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Pros and Cons of Merit Pay For Teachers

Should Teachers Be Rewarded For Performance Like Everyone Else?


School children (8-9) with female teacher writing on blackboard
Tetra Images - Jamie Grill/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
Teaching unions around the United States are lessening their opposition to merit pay for teachers, and finding new ways to experiment with the concept, passionate reactions erupted from teachers everywhere.

So, what exactly are the pros and cons of paying teachers differently based on the results they produce in the classroom?

The issue is complex. In fact it has been debated for over 40 years in the world of education. The National Education Association (NEA) adamantly opposes merit pay, but is it an idea whose time has come?

What do you think?


  • Americans value hard work and results, and our capitalist system hinges upon rewarding such results. Most professions offer bonuses and salary increases to exemplary employees. Why should teaching be the exception? The fact that a sloppy teacher and a dedicated teacher earn the same salary just doesn’t sit right with most people.

  • Incentivized teachers will work harder and produce better results. What motivation do teachers currently have to go above and beyond the job's basic requirements? The simple possibility of extra cash would most likely translate into smarter teaching and better results for our children.

  • Merit Pay programs will help recruit and retain the nation’s brightest minds. It’s the odd teacher who hasn’t considered leaving the classroom and entering the corporate workplace for the twin benefits of less hassle and more money potential. Particularly intelligent and effective teachers might reconsider leaving the profession if they felt that their extraordinary efforts were being recognized in their paychecks.

  • Teachers are already underpaid. Merit Pay would help address this injustice. Teaching is due for a renaissance of respect in this country. How better to reflect the esteemed way we feel about educators than through paying them more? And the highest performing teachers should be first in line for this financial recognition.

  • We are in the middle of a teaching shortage. Merit pay would inspire potential teachers to give the profession more consideration as a viable career choice, rather than a personal sacrifice for the higher good. By tying teaching salaries to performance, the profession would look more modern and credible, thus attracting young college graduates to the classroom.

  • With American schools in crisis, shouldn’t we be open to trying almost anything new in the hopes of making a change? If the old ways of running schools and motivating teachers aren’t working, perhaps it’s time to think outside of the box and try Merit Pay. In a time of crisis, no valid ideas should be quickly denied as possible solution.

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