Businesses as well as many institutions, including universities and private schools, pay employees more if they do their job well. K-12 public education has resisted merit pay for teachers, however, largely because teacher unions insist on maintaining their control via uniformity of pay schedules. They have argued that teacher evaluation is too subjective for merit pay to be distributed fairly.
The advent of value-added assessment, which identifies those teachers who are most effective in raising student achievement, has demolished the old excuses for stonewalling merit pay. Accordingly, there is growing momentum for merit pay across the country, and support for it is bipartisan. An initiative to provide federal aid to school districts adopting merit pay appears to be headed for Congressional approval. Some merit pay innovations are more thoughtfully constructed and likely to endure than others, however.
Merit pay gives promise of being a key component of comprehensive education reform aimed at motivating teachers and elevating student achievement. This paper shows how and details specific examples such as Massachusetts’ Governor Mitt Romney’s proposed merit pay system, the Milken Family Foundation’s Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), and the Chattanooga, Tennessee teacher reward program.
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