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The Cons of Merit Pay for Teachers

The Drawbacks To Merit Pay Illustrate the Messy Nature of the Issue


  • Virtually everyone agrees that designing and monitoring a Merit Pay program would be a bureaucratic nightmare of almost epic proportions. Many major questions would have to be adequately answered before educators could even consider implementing Merit Pay for teachers. Such deliberations would inevitably take away from our real goal which is to focus on the students and give them the best education possible.

  • Good will and cooperation between teachers will be compromised. In places that have previously tried variations of Merit Pay, the results have often been unpleasant and counter-productive competition between teachers. Where teachers once worked as a team and shared solutions cooperatively, Merit Pay can make teachers adopt a more “I’m out for myself only” attitude. This would be disastrous for our students, no doubt.

  • Success is difficult, if not impossible, to define and measure. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has already proven how the various unleveled playing fields in the American education system inherently set up a wide variety of standards and expectations. Consider the diverse needs of English Language Learners, Special Education Students, and low income neighborhoods, and you’ll see why it would be opening a messy can of worms to define standards of success for American schools when the stakes are cash in the pockets of real teachers.

  • Opponents to Merit Pay argue that a better solution to the current educational crisis is to pay all teachers more. Rather than design and regulate a messy Merit Pay program, why not simply pay teachers what they are already worth?

  • High-stakes Merit Pay systems would inevitably encourage dishonesty and corruption. Educators would be financially motivated to lie about testing and results. Teachers might have legitimate suspicions of principal favoritism. Complaints and lawsuits would abound. Again, all of these messy morality issues serve only to distract from the needs of our students who simply need our energies and attentions to learn to read and success in the world.
So what do you think now? With issues as complicated and evocative as Merit Pay, one's position can be naturally nuanced.

In the big picture, all that really matters is the learning that happens with our students when "the rubber meets the road" in our classrooms. After all, there's not a teacher in the world who entered the profession for the money.

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