Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Merit Pay Chronicles: The Houston Variant

Teacher compensation tied to student performance is coming to Houston, Texas:
Houston is about to become the biggest school district in the nation to tie teachers' pay to their students' test scores.

School Superintendent Abe Saavedra wants to offer teachers as much as $3,000 more per school year if their students improve on state and national tests. The program could eventually grow to as much as $10,000 in merit pay.

The school board is set to vote on the plan Thursday. Five of the nine board members have said they support it.

"School systems traditionally have been paying the best teacher the same amount as we pay the worst teacher, based on the number of years they have been teaching," Saavedra said. "It doesn't make sense that we would pay the best what we're paying the worst. That's why it's going to change."

Opponents argue that the plan focuses too much on test scores and would be unfair to teachers outside core subjects.

Other school districts have adopted such programs in recent years. Denver, with 73,000 students, took such a step in November, becoming the biggest district to do so. Houston, with more than 200,000 students, is the nation's seventh-largest district.

Denver's program and others measure teacher performance not just on standardized test scores, but also on their subject certifications and other factors.

Traditionally, Houston teachers' experience and education levels have determined their pay scale. Starting teachers make about $36,000 a year. Salaries can rise to about $45,000 with advanced degrees and more experience.

Texas has no collective bargaining, meaning the teachers union can lobby the district for raises but cannot strike.
There's more to read in the whole piece.

I've always said that I would be willing to be more supportive of merit pay if teachers could have merit students. That is to say, students that:

1. come to school on time, well-rested, and prepared to learn.
2. have parents who ensure that homework is properly done.
3. are expected to put forth their best efforts to do the work.
4. do not interrupt the delivery of instruction with disruptive behaviors.

Heh. Do you think that there would be any way that we could apply the principles of "performance-based" pay to members of the United States Congress?
See our latest posts right here.