Merit Pay Must Be Based on Performance

Published October 25, 2006

Dear Editor:

It’s good to see the federal government trying to introduce merit pay into the public school system. But it is troubling that only part of the “performance pay” will be based on test scores, while the rest will be based on “classroom evaluations.” This is like giving a conductor extra money because he uses rehearsal time effectively, speaks clearly, and shows good baton technique, even though in performance the orchestra falls apart and sounds like a train wreck.

The federal government clearly hasn’t learned anything from the current “merit pay” system endorsed by the teacher unions: National Board Certification, by which certified teachers receive significant extra pay for being, supposedly, superior teachers. Research has now revealed that National Board Certified teachers are only average when it comes to raising student achievement.

Merit pay for teachers should be based on the academic achievement gains of their students, as measured by test scores. Anything else is a waste of money.


George Clowes

George Clowes ([email protected]) is senior fellow for education affairs at The Heartland Institute.