10.16.2009

Merit Pay proposal a good starting point

I've mentioned my reservations about merit pay before, but this new proposal from Sen. Darling and Rep. Davis might have some promise.

First, I like the idea of the reward being a bonus rather than having a scale of base pay tied to performance. Second, it appears to give school boards the choice to choose which metrics they feel need the most improvement for their schools.

What still concerns me though, is whether or not the bonuses would be paid to the entire school or the teachers that are responsible for the improvement. The school option would eliminate some of my concerns about music, art and phy. ed. teachers, but at the same time it has the potential to reward teachers who are not contributing to the success of the school. If that is the case it would defeat the purpose of merit pay completely.

Another problem is that allowing school districts to choose which areas on which they are judged could end up being an excuse to choose the easiest area to improve. In order to be successful, there needs to a concrete definition of progress or success in order for the bonuses to be paid. Is it enough to just improve over the year before, or must a certain percentage of students be proficient? Finally, having the schools come up with half of the funding poses yet another burden on school districts and property taxpayers. I would prefer that the state find full funding for the program by finding efficiencies within DPI.

When the details of the bill come out, I hope that the criteria are clarified.