This weekend Minneapolis public school teachers voted overwhelmingly for a contract that ties their pay to performance. Whether the vote was wise or not depends in large part on what criteria will be considered in rating performance.
While performance-based pay has become a popular idea to make schools seem committed to improvement, this method only works if the system of ranking performance is fair to all teachers. For instance, basing pay on students’ test scores would be advantageous for teachers who mainly taught gifted students, but would be unjust for those who taught students with disabilities. Basing pay on grades would likely encourage grade inflation, and peer review would require teachers to spend much time outside their own classrooms. Currently, many teachers receive additional money for completing additional course work, earning advanced degrees or having more experience, but experience is not necessarily a hallmark of quality teaching.
The motivation for basing pay on performance is beyond reproof. Teachers, like employees in other professions, should be rewarded for exemplary performance and given incentives for improvement when not working up to par. However, when determining the performance measures, great attention must be paid to ensure fairness.