NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 18, 2007

Merit pay -- compensating teachers for classroom performance rather than their years on the job and coursework completed -- is gaining favor in school districts around the country, says the New York Times.

One of the main reasons has been Department of Education encouragement, says the Times:

  • Recently the department awarded 18 new federal grants, building on 16 others distributed last November.
  • That makes a total of $80 million that the Bush administration has given to schools and districts in 19 states that have incentive pay plans.

More surprising has been Union involvement in merit pay:

  • In Minneapolis, for example, the teachers' union is cooperating with the governor on a plan in which teachers in some schools work with mentors to improve their instruction and get bonuses for raising student achievement.
  • The American Federation of Teachers -- one of two national teacher's unions -- says it encourages efforts to raise teaching quality and has endorsed arrangements that reward teams of teachers whose students show outstanding achievement growth.

The endorsement of many unions is part of a building consensus that rewarding teachers with bonuses or raises for improving student achievement, working in lower income schools or teaching subjects that are hard to staff can energize veteran teachers and attract bright rookies to the profession, says Allan Odden, University of Wisconsin professor.

"It's looking like there's a critical mass," Odden said. The movement to experiment with teacher pay, he added, "is still not ubiquitous, but it's developing momentum."

Source: Sam Dillon, "Long Reviled, Merit Pay Gains Among Teachers," New York Times, June 18, 2007.

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