When it comes to merit pay for teachers, the whole discussion takes place on very shaky ground. On one hand it seems like a good idea to reward the teachers that are doing their job well. The teachers that are putting the little extras into their work to help kids like learning, like school, and excel to their full potential deserve to be recognized. On the other hand if students simply don’t apply themselves and don’t care about how well they perform, this may be interpreted as the teacher not doing his/her job well, instead of the child/teenager simply not trying and can hurt the teachers performance evaluations.
Higher education issues are nothing new, but merit pay for teachers has been a hot topic in the news with the recent bill passed in Florida. One major problem that teachers, principals, superintendents and school districts alike are seeing is that there is no funding to go along with the bill. Where it has already been 2-3 years since teachers have received a raise, the simple fact that a new bill was passed, does not make the money available to fund these “merit raises”. Not to mention the extra money and staff that is going to be needed to fund all the additional testing int the schools that will be required.
But the debate goes deeper than just the additional money it is going to cost the school district and takes into account the pressure put on the teachers to try and teach students in a way that they can “pass the test”. In addition to the fact that money isn’t there right now and the testing means and method still need some reforming, a fundamental question being asked is how this will affect the teacher. Without the right type of evaluation process, the teachers that are doing a good job, but have a few kids that don’t do well on tests, could end up with their job in jeopardy.
On the up side, merit vs tenure may be able to help get some of the teachers that are only there because they are tenured, out of the system. This may also give some of the new teachers more time to prove how valuable they are, instead of always being the first ones to be laid off simply because they are “the new guy”.
While there is still much debate and many questions about the new merit pay bill in Florida and how it will work, other states are considering the benefits of a merit pay system. The idea of rewarding those that do a good job is what people hope for. The nightmare of determining a way to effectively evaluate who is doing a good job is the major problem. Everyone likes to be rewarded for a job well done but having your pay and job determined by the results of how someone else performs (e.g. student test scores) just seems like another No Child Left Behind nightmare.