It’s becoming a widely accepted belief that America’s education system is in decline (at least when compared to emerging superpowers like China and India), yet finding a solution to these problems has been a contentious and ever-evolving debate. A central theme in the recent discussion is whether teachers should be subject to performance-based pay, and, if so, how that performance should be measured.
The idea of performance-based pay brings up many difficult questions, but the most fundamental one is this: Should teachers be held financially accountable for student achievement on a test they have no control over? Standardized testing is already a thorn in the sides of most educators, and tying teacher pay to student grades on these tests seems like a bad idea. In theory, holding teachers accountable for the students they already instruct and care about seems logical, but in practice the situation could dissolve into a numbers game.
Will kids learn anything useful if they’re forced to work harder than ever on passing state-mandated tests? How many students must pass for a teacher to get paid? What about teacher benefits? Should kids be treated as commodities from which teachers make a commission? These are only a few of the concerns that arise when talking about performance-based pay, and most of the issues have no clear remedy.
The heated discussion about teacher pay has also reflected back on the current state of teacher salaries. A recent posting by the current Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, offers a solid defense against a new study, saying teachers are overpaid by more than 50 percent.
Proponents of this merit-based system believe the quality of education will improve if there is a clear monetary incentive for instructors. However, it’s my view that forcing teachers towards an arbitrary test score goal will only lead to a dumbing-down of classroom instruction, loss of creativity and even cheating by worried educators.
What do you think of performance-based pay? Let us know below.