De-merits for teacher incentives

Paying teachers more for better performance ruins team morale and lowers productivity, writes Reg Weaver, head of the largest teachers’ union, in a Christian Science Monitor commentary. Low-cost Southwest Airlines is his model. Weaver does come out for group incentives — paying all teachers more money — and for bonuses for teaching at hard-to-staff schools. The latter is a baby step forward.

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  1. I suppose if someone wanted to be tedious and follow the comparison to Southwest Airlines to its logical conclusion then there’d be differences in cost and performance between schools or districts that parents would be free to choose. Schools that had lousy “departure time” statistics and lost a lot of luggage, had surly flight attendents and dirty airplanes would see their slice of the market diminish until it dropped below the point necessary for the survival of the airline.

    But I don’t suppose Mr. Weaver was all that interested in exploring his metaphor more thoroughly.

  2. In private industry, discussing salary is considered taboo for a reason. In working for a charter school where we are not on a pay scale, I do not know what my colleagues make, nor do I want to. I know that if I do a good job, my pay goes up. That’s all I need to know.
    I don’t think merit based pay, implemented the right way, lowers team morale. If the only reason you’re in the business is for a paycheck then maybe that’s true. But, if you’re in teaching for student achievement, which should be every teacher’s goal, then it shouldn’t matter how much the person next to you is making. What should matter is doing your best to work together as a team to contribute to student achievement. And then, if you are enough of a team player, the powers that be should recognize you personally for your contributions.
    I worked for a few years in an NEA school. Now I worked for a “non-union” charter school. I’m much happier without the union and there is much more of a positive team culture at the school I now work at. Pay has nothing to do with it.

  3. While it’s okay if it is taboo to discuss salary with colleagues, it’s a problem in private industry when they make it an official policy. A company that has a fair compensation policy, with clear standards for performance and clear job qualifications, looks like they are trying to hide something when they have a policy which forbids talking about compensation. (And I’ve seen plenty of companies that do have something to hide — for example, paying a woman with more education and experience less than the man she is going to be training to do the same job.)