No gains from Texas merit pay plan

Texas spent $300 million over three years on merit pay for teachers, but saw no effect on student achievement, concludes a review by the National Center on Performance Incentives reviewed the now-defunct Texas Educator Excellence Grant.

The state is now funding another merit pay plan, District Awards for Teacher Excellence, or DATE.

About Joanne


  1. I’m not sure it’s fair to call this merit pay. My understanding is that “merit pay” usually refers to money for individual teachers, while these programs seem to result in school-wide awards where every teacher or staff member gets a bonus.

    If that’s what’s happening, it seems pretty clear that this would be ignoring the problems caused by weaker teachers and not really recognizing the specific contributions of stronger teachers, so of course there wouldn’t be any benefits.

  2. Dave, there’s no reason to suggest that “merit pay” can apply only to individual teachers. That’s just an issue of semantics.

    The argument against merit pay for individual teachers is that it undermines collaboration among staff. I just visited an amazing elementary school yesterday where teacher collaboration has been the central strategy of their turnaround process. The school now boasts nearly full proficiency despite enrolling students who face big challenges.

    The person who helped put that collaboration together is vehemently opposed to individual merit pay, as she believes it would undermine all the progress they’ve made at the school

  3. Now wait a minute, Clause. The whole point of merit pay is to reward good teachers and weed out poor ones. If teachers across the entire spectrum are “rewarded” equally, it’s not based on merit and the whole purpose is lost. There may be justifications for uniformly increasing pay across groups of teachers of varying skill, but this isn’t what is commonly understood to be meant by “merit pay.” I think we need a different term for what you are describing. It’s not just an issue of semantics.

  4. Oh, you visited an amazing elementary school Claus? Well, let me explain what you saw.

    What you saw was a principal who created a merit-pay environment on their own.

    That principal put teaching skill and educational results above other considerations like getting along with the union or getting along with the central administration. Trouble is, there’s no policy that encourages that sort of thing which is why those occasional, amazing school never, ever become the focus of interest for other principals. They last for varying periods of time and then they go away with scarcely a ripple to mark their passage. Except, of course, for the few kids who got a decent education and the many more who won’t.

    The only thing wrong with the various merit pay proposals that I’ve seen is that they apply *only* to teachers. If principals aren’t measured for their contribution to the education of kids then they’re entire motivation to do so is personal pride. As can be seen by the state of the American public education system that’s scarcely a sufficient motivation, institution-wide.

  5. According to the following link Texas has about 300,000 teachers.

    So let’s say the top 10% of teachers got some extra money. Assuming about 100 million a year and even distribution across teachers, thats about $3,500 per year. According to the same link that’s about a 9% bonus for the average teacher, maybe less for the best teachers if its not a completely seniority based system. Nothing to sneeze at but doesn’t seem like enough to compete over. I’d guess Texas just paid its excellent teachers to do what they’ve been doing for years, teach well.

  6. To add some perspective, let’s assume that a teacher can make $30/hr for tutoring. That is bargain prices where I live. So to make that extra $3,500 guaranteed a teacher has to put in about 120 hours of work, or about an extra 12 hours of work a month. This seems a much easier route to the money than trying to get ones students to perform better.


  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by kriley19: Joanne Jacobs: No gains from Texas merit pay plan Full