Merit Pay: What do YOU Think?

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The issue of merit based pay or pay based on performance has been bubbling up in education policy attempts for years. To most people, it seems to make sense. Educators, however, have resisted its widespread implementation for a number of reasons, perhaps some justified and some not. It is something, however, that seems to be barreling down the road to the future in full speed, and it is clear that within the next couple of years you will potentially see a much wider implementation of merit based pay for teachers. Why the new interest? It seems that with a new U. S. Secretary of Education having a ton of support from President Obama, this line of thinking is coinciding with some existing interest among state policy makers. A key component of the Federal “Race to the Top” funding and reform initiative includes more of a merit based compensation format for teachers in particular.

Traditional compensation for teachers in many states, but particularly in Georgia was based on a fairly equitable (though not always easily understood) salary scale that began with a base salary based on degree level. With more years of experience and with higher levels of academic degrees, regardless of one’s performance, the salary increased. One could argue that paying everyone the same despite different teaching loads, teaching conditions, student performance, and market factors that such a structure was not equitable. Perhaps the most important question that we could ask is “is merit pay an effective strategy for improving teaching and learning?” The issue of supply and demand of some certification fields also is an issue that we must recognize could potentially fill some shortages.

Frankly, I have been a proponent of doing “something” with Georgia’s teacher salary schedule for years if for no other reason, to simplify it. It does make sense to compensate high achieving teachers or teachers who assume teacher leadership roles at higher levels to keep them where they can make the biggest difference … in the classroom. At the same time, not all leadership assignments and responsibilities are the same, yet the pay structures don’t differ significantly for the most part.

OK, my blog editors are probably freaking out at the number of words in this blog, so let’s turn it over to you:

1) What do you think about merit pay for teachers?

2) Should a teacher or other educator receive a higher level of compensation based on earning a higher level of a degree or certification?

3) Should all beginning teachers be compensated at essentially the same level?

4) What about “critical field” or “shortage” areas (Math, Science, Special Education, etc.)? Should there be different pay based on these area?

Take part in the discussion by visiting www.forsyth.k12.ga.us.

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Buster Evans, Superintendent Forsyth County Schools.