NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 23, 2005

Houston Independent School District (HISD) Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra says performance pay drives academic performance. That assumption might be true, but Saavedra is proposing a system under which improved academic performance will trigger performance pay.

  • Under his proposal, the best teachers at the best schools, and those whose students make exceptional progress, would be eligible for as much as $3,000 in bonuses.
  • Test scores would provide the criteria for rating campuses and teachers.
  • Saavedra said he would like to increase the maximum bonus to $10,000 in five years.

HISD teachers make less than their counterparts throughout Harris County. In an era of strained budgets, the most effective HISD teachers most deserve additional compensation, says the Houston Chronicle. Increasing yearly bonuses might keep good, experienced teachers in the classroom and attract others to the district.

Saavedra said the money for the bonuses, $14.5 million, was in the budget -- an admission that progress deserving performance pay will be limited in the first year. While the plan rightly rewards top performers, it leaves low-performing teachers in place. The plan's design leaves at least half of HISD teachers ineligible for significant bonuses, no matter how well HISD students perform.

Nevertheless, the plan deserves to be tried, says the Chronicle.

  • If HISD test scores rise faster than they have to date, the merit pay plan will deserve some of the credit.
  • The current plan, which pays $440 a year to 80 percent of HISD teachers, offers an incentive too little to be credited with increasing classroom performance.

Source: Editorial, "Merit pay: Good teachers deserve to be rewarded, but that's no substitute for adequate salaries for all," Houston Chronicle, November 22, 2005.


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