Small Michigan District Sees the Light, Ends “Merit Pay”
As readers of this blog realize, I oppose “merit pay” for teachers on a number of grounds, several of which were exemplified in the decision of Whitmore Lake Public Schools decision to end what they called “merit pay”— a laughable bonus of $100 for each teacher who was rated effective and $500 for teachers rated very effective. Based on an article by Lauren Slagter in Michigan Live, Whoitmore Public School Superintendent Tom DeKeyser announced to the Board that he was suspending the merit pay plan because “…while people are happy to receive it – has become negative” adding that “We’ll find another way to reward our highly effective teachers through collective bargaining.”
The article went on to note another problem DeKeyser encountered with his version of “merit pay”: it was linked to test scores and when the State changed their tests it became “…difficult to draw conclusions about teaching quality from students’ scores.”
Patti Kobeck, president of the Whitmore Lake Education Association, offered her insights on merit pay:
“By taking the merit pay away and rewarding teachers in other ways, I think it will change the atmosphere. We’re here for the kids. Without merit pay, teachers can stop worrying about what another teacher is getting and worry about what they’re giving the kids.”
In general, merit pay isn’t an effective way to motivate teachers to perform their jobs better. Small gestures of appreciation can be more meaningful, she said, because of the lack of respect for their profession many teachers feel.
After reading the closing paragraph of this article it is abundantly clear that an increase in base pay would go a long way to improving morale in Whitmore Lake:
Whitmore Lake teachers currently are under a one-year contract that granted them 1-percent raises, following a 4.9-percent pay cut they took under a 2014 to 2016 contract. The current contract expires June 30, 2017.
Hopefully other small districts will learn from Whitmore Lake’s misguided effort to offer bonuses based on test scores and restore the compensation levels before offering bonuses.