Better Data Capabilities Increase Merit Pay Calls

Published July 1, 2006

The recent progress in Nevada’s teacher pay debate, toward merit-based incentives, stems from technical data improvements that can track individual student achievement over time.

In 2003, state legislators approved the creation of a new “automated system of accountability” to measure and record student growth, using the Value-Added Assessment model.

Nevada officials soon will be able to quantify the academic improvement students make under the direction of specific teachers. However, a union-supported amendment to the 2003 legislation also dictated the “information maintained must not be used for the purpose of evaluating an individual teacher.”

As it stands, the law requires the data be used only “for the purpose of improving the achievement of pupils and improving classroom instruction.” The amendment allowed legislators to show public support for school accountability while placating the union by removing the authority to reward or punish teachers based on the data.

Some leaders want to challenge the provision in order to use the database to its full capacity.

“This objective measure of merit will be used to drive merit pay, and it appears so inevitable that even groups that have opposed merit pay in the past are coming around,” said state Sen. Bob Beers (R-Las Vegas), who is running for governor.

— Ben DeGrow