“Pay for performance is one thing, but the more fundamental and critical issue is overall compensation. Teacher’s salaries are low, and this is a more serious obstacle. Because of such low pay, compulsory education as an industry has a major handicap attracting and retaining talented teachers,” Fugate says.
“Using money to motivate higher performance is effective only for some people, despite popular beliefs. Moreover, the amount of bonus money must be substantial enough; some say at least a 10 percent premium to salary, to be motivational. That said, obstacles abound in designing pay-for-performance programs. There must be fair criteria and distribution of rewards. Both need to be transparent and verifiable at all levels, in all districts and schools," he adds.
Q: What motivates people to perform?
A: “People are motivated differently and by different rewards. For instance, money is the most important to many people, however, not for all and not for most. For example, for teachers, well-behaved and motivated students with engaged parents is far more valuable than a $1000 bonus. The same can be said for good co-workers and supportive principals.”
Q: Are there lessons from the private sector that Texas lawmakers can learn from?
A: “Many. A one-size-fits-all plan always falls short. Of course, no plan ‘speaks’ to all people, but unless appropriate steps are taken in the assessment and formulation phases, then they have little chance of achieving desirable outcomes such as attracting, retaining, or motivating teachers, and thus, little chance of improving teacher and or student performance. While well intentioned, the merit pay program described in the proposed legislation will at best placate the political charge to do something about teachers’ abysmal pay, our ailing schools, and the students caught in the intersection. It will simply be a band aid that neither protects nor heals.”
Q: What will be the obstacles to implementing a statewide teacher merit pay plan?
A: “Several things must be in place for an incentive program to succeed. First, determining and creating accurate and appropriate measures of performance. Second, it is critical that teachers are appropriately represented in the creation and evaluation of the measures. This will help achieve ultimate buy-in. Third, teachers must feel they have control over the measurement criteria, which is a major obstacle here. Many factors beyond teachers’ control influence student test scores, thus, many teachers will challenge if test scores are indeed an accurate/appropriate measure of their own performance. Fourth, state and districts must support these initiatives with adequate and appropriate resources (e.g., leadership backing, materials, and money). Fifth, teacher’s base bay (salaries) must be adjusted to be competitive nationally in order to attract and retain talent. Finally, rewards must be linked to specific performance (behaviors and outcomes).”
To contact Fugate, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650
SMU Public Affairs
Director of National Media Marketing