Monday, May 17, 2010

Finally, some good news on the age old question of Merit Pay for Teachers.  For those who have been following along, you know this writer (blogger) has opposed merit pay without question for many years.  From early research by the Washington Education Association and the King County Round Table and a local school district in King County, the results were such that the experiment was cancelled after only several years at the request of the parents.  Some of the negative results were 1) known good teachers leaving the district for other local school districts without merit pay, 2) lack of sharing among teachers, 3) poor teacher morale, and 4) students not enjoying school as they had been.  It has been many years but I have not forgotten the results.

Recently a study published by the Economic Policy Institute suggested that merit pay for teachers did not improve teaching or student scores and also have other negative reactions in the school system.  [editor's note:  I do not know who the Economic Policy Institute is, where they get their money or what their purpose is--I'll try to get back to you on this]  This institute reported that private schools hardly ever used merit pay--perhaps because they paid well to start with.  Worthy of further study in this area.

But in another recent book by Daniel Pink, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us"  says that money doesn't motivate people.  I'll have to get the book--money does have an influence on me, maybe because I never had much of the stuff.  But teachers go into teaching knowing full well it is not a high paying job.  And two or three thousand may not be enough to influence their behavior.  Pink gives three reasons that motivate people.  They are:

  • they are aligned with the purpose of the job
  • they are given some autonomy on the job
  • they are supported in gaining mastery of the job
Great reasoning.  Do you see how this fits perfectly with teaching?  This really gets to the point why merit pay just does not work in education.

In an excellent report in Huffington Post by Esther Wojcicki, and educational writer, journalist and......high school teacher, Ms Wojcicki in her article, "New Research Shows Merit Pay for Teachers a Poor Idea," writes a beautiful statement (wish I had written it) about merit pay.  I quote it here verbatim:

Studies show that teachers are already purpose driven and while merit pay may temporarily improve performance over all it has no positive impact. Teachers need to be given more respect, more autonomy, better overall pay, supplies, and more classroom support to master their teaching skills. Merit pay doesn't work for the workplace and is a terrible idea for schools.
This is probably not the final word on merit pay.  Politicians will continue to energize the population on how bad our schools are doing whether it be true or not.  It goes with motherhood and apple pie.  But at least it is on the side of reason for a change.  

Thanks to all those who went into teaching because they wanted to teach our children....and for that purpose alone.  Teachers, you are uncommonly great.

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