As Wisconsin school districts enter their second year in a post-Act 10 world, some are beginning to experiment with performance-based pay. It’s a good idea.
But it’s also an idea that will work only if it’s based on sound measures to determine who gets that extra pay.
A few districts, including Hartland-Lakeside in Waukesha County, are trying performance-based pay on a voluntary basis this year; it would be mandatory for all teachers by 2015 in that district, reports the Journal Sentinel’s Erin Richards.
We think districts are wise to wait for full implementation until a new statewide educator evaluation system is in place. The Educator Effectiveness System is being piloted in a few districts this year and is expected to be implemented during the 2014-2015 school year.
“We have to get the evaluation part right in the beginning, or this won’t work,” state Superintendent Tony Evers said during a meeting with the Editorial Board last week. He’s right.
It’s important to acknowledge a few facts of life:
In an effort to improve teacher quality, legislators and education reformers now are turning to performance-based pay.
Their aim appears to be noble: improving student outcomes.
But I can tell you from experience, it won’t work. And, in fact, it may be harmful if the whole range of factors that affects achievement isn’t considered.
Performance-based pay is a formula derived from behaviorist business models. Like the laboratory mouse and wheel, performance-based pay distributes rewards for correctly modeled behavior.
But this isn’t a realistic model for education; educators aren’t like employees in the business world where incentives are based on profit growth.
Why create an environment that breeds competition among colleagues, that creates situations in which one teacher is rewarded because her class gets high marks while another has less success because of the variables of her students in that particular year?
Also, since student success on standardized tests may be a large part of a teacher’s evaluation, a flaw with performance-based pay is that decision-makers haven’t decided yet on what our children should be learning. Do they want students to learn how to pass tests or to gain tools that will sustain them through life and careers?
Merit pay also will produce educators who teach to the test, which hurts students and teachers alike. As noted in the 2000 article by John R. Deckop and Carol C. Cirka, “The Risk and Reward of a Double-edged Sword: Effects of a Merit Pay Program on Intrinsic Motivation,” teachers are largely driven by two factors: helping students achieve and collaborating with colleagues. Effective teachers are motivated by their collective efforts to ensure the day-to-day growth of students.