Teachers in Denver have narrowly approved a major change in the way that they will be paid in the future. Educators who meet certain qualifications will be paid more than those who don’t. As with all merit pay plans for education, there are parts that make sense and others that don’t. For example, teachers in "hard to serve" schools would get a 3% increase in pay while those who earn certification from a national accrediting program would get 9% more. Paying teachers more for working in difficult schools or for taking on leadership responsibilities makes sense.
But then there are the pay increases for individual teachers tied to student achievement. Those are the ones that don’t make sense. Such plans reinforce the concept that teachers are "lone rangers" in their classrooms and are solely responsible for the rise and fall of their students. While the solitary teacher working in isolation may be the reality in many schools, it shouldn’t be. I ranted on this topic last month but this plan only reinforces my belief that the financial rewards in any merit system should go to a team of teachers, a department, or a whole school, both to encourage the concept of a learning community and to reward the successful ones. Anything else does little or nothing to improve teaching and learning.