Pros and Cons of Merit Pay for Teachers

Pros and Cons of Merit Pay for Teachers

Teachers have it a bit tough in today’s world. In some communities, they’ve lost their ability to bargain for their employment contracts. In others, they are having their hours cut because the school district can’t afford to pay for their health care. With so much at stake, parents and communities want only the best teachers in every school. This is where the idea of having merit pay for a teacher’s performance often joins the discussion.

Is paying a teacher based on the performance of their students the right structure to have? Or could there be a better way?

The Pros of Merit Pay For Teachers

It holds teachers accountable.
Some teachers are just more effective with their teaching styles. Some teachers are more punctual about the time they spend in the classroom. Some teachers struggle to show up for the job. The way a teacher teaches is often a direct reflection of how a student learns. Merit pay would encourage good teachers to become better and may drive ineffective teachers out of the industry.

It would reward a solid performance.
Some teachers are consistent year after year with how they perform, yet only get paid the same increases [if any] that every other teacher receives. By incorporating merit pay, a teacher could actually earn their worth.

More teachers might be encouraged to find work.
Many people think about becoming a teacher, but often decide to pursue a different career because they just can’t earn enough money. If teachers were given an incentive laden contract that was based on their merit, then potentially more graduates would pursue teaching degrees.

The Cons of Merit Pay For Teachers

It is difficult to judge merit based on how students perform.
A teacher is ultimately limited by the learning potential of their students. If a teacher has a group of students who have learning disabilities and struggle to take tests, then their merit scores are going to be much lower than a teacher that has a class of gifted and talented students.

It would created a new social system.
‘Teachers who would get merit pay would potentially be treated differently than teachers who aren’t able to achieve the same results. It would create a rift between the “haves” and the “have nots” and the losers would be the students and the community in such a situation.

Different teaching styles are required for comprehensive learning.
Many students learn more when they are exposed to multiple teaching styles over the course of their education. Just because one teacher may seem to have less merit doesn’t mean they aren’t contributing to the whole student experience and devaluing their contribution devalues the education that a student would receive.

One thing is for certain: the current system of teaching in the US isn’t as effective as it could be. By weighing the pros and cons of merit pay for teachers, each community and school district can decide if this is a program they would want to implement.