Merit Pay For Teachers – Based on AP Scores?

Here’s an article from the Boston Globe about merit pay for teachers based off AP scores.

TEACHERS UNIONS see red on the subject of merit pay. But the results released yesterday on a bold education experiment suggest that paying teachers for performance helps in preparing students for college-level work.

In 2007, the nonprofit Mass Insight Education and Research Institute won a five-year, $13.2 million grant funded primarily by ExxonMobil Corp. to recruit, train, and reward teachers for Advanced Placement classes in math, science, and English at 10 local high schools. College-level AP courses are the gold standard in high schools where students who earn qualifying scores stand out in the admissions process and earn college credits. Mass Insight is proving that these courses are manageable for kids who otherwise might balk at the challenge.Last year’s results are dramatic. Teachers boosted AP enrollment at the schools by more than 500 students. Passing scores shot up by 39 percent, 11 times the state average. Among students from low-income families, the total number of passing scores jumped 57 percent to 254. Teachers unions should be ecstatic over the proof that good teaching can yield measurable results. But in some cases they are apoplectic because the initiative pays AP teachers bonuses of up to $3,000 based on their ability to increase enrollment and raise scores. In the urban schools, teachers also can receive an additional $100 for each student who scores a 3 or higher on the 5-point AP exam.

Union grievances, grousing, and arbitration hearings now litter what should be a fresh pathway for educators. Morton Orlov, who runs the Mass Insight initiative, has sufficient funds to add 14 new schools to the program this year. But only 12 will participate after teachers in Dartmouth and Leominster rejected the offer. Milton has dropped out. Boston and Worcester teachers unions are challenging the program in formal proceedings. And the Massachusetts Teachers Association is urging its locals to reject the program unless the bonuses are given to support scholarship funds or school supplies, not individual teachers.

The MTA, like most teachers unions, believes that rewarding teachers based on performance will create divisions in its bargaining units. The unions are putting their narrow interests ahead of their own best members and students. It is an unacceptable stance for a group of educators. Mass Insight has landed on something that works. And personal awards are an intrinsic part of the program. Leave it to future researchers to unpack how much of the success is due to the intensive teacher training and how much is due to bonus pay. For now, it would be enough for teachers unions to simply get out of the way and let their most ambitious members and students soar.

From the comments on the Globe’s site, people were very upset with the teacher’s union for fighting this. At first glance, it might seem that this is a great way to rate and reward teachers. The problem is that not all teachers teach AP courses, and other courses do not have a national exam to compare the results of . There is also the slight problem that AP students tend to be very driven and these particular students were also given a financial incentive. This is not the case in most classes. The concept of merit pay is interesting, but would be very hard to implement.

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