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Howard, thanks for sharing your thoughts on teacher merit pay.

One issue (among many) I am struggling with is confidentiality of teacher ratings. In the private sector great care is given to ensuring the confidentiality of an employee's rating except by those who need to know -- the chain of command and the HR department. This allows for a degree of honesty in providing feedback and suggestions for improvement.

But with teachers, some have argued that there should be no confidentiality of teacher ratings because of the public's right to know.

Seems to me that the confidentiality of teacher ratings is a fundamental issue that must be addressed before building merit pay for teachers.

One approach that has promise is to pay teachers a premium if they obtain and maintain the rigorous national board certification (see www.nbpts.org).

It is very hard to obtain this certification. It's not a rubber stamp. There are a variety of requirements -- letters of recommendation; graduate courses; professional development training; a 3 hour content test (6 essays); videos of teacher teaching; etc. Only about 20% of those who apply get certified.

The certification is not cheap. $2,500 for first certification; $1,500 for renewal in 10 years. States/school districts have found creative ways of sharing the cost with the teacher; and making it free for the teacher if he/she becomes certified.

Some states/school districts provide pay premiums for certification. North Carolina was paying an 11% premium; South Carolina was paying a $7,500 annual premium. But these premiums have been victim to budget cuts recently, so new teachers wanting certification may not get the certification fees covered nor the pay premium if passed.

This approach could be an excellent way of distinguishing the premier teachers by providing an objective assessment and rewarding them with tangible pay premiums.

That's an impressive certification process, far more rigorous than the one for certification of compensation professionals, who as a whole have less competence than the avearge teacher when they take their jobs and who at least have to do student teaching and take required courses in their field before they can practice. Compensation professionals on the other hand don't even know the basics before they are asked to do their jobs and many aren't even certified, a process that doesn't even require experience in their field. Perhaps, we should be concentrating on improving the qualifications of people in our own profession before we try to improve the quality of teachers, a field foreign to most compensation "experts".

Point of clarification on above post of 10/25/2010 at 7:55 AM. The post was made by Howard Smith, not Howard Risher.

Here is a link to a pilot teacher merit pay program in South Carolina: http://www.islandpacket.com/2010/10/01/1392531/successful-teachers-can-earn-bonuses.html

Some highlights of the program:

-- Higher pay provided if (a) students in class improve over expected levels of improvement, (b) students school-wide improve over exected levels of improvement, (c) teachers are evaluated by school leaders on skills and knowledge.
-- Student improvement is measured at beginning of school year and end-of-school year on standardized tests.
-- Funding of teacher bonuses provided under a federal grant.

The last issue -- funding -- appears to be critical. My guess is that in the long run the funding issue is going to vary all over the country with these kind of initiatives.

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