Spend Money Like It Matters, writes Rick Hess in Educational Leadership. Specifically, we need to spend money to “attract, retain and make full use of talented educators.”
Question: Do you think that employees who are good at their work ought to be rewarded, recognized, and have the chance to step up into new opportunities and responsibilities? I do. If you’re with me on this, you embrace the principle of merit pay — whether you know it or not.
. . . I don’t imagine that paying bonuses for bumps in test scores, as though we were compensating traveling encyclopedia salesmen in the 1950s, is going to improve teaching or learning. And I don’t think that value-added calculations are themselves a comprehensive or reliable measure of teacher quality, even in grades where we can calculate such numbers with a reasonable degree of statistical accuracy. But money and metrics are invaluable tools in shaping a 21st century teaching profession.
Many merit-pay proposals foolishly try to “slather some test-based bonuses atop existing pay scales,” Hess writes. We need to rethink teacher pay to “help make employees feel valued, make the teaching profession more attractive to potential entrants, and signal that professional norms are displacing those of the industrial model.”
Merit pay, done right, will improve productivity, which schools no longer can afford to ignore. (See Productivity or the poorhouse.)
One-size-fits-all compensation means that we’re either paying the most effective employees too little, paying their less effective colleagues too much, or, most times, a little of each. In a world of scarce talent and limited resources, this is a problem.
A quick fix won’t work for teacher pay, Hess writes. This is going to take time to figure out. And we’re not likely to end up with one right answer for all schools and all sorts of teachers.
We can improve teacher quality through school design, writes Ed Sector’s Elena Silva, who looks at the Generation Schools model. “Many schools are insufficiently attractive to talented professionals, and they squander the talent of those they manage to employ.”