Few merits to merit pay

The idea of giving merit pay to teachers is slowly gaining momentum in the United States, the Globe and Mail reported Feb. 5.

The shift toward providing outstanding educators with raises or bonuses comes as a result of U.S. President Barack Obama’s education reforms.

Public school teachers in Canada are not offered merit pay because many of the country’s provincial unions are opposed to the concept. But as many schools in the U.S. move ahead to implement merit pay for teachers, Canadian educators are warming to discussions of its effectiveness.

It’s beneficial to bring new ideas on education reform to the table, but introducing a merit-based pay system for teachers in Canada isn’t the best way to go about improving our country’s schools.

Putting energy and creativity into lesson plans and classroom instruction are the basic requirements of a teacher’s job. Educators should be able to achieve this level of care without school boards having to resort to a system of merit pay.

It’s unlikely introducing merit pay would improve the quality of learning in schools. Having teachers vie for the prize of merit pay might threaten a congenial workplace culture by causing competition or by making co-workers less willing to share good ideas.

Level of education and years of experience are currently considered the main indicators of a teacher’s salary, but these measurements don’t always point to the best educators.

A teacher’s character and energy can’t be measured in dollars. It’s difficult to quantify a teacher’s performance and to objectively determine what attributes or classroom results define a good educator. Quality instruction can come in the form of students’ higher test scores, but also includes the life lessons students learn or the confidence they develop.

Introducing a merit element to teachers’ pay system in Canada would also reinforce the skewed idea that it’s acceptable to have different standards of education in different classrooms.

In Canada, we’re lucky to have a group of high-quality teachers who generally receive too little pay for a highly-respected and important profession. It’s time to reward teachers for their work with higher pay all around.

A more effective way to strengthen the level of teaching in Canada’s classrooms would be to develop and lengthen teacher’s college programs.

Those who pursue a career in teaching should have a strong desire to impart knowledge on young people while aiding in their development and socialization.

If this desire is lacking from the start, it seems unlikely that merit pay will be a strong enough catalyst to foster its growth.

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