Friday, November 05, 2010

Forget merit pay - fund innovation instead

The notion of tying teacher pay to student performance of any type makes me sick all the way out to my fingers and toes. People do irrational things all the time for money-merit pay is destined to create a culture of unethical behavior in schools that fall for this. However, I think money can be used to directly fund and support teacher innovation in all sorts of interesting and meaningful ways.

Instead of merit pay to teachers in exchange for student performance on standardized tests, what if we were to do the following types of things:

1. Fund teachers to write open source texts for the CK12 Flexbook project.

2. Fund teachers to participate in professional learning communities on topics of interest.

3. Fund teachers to go to conferences. Fund teachers to create conference learning opportunities for their own school or district.

4. Fund teachers to participate in free online learning opportunities.

5. Fund teachers to take online courses. And then fund them to create their own online courses with the explicit understanding that the materials would be fully licensed in the Creative Commons as open educational resources available to all.

6. Fund teachers to travel to a place where they can have an experience that will help them become better teachers.

7. Fund teachers to work on special projects with students after school and on the weekends.

8. Fund teachers to engage in regular professional growth and learning.

9. Fund teachers for developing their own professional portfolios online.  And then fund teachers who are interested in building portfolio assessment experiences for students.

10. Fund teachers for integrating play based learning into the curriculum. 

11. Fund teachers who are interested in connecting their classes with the local community and the world

12. Double the funding for teachers who do any of the above in collaborative teams.


  1. Anonymous6:48 PM

    I absolutely love this list. Imagine the possibilities if we were spending money on initiatives like these instead of standardized testing, horrendous text books, overpaid consultants, etc etc. This is a grand slam home run Matt.

  2. thanks for the comment and kind words, Dave. I just can't get over thinking that we'd be much better off using our scarce funding to support these and other types of innovations. The notion that we fund teachers for student test performance seems wrong and tragic.

  3. Teachers need time to innovate as well. It often takes thoughtful time to think and create.

  4. totally agree, Kristin. Maybe the funding could be used for a teaching section reduction of some sort, which would free up time to do some of these activities during the day. Ideally such a reduction would come for a team of teachers to collaborate on some type of meaningful & creative project.

  5. Totally agree about merit pay, but I'd like to see more examples like 7, 10, and 12 in your list, focused on students. Many independent schools actually do financially reward teachers for working more with students, for example taking on additional co-curricular activities.