County Opposed To Performance-Based Teacher Pay

OCEAN CITY – Some Maryland schools may be moving in the direction of performance based pay for teachers, but Worcester County will not be moving in that direction any time soon, reported officials this week.

“At this time, our school system has no immediate plans to move to a pay-for-performance system,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes this week.

Performance based or merit pay has been a long debated issue amongst local governments, teacher’s unions, schools and parents.

The basis for performance-based pay is to create competitive salaries in the field of teaching while improving student achievement.

Performance pay can range from rewards for increases in test scores to rewarding teachers for taking on additional tasks, such as mentoring or peer evaluation. In the case of a teacher taking on extra responsibilities, the teacher would be rewarded financially, varying with each additional duty.

Test score improvements could also be used as a means of evaluation. The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act requires annual math and reading tests, which are used to compare student performance from year to year. The standardized tests could become a means of evaluating teacher performance as well, with the performance pay programs.

Supporters of performance or merit pay argue that the current system for determining teacher salary is antiquated and does not coincide with other college-degree required fields, which foster competitive pay based on worker evaluation. Currently, the majority of schools base yearly teacher salaries on a set career ladder, which increases with time and levels of education, a system that was originally developed to ensure fair compensation for women and minorities.

Other reasons for merit pay include providing incentives for teachers working in low-performing schools or in hard-to-staff fields. Opponents would argue, however, that rewarding teachers based on the subject or area taught doesn’t create a level playing field.

Supporters also claim that rewarding teachers for increases in test scores will ultimately increase overall student achievement. Opponents point out however that there are other factors that affect students’ scores that are out of teachers’ hands, such as home life, learning disabilities and parental involvement.

Teachers against merit-based pay maintain that it is difficult to evaluate teachers, questioning how one defines an “accomplished teacher”. The definition would ultimately come down to student performance and subjective evaluation.

While Harford and Anne Arundel counties currently provide merit pay for principals and assistant principals, based on evaluations, and Prince George’s County is instituting pay for performance for teachers in 12 low-performing schools, Worcester County is not looking to follow that path at this time.

“All teachers, support staff, and principals in the Worcester County Public School System have high expectations of their students and of each other.  These high expectations — coupled with the necessary funding for programs and supports — have resulted in our school system being one of the top-performing school systems in the state, with all schools making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as mandated by No Child Left Behind legislation,” said Worcester County Public Schools spokeswoman Barbara Witherow this week.

Andes agreed that high expectations are already instilled in the area schools, and consistently met.

“Accepting the practice of high expectations is part of our culture.  Every classroom has challenges, and the goal of each and every educator is to provide the necessary interventions and supports to meet the needs of each child – in each classroom and in each school.  Performance indicators demonstrate that our educational team continues to be successful in this mission,” he said.