Saturday, January 29, 2011

Alberta Teachers Association opposes merit pay

This post first appeared on the ATA's website.

By Gordon Thomas

Question: The issue of merit pay for teachers has raised its ugly head in the

news media again. What is the ATA’s view of merit pay?
Answer: The Alberta Teachers’ Association opposes merit pay.
Merit pay is a repackaged idea that gives rise to many different semantic twists, like performance pay, skills-based pay, competency-based pay, school-based rewards, group incentives, outstanding teacher or master teacher. Merit pay is not a new concept.
The idea for merit pay goes back to the beginning of the 20th century and is frequently resurrected for the following two reasons: not all teachers are equally good and therefore the “best teachers” should be rewarded financially to keep them in the classroom, and money can be saved or perhaps more effectively used if the current single salary schedule, which is based on years of experience and years of training, can be changed.
Merit pay is an attempt to financially reward teachers who rank as “superior,” “class one,” or “meritorious,” on some kind of merit rating scale, and to punish those teachers who are judged to have “unsatisfactory” performances.
The Association believes that a single salary schedule based on a preparational and experience scale is the most equitable salary administration policy for use in establishing professional remuneration. The ATA opposes merit rating for salary purposes on the following grounds:
• no agreement exists on what constitutes “good” teaching;
• no reliable measure of teacher efficiency exists;
• merit pay undermines teacher morale;
• merit pay is not a quick-fix scheme for any ills that might affect a particular jurisdiction;
• it doesn’t save money;
• it is not a “magic bullet” for increasing student performance; and
• individual merit pay works for few organizations today because most emphasize teamwork and collegiality.
Finally, does anyone ever suggest merit pay for doctors? For police officers? For fire fighters? For judges?
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (

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