Teacher Merit Pay 3

Washington’s gov has had meetings with the state’s top ed officials to see if they can tweak state policy so that they might qualify for a couple of hundred million of the Obama admin’s “Race to the Top” funds. Among other things, they’re talking about instituting a teacher merit pay plan to gain Washington’s favor.

Here’s the context of those discussions. The following cuts have been proposed in the gov’s supplemental budget, which deals with an anticipated $2.6b shortfall:

• cut preschool for 3 year-olds in low-income areas ($10.5m)

• increase class size in K-4 ($110.6m)

• suspend the money the state gives to districts that can’t raise much through property taxes ($142.9m)

• eliminate gifted ed ($7.4m)

• suspend all day Kindergarten for students in schools with the highest poverty levels ($33.6m)

Given this context, I worry any merit based pay system will involve slicing the existing $34,237-$64,531 pie differently.

For example, take ten first year teachers salaries, throw them in a pot totaling $340,237. Establish the rules of the game.

Say we end up with three winners who see a 15% pay boost, three losers who lose 15%, and four status quoers. So now the salary range is $29,101-$39,373.

Does anyone believe border-line poverty (for a family) is a great motivator?

If I was a unionized teacher, I would never sign on to a “slice the existing pie differently” plan.

If states want to see stronger candidates enter the profession, retain the best teachers, and revitalize the profession, they have to make public schooling an even higher priority and find ways to pay bonuses to teams of teachers or entire schools for improved attendance (teacher absenteeism is a serious problem in places), improved student attendance and achievement, and for working for half the summer on curriculum planning and related professional development activities.

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