Teachers, parents, and students are facing many educational issues in my home state of Ohio. Problems of sufficient revenue compete with increasing pressure to improve test scores. And, recently, there’s the volatile issue of how to pay teachers. Ohio is currently moving toward a performance-based pay model which, in this author’s opinion, is a mistake. This article will examine the reasons against performance based pay.
Teaching Challenging Children
The idea behind merit pay is to reward teachers for their students’ academic gains over the course of the year. The conventional wisdom posits that lower achieving students, by virtue of being below their peers, have more room for improvement. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case: much of a students’ academic proclivity is determined before the student reaches the age of three. The reality is that lower achieving students’ disadvantages increase with age.
The Difficulties of Measuring Progress
The common theme in the push for performance-based pay is measuring students’ academic progress. What is academic progress, really? Why do we limit measurement of how well students learn to standardized tests in math, science, or reading? Kids learn, grow, and excel in different ways. They can also demonstrate their learning in different ways.
The Need for Reform
More importantly, why do we talk about education as being in perpetual crisis? Politicians continue to beat the drum regarding failing schools and lazy teachers. But the picture is, in reality, much different. Schools are doing better than they have in a long time. The gap between white and minority students is shrinking. Kids today are stronger readers and better at math, on average, than they were 40 years ago. Why are we in such a hurry to abandon the current, fully functional system?
Performance Pay Doesn’t Work
Quite possibly the best reason to avoid performance pay for teachers is also the most basic: it doesn’t work. According to Diane Ravitch, performance pay models have been implemented with little success since the 1920s. And, as this three-year study shows, bonuses of up to $15,000 had no effect on student performance. With such a sustained history of failure, it’s hard to understand why performance pay has so many advocates.
In conclusion, there are four major reasons that Ohio should steer clear of performance-based pay for teachers. Performance-based pay punishes teachers who work with low-achieving children, it limits measures of progress to standardized tests, schools are doing a pretty good job, and it simply doesn’t work.