Merit Pay for Teachers Pros and Cons

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We all know there are good teachers and bad teachers out there. How do we reward the good ones to encourage their positive teaching habits? One of the most common ideas offered is the use of merit pay. There are some pros and cons to consider when it comes to teachers and merit pay, however, so here are some key points to consider.

The Pros of Merit Pay For Teachers

1. It gives the best teachers a chance to make more money.
Teaching is a tough business in the United States. Not only are budget cuts hurting teacher salaries, they’re hurting the prospects of a raise as well. Some teachers haven’t received a meaningful raise since 2008. Merit pay would help to give the best teachers a little extra cash every year.

2. It’s an incentive to keep teachers at the top of their game.
If merit pay policies are instituted, it gives teachers a chance to really earn what they are worth under the current contract obligations. If every teacher earns the same amount of money, no matter how good of a teacher they are, then there is no incentive to improve.

3. It is a way to improve student performance.
If teacher’s are focused on their performance to earn more money, then as a natural consequence, they’ll also be more focused on the performance of each student. That can result in better grades and knowledge retention.

The Cons of Merit Pay For Teachers

1. There’s often no way to control the quality score of a teacher.
Many merit pay systems are based on student performance. Since different students perform at different levels, a teacher really isn’t graded on their ability to relate and teach. They’re graded on the grades they’re able to award to students over the course of a year.

2. It promotes teaching to the test.
In the past, teaching was about learning core concepts, including music and art, and making difficult subjects fun. Modern teaching is about making sure students know how to take a test, what information they need to know from that test, and what they’re best chance of passing that test will be.

3. It creates dissension within the ranks.
Some teachers may work harder than other teachers, be truly committed to the cause, and receive no merit pay at all. Other teachers may not put in any work beyond the bare minimum and receive merit pay because of a group of smart students. This inequality can create dissension within a school that affects the learning process.

The pros and cons of merit pay show that this idea must be carefully implemented to be successful. Many teachers work hard for their money already. Saying that they don’t is an easy way to create fewer learning opportunities.