Ask Michael

Vol. 11 No. 5


Q: Our school is thinking about instituting a merit pay plan. How would you recommend putting this in place?

A: In a word, carefully … and slowly. Where conditions are favorable, merit pay can be a wonderful teacher retention tool—i.e., a way to help highly-qualified, highly mission-appropriate teachers stay, grow, and thrive at your school for many years to come. However, before plunging ahead, we believe that two very important pre-conditions need to exist:

1. The school must have a credible faculty evaluation system in place for at least two years before implementing merit pay.
2. The school must have a healthy, growth-oriented faculty culture.

Since salary increases are based on annual evaluations under a merit pay system, teachers need to believe that the review system evaluates their performance objectively in ways that reflect their true performance inside and outside the classroom. Without this link, teachers will see any merit pay system as being random, unfair, and ultimately harmful to them as individuals—and thus it will severely damage the faculty culture at the school. Further to that point, if teachers don’t already operate with an intensive focus on professional growth, then merit pay will be threatening to them. If they are not interested in growing, why would they care about a system that encourages and supports their growth (in both skill and pay) throughout their careers? All schools are urged to ensure that these two pre-conditions are in place before diving into merit pay in any serious way.

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