Would schools be improved if teachers were paid on the basis of performance?

Published: 2019-10-04 07:00:00
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In the 21 century the system of education is undergoing a series of fundamental changes that will inevitably shape the new intellectual landscape of the Western civilization. Online learning, MOOCs, gamification, proactive attitude, student-orientated approach these trends are changing the way we see schools, learning and teaching. But there is a constant that is unlikely to be ever removed from the educational framework this is the teacher. Without teachers there would be no schools. A teacher is someone who not only gives young people access to information and makes them memorize it, but also teaches them how to learn and, what is more, teaches them to want to learn. The teachers role is crucial in bringing up a responsible citizen. This is why it is so important for the society to entrust with this power only those who are really competent and inspired. Paying teachers on the basis of performance could be one of the ways of motivating them not to lower the bar.

This solution obviously has its advantages and disadvantages, the former being more obvious. In his article "It's time for Merit Pay" Joseph P. Meyers makes a claim that the existing system of paying teachers on the basis of their experience and education, which used to be so effective and objective in the past, nowadays is profoundly unjust and demoralizing. This system implies that Mr. Black who has managed to work in the district for 30 years torturing his students with boring, monotonous classes will be paid more money than Mrs. White, who has just started building her career and is working hard doing her best to motivate her students and increase their performance. Reversing this system and introducing merit pay would mean that Mrs. White would be rewarded for the excellent standard of her teaching while Mr. Black would be motivated to improve his teaching skills by expanding his professional horizons. This is a system from which everyone would benefit.

But there are also traps and pitfalls hidden beneath the smooth surface of the merit pay approach. These dangers can be seen only in real situations viewed through the experience of real teachers. In Edwin R. Johnsons book Lives in Education: Award Winning Teachers Tell their Stories Peter Jacobson shares his view upon the problem by giving an account of his years in a school with a merit pay system. Though initially Mr. Jacobson enjoyed working in that school, he became bitterly disappointed when he found out that one of his colleagues, a rather mediocre teacher, got merit pay. Nobody in the staffroom could understand why this very person was so special to the principal. So they decided he was a spy. Finally, the man became a pariah at work. Mr. Jacobson was so much discouraged by this situation that he chose to leave that school. This story convincingly shows that if solely the principal of the school is in charge of deciding whose achievements are to be rewarded, then it might happen that the amount paid will have nothing to do with the teachers performance. Thus, what is needed is an objective system of criteria that will motivate teachers instead of demoralizing them.

The solution to the problem is offered by David P. Courson in his article "New Indicators of Teacher Performance". The author claims that the new state testing system will not only be able to identify the level of students performance, but it will also show which teachers have put the most effort into their work and provided the best results. By measuring students against the state content standards this system will give the authorities an opportunity to reward those teachers who have helped their students achieve good results and motivate teachers with lower performance rates to work harder. Overall, it will increase teacher morale on both sides of the barricade.

All in all, paying teachers on the basis of performance seems to be a reasonable solution for increasing their motivation and productivity as long as the criteria for merit pay are clear and objective.

sheldon

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