Educational Editorial: Merit pay for teachers

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Henrico County has recently discussed developing a system that will reward teachers for increasing the achievement of students. Is this merit pay? Pay for performance? Will it work?

Paying employees based upon their level of productivity is fundamental to the free enterprise system. It makes sense. If you sell more cars, you get a greater commission. If you write more insurance policies or sell more homes, you get a bigger paycheck. For every "widget' that you build above the required minimum, you get a piece of the action. Well let's look at the implications for schools.

First, pay for performance should not mean being paid more for doing more, it should mean being paid more for doing it better!

Second, the products and results must be clearly discernible.

Third, the methods for keeping score must be accepted as accurate and unbiased.

Fourth, you must have enough money to pay for all who qualify.

Fifth, there must be quality control...."good manufacturing practices."

Having grown up in a retail environment, I understand and admire these principles. I also know that the "all for one and one for all" mentality is the enemy of differentiated pay. And, the greatest impediment to the morale of outstanding employees is to think that incompetence will be protected or ignored.

For those who are taking this on, I admire you. I also suggest that you take lessons from Fairfax County who boldly tried and failed: they had trouble defining all of the outputs accurately, the ledger was always suspect and complicated...and, they ran out of money.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.