Merit pay plans are less common in the private sector than people think, research shows. Only one in seven employees is covered by a merit pay plan and most of those workers are in real estate or sales.


I’ve spent the past decade cringing in conversations about merit pay for teachers simply because:

I’m bugged by the fact that one test at the beginning of June becomes the indicator of my “performance” while almost 60 percent of the professionals in my building work in positions that are not judged by standardized tests. Call it jealousy if you want to.

I fully realize that the FIVE other teachers my middle school language arts students work with each day have an impact—whether it’s positive or negative—on my students’ reading scores. Why should I get full credit or blame for those numbers?

I know the damage that merit pay plans will have on collaborative efforts in schools. Why in WORLD would I ever share what I know about effective teaching and learning if I know that I’m competing over a small pot of money with my peers?

But every time that I lay out my case against merit pay in education, some spittle-flinging political rube starts shouting about how merit pay has “revolutionized American industry,” leading to “more production” and “motivated workers.”

“If our schools acted more like our businesses, we’d be competitive internationally!” the argument—usually introduced by some guy with no experience in education who happened to get elected by an under-informed pitchfork wielding mob—goes.

Consider THAT myth dispelled!

Not only do recognized experts on motivation like Daniel Pink believe that merit pay plans are ineffective in knowledge-driven businesses, FEW professionals in the business sector work under merit pay plans—unless they’re selling houses or cars, professions where workers have always been independent operators.

NOW can we stop talking about merit pay plans that reward individual teachers based on test scores?

I’m all about restructuring the way that teachers are rewarded and I believe the single-salary schedule results in some teachers being unfairly rewarded and other teachers being unfairly under-rewarded, but restructuring salaries just ain’t as easy as Mr. Pitchfork Man thinks it is!

Share this post: