Merit Pay Chronicles: The Minneapolis Story
In the latest example of a nationwide trend, The New York Times is reporting that unionized teachers in Minneapolis have overwhelmingly voted for a performance-based compensation plan:
For years, the unionized teaching profession opposed few ideas more vehemently than merit pay, but those objections appear to be eroding as school districts in dozens of states experiment with plans that compensate teachers partly based on classroom performance.There's much more to read in the whole thing.
Here in Minneapolis, for instance, the teachers’ union is cooperating with Minnesota’s Republican governor on a plan in which teachers in some schools work with mentors to improve their instruction and get bonuses for raising student achievement. John Roper-Batker, a science teacher here, said his first reaction was dismay when he heard his school was considering participating in the plan in 2004.
“I wanted to get involved just to make sure it wouldn’t happen,” he said.
But after learning more, Mr. Roper-Batker said, “I became a salesman for it.” He and his colleagues have voted in favor of the plan twice by large margins.
Minnesota’s $86 million teacher professionalization and merit pay initiative has spread to dozens of the state’s school districts, and it got a lift this month when teachers voted overwhelmingly to expand it in Minneapolis. A major reason it is prospering, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said in an interview, is that union leaders helped develop and sell it to teachers.
“As a Republican governor, I could say, ‘Thou shalt do this,’ and the unions would say, ‘Thou shalt go jump in the lake,’ ” Mr. Pawlenty said. “But here they partnered with us.”
Scores of similar but mostly smaller teacher-pay experiments are under way nationwide, and union locals are cooperating with some of them, said Allan Odden, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who studies teacher compensation. A consensus is building across the political spectrum that rewarding teachers with bonuses or raises for improving student achievement, working in lower income schools or teaching subjects that are hard to staff can energize veteran teachers and attract bright rookies to the profession.
“It’s looking like there’s a critical mass,” Professor Odden said. The movement to experiment with teacher pay, he added, “is still not ubiquitous, but it’s developing momentum.”
The concern that we've always had with proposed merit-based pay schemes is that we have yet to see one that addresses the twin concerns of favoritism (that of some administrators toward teachers with who they have a more than professional relationship) regarding the equitable distribution of capable and motivated students and the objective measurement of pupil progress for the purpose of figuring additional compensation.
Still.... we like the idea of rewarding teachers who work hard, go that extra mile, and achieve results beyond expectations.
But how is that to be done in the Real World?