Sunday, January 07, 2007

January 7, 2007 Merit Pay for Teachers?

There is discussion in Metro Nashville about implementing merit pay for teachers.

Vanderbilt University's National Center on Performance Incentives has $10 million to use in a study to determine whether money, merit pay in particular, works as an incentive for teachers.

[I have endorsed not only merit pay but also extra financial incentives for teachers who are certified in difficult-to-hire areas such as physics and calculus in a previous post.]

The Vandy plan is to use Nashville schools as the testing ground. Some research indicates that merit pay improves teacher performance and that the students then perform better as well.

Vanderbilt has selected 297 middle school teachers to participate in a 5-year study.

There has always been some opposition to merit pay among teachers.

Just a few months ago, the teachers' association (MNEA) in Nashville, in a vote that surprised many people, rejected a $400,000 donation that would have put up to $6,000 extra in the pockets of Inglewood and Alex Green elementary schoolteachers.

Association President Jamye Merritt has said that the money was rejected because of uncertainties about the gift and what was expected of the teachers.

According to the Tennessean, Merritt has also said: “People take money every day for things I would not do ... there are people that are paid to be assassins....Sometimes it’s just not worth the sacrifice you would have to make for the money.”

The MNEA was criticized by many individuals and parents for turning down that earlier money. Could the headlines have been: "Merritt says teachers reject Merit Pay"?

The MNEA may be on-board now with the new Vandy study which could resolve the issue of the effect of merit pay for teachers.

Union members (MNEA) will vote on the issue this week, and the results of the election will be announced sometime after Friday.

It is important that the Vandy study is undertaken. Merit pay has been bandied about for years with many differing opinions but few factual studies.

My support for merit pay is based on my opinion that it would end up benefitting the students. If merit pay is proven to work, it should be used.

We should also continue to look at other ways to improve educational outcomes--- year-round schools, longer school days, a greater focus on academic subjects, etc.

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