NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 14, 2007

The idea of "merit pay" for teachers -- giving bonuses in response to how well students perform -- is a concept long opposed by teachers and their unions as "unfair."  But times have changed, says USA Today. 

What has changed most are public attitudes:

  • In 2005, Denver voters approved a $25 million-a-year tax hike to pay teachers; the catch -- pay boosts were to be based on merit.
  • Other merit pay experiments have broken out in Tennessee, Florida and elsewhere.
  • Many teachers embrace the idea, aware that this is the only way to push teachers' salaries back into the respectable range.

The experiment is still in its infancy, but already indications look good, says USA Today.  At Meadowcliff, a poor urban school in southwest Little Rock, tests scores rose about 7 percentage points after instituting merit pay, compared with similar schools that have not, says University of Arkansas professor Gary Ritter.  Though it's too soon to tell whether the gains can be sustained over time, it's not too soon to declare that merit pay has earned a chance to succeed.

Source: Editorial, "Our view on education: Merit pay for teachers begins to earn high grades," USA Today, September 13, 2007.


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