewards will go to individual teachers, groups of teachers or the whole school. Individual rewards can be motivating to get people to work harder and give them a sense of control over their chance for recognition. Group awards, such as those based on an entire grade’s improving or even a whole school district’s growth over another, can promote team spirit and cooperation. Additionally, more than half of school teachers might not even be able to participate in a merit pay program since student learning is not applicable, such as gym, art and music teachers, media specialists, special educators, etc.


The bottom line: Performance-based pay might be an incentive in certain circumstances. However, getting the system to work successfully can be a large and possibly expensive challenge in and of itself. Since salary increases seem to only inspire when teaching as a whole becomes a respected profession with additional opportunities for growth, such as providing teachers with opportunities to advance in their field and contribute through educational research and innovations, perhaps we can by-pass the whole discussion by simply paying our teachers a competitive business wage.


What are your thoughts and experiences with pay incentives?

 


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8 Comments

  1. Tigger says:

    First of all there are many good and bad aspects of pay for performance.
    1. Not all classes are equal. I get the lower performing math students quite frequently. How do you balance that?
    2. I teach at a school with nearly 70% free and reduced lunch. They typically come to school behind their more affluent peers.
    3. We have close to 30% mobility. Meaning 3 out of every 10 kids that start the school year will be gone before the end of the year.
    4. Students that move in are generally lower than those that have stayed in the same school. How would that work if I don’t have them all year?
    5. In the upper grades and secondary you do not have the student all day, how do you make that happen?
    6. Behavior of one or two students can and does affect your ability to teach, with administrations lack go enforcing discipline, how is this handled?
    7. Lack of resources depending on campus/ district will affect how and what is taught.
    As you see I listed several points, I could probably go on and on. If this occurs we will widen the gap, that is already growing, between the haves and the haves and the have nots. Teachers will flock to more affluent schools to get the money and your lower income schools will be stuck with inept or inexperienced teachers. In teaching, we should be making more than non degreed people on the outside, I.e. Mailmen, garbage truck drivers, truck drivers, etc. However, those that are in power still believe, “those that can’t, teach.”

  2. It might be efficient to pay teachers more when apply a new incentive, such as a project, a teaching presentation, etc.

  3. Mary Schlieder says:

    This whole line of reasoning is based on faulty logic which defies reason. The reason kids in high poverty schools do poorly has nothing to do with what their teachers get paid. They do worse than kids in wealthier districts (which may pay teachers more) because of many factors. Some are hungry. Some are homeless. Some have parents working several low paying jobs who are not around to supervise the kids, some have high migrant populations where kids go back and forth to Mexico every year, missing many schooldays, some parents don’t have the money to pay for public transportation to get their kids to school on a regular basis, some can’t focus on schoolwork because they suffer from PTSD due to experiencing violence in their homes and neighborhoods. Yes, teachers in high poverty schools should receive high pay because their jobs are so much tougher than their colleagues in more affluent schools. They need excellent ongoing, job embedded, teacher led professional development to meet the challenges of teaching these populations. They need to teach in schools with social workers, mental health professionals, and access to decent healthcare. But, the conversation surrounding teacher incentives assumes a cause and effect relationship between teacher effectiveness/pay and student performance. Simply not true. Most teachers work very, very hard for pay which given the level of education and skill set required borders on insulting. Current ed reform movements that blame teachers, take away due process rights, provide monetary incentives pitting teachers and schools one against the other, evaluate teachers based on student performance without factoring in the needs of poor and disabled populations, put inexperienced temp worker teachers in the highest need classrooms (Teach For America), and which make policy completely leaving teachers out of meaningful loops are doing serious damage to the teaching profession. There are big, powerful money machines effectively doing just that and anyone concerned with the welfare of kids and families should be quite concerned.

    • Tsivya Fox says:

      Thanks for sharing your well thought out reply. In many situations, it takes a village to get our kids educated as they should be given the challenges they face. Most teachers do what they can as best as they can while facing enormous obstacles. All teachers should receive respectable pay for their efforts.

  4. Ken Bates says:

    I am interested in the psychology of giving incentives up front with a specific goal in mind, and then measuring progress. The idea is something I found in an article about human behavior.

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