Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Cash offends no one 

According to the Christian Science Monitor, merit pay for teachers is taking hold in many places.

Since 1993, the fast-growing Douglas County School District has given bonuses based on a variety of factors, from an entire school's academic performance to an individual teacher's willingness to take on extra duties and train colleagues. A group of art teachers, for instance, can get together, create goals for themselves, and make more money in the process. "Outstanding Teachers" ... can get bonuses by creating portfolios that demonstrate their performance and their students' growth.

Thanks to the bonuses, district teachers - who make an average salary of $48,000 - can boost their paychecks by several thousand dollars a year. "This is encouraging people to go over the top, above and beyond," says Pat McGraw, a physics teacher and president of the local teachers' union.

The key to creating a popular program, says Denver teachers' union president Becky Wissink, is inviting educators into the process. The proposed system wasn't "imposed," she says, and that made all the difference.

The issue of merit-based pay for teachers in Minnesota is tied to Governor Pawlenty's cigarette tax, as it is a condition for the money to be diverted from smokers to schools. The model programs are identical to the one in Douglas County. Where it has been implemented, teachers seem to like it, which just means that it's implemented where teachers like it. Will the state teachers' unions support this remains to be seen.