I am always intrigued by the idea of merit pay. When I think of the teachers in my building, I often think about how diverse of a group they are. They are all hard-working and dedicated to the profession. If you asked them about their roles and responsibilities within the school, you would see that they contribute to the school in many different ways, both, in and outside of the classroom. They are on numerous committees to support school goals. They sponsor many different clubs, sports, and other extra curricular activities. They teach very different courses with varying class sizes and with students of a variety of ability levels. The bottom line is that they work hard and for many more hours than they current pay supports. If merit pay is just attached to pass-rates and student performance, what is the incentive for all of their efforts to suport the school and make personal connections with students? Can we fairly attach a price to student performance when we are looking at diverse courses and diverse student populations? Are we comparing apples to apples? Should we also consider how much support the teacher is recieving? I feel like I could go on and on with questions related to this topic.
I know we would all love to be paid more, but I am unsure how merit pay can fairly do that. Is my worth greater because I can successfully teach a small group of students Algebra I, while someone else at more challenging school is attempting to teach a class of 35 students the same course? When asked this question, many people reply with the suggestion of using student growth as a better measure. Unfortunately, student growth seems to just open up more questions. Most of which are related to how student growth can be measured.
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. I wish I did. Teaching is not a one size fits all profession, but it is a labor of love. I think we need to look more into what we can do to support teachers within the classroom, and a little less on what can be done to define a teacher’s worth.