Merit Pay for Teachers

Yea or Nay?

Zoe Bardon, Writer

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Merit pay is a system where employees are paid extra when they perform well. This usually involves their employer evaluating them. Based on their performance, they could be given a bonus as well as their normal salary.

This system of pay works in the business world, but when it is applied to schools, it fails. This system of pay was first attempted in 1908, but it wasn’t a popular way to pay teachers until the 80’s. It has slowly worked its way into our school systems since then. It has led Obama and his administration to create a $4.3 billion fund known as “Race to the Top” that awards states that implement merit pay policies in their schools.

In 1979, the Education Research Study found that most merit pay systems only last for 6 years. This is due to budgetary shortfalls and personal issues between the administration and personnel. A former IPS employee at Harshman Middle School said: When they first implemented it (merit pay), they told us that we would be receiving the pay if we (the school) performed well and as long as we had the funds at the end of the year.

Teachers go into teaching because they want to make a difference in the world. Teachers are professionals and work to their fullest potential no matter how much they are paid. Giving a money incentive is insulting to them. It is the equivalent of saying: you’re not good enough.

It is especially insulting when teachers work the same hours as a study done by Ed Tech Magazine found. The study found that teachers teach for 7 hours a day and are at school for at least one more hour. They then go home to plan and grade for three to five more hours. So if teachers were to work 12 hours a day for 180 days, they would have at least worked 150 hours more than a person with the average 9-5 job. According to, the average secondary teacher salary is $51,700, and the average elementary school teacher salary is $51,150. It is not fair to say that teachers aren’t good enough when they have a college degree, work more than most Americans, and are paid less.

For students, merit pay policies will determine how many standardized tests they have to take. The administrators heavily evaluate teachers based on achievement on standardized tests. To have accurate test results, policymakers believe that we should have more tests. A school system in Charlotte, NC, is creating a merit pay system using $21 million. It will create over 50 new standardized tests. When will there be enough time to teach and take those tests?

Students are taken into the pay equation. Teachers are making money off the backs of children. Students who don’t perform well on standardized tests won’t be wanted. Students should be viewed as young people being prepared for the future, not as widgets in a game of Monopoly.