Donate now

Privacy Policy

Protection of privacy is our first concern, and SQE does not sell or trade information provided by its subscribers or supporters. Your information is used to process donations and newsletter subscriptions, and to contact you about upcoming publications and events.

feed iconRSS Feed

Follow Us
Follow SQESocQualEd
on Twitter

Please note Downloads require you to have the Adobe Reader installed, you can get it here for free


Society for Quality Education

Subscribe to our mailing list

Giving apples to the right teachers

September 26, 2011 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 08:16 AM

Let's say you own a real estate company. Some of your employees have great people skills plus they work really hard, with the result that they sell dozens of properties every year, while other employees barely manage to scrape by with five or six properties a year. Regardless, you decide to pay them all the same basic salary, although you do give very large bonuses to the employees with blue eyes or first names that start with the letter "J". 

It doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? Nevertheless, this is more or less the way most North American teacher compensation systems work.

A new study (which in fact confirms an existing body of research) finds that there is little or no relationship between teachers' experience or qualifications and how much their students learn - even though teachers' pay is based on these factors. Click here for a newspaper article about the study and here for a podcast interview with the principal researcher.

Teacher effectiveness is the most important school-based factor when it comes to student achievement. Teachers should be compensated according to their effectiveness and not on the basis of irrelevant characteristics like experience or qualifications. H/T to A

Share this article


I can think of 4 teachers that my child had in the elementary years, that were more effective than others, in terms of real gain made by my child. As parents, no matter the income level, tuned into it very early, by the observations at the home front. Perhaps, it is the reason why parents in some schools request a transfer for their child to the more effective teacher. In this way, my child has alway been lucky to have the most effective teacher, and lucky enough that it is the other student who is transfer out, to make room for the student that is making the request. My child made real gains, that I always contributed to the teacher, rather than the grade.In other words, create the conditions for the gains, and as a parent my job was to increased the grade average. And here as I found, the more effective teacher are more skillful in providing the conditions for real gain to be made.  And what I have noted, the more effective teachers, are the ones that closed their doors, and do things their way.

Posted by Nancy on 09/26 at 01:24 PM

“It doesn?t make a lot of sense, does it? Nevertheless, this is more or less the way most North American teacher compensation systems work.”

It is also the way most businesses work as well.  Most companies invest quite a bit of money in their employees.  Recruitment is time-consuming and expensive.  Most employees see a raise every so often because employers are loathe to lose employees that are adequate and then have the added expense of having to find a replacement.  Management Science 101 will tell you that some form of meritocracy by chronology is good for an organization - it keeps employees coming back every day.  The only difference between IBM and BOE is the union solidifying (perhaps fossilizing) management relations.

I know you have an enormous chip on your shoulder about unions, and you have a self-declared privatization agenda - but in this issue, your two philosophies are in direct conflict.  You want schools to be run like businesses, then give employees raises based on the number of years of service - Oh gee, we have that now, don’t we?  Sorry.

I find it interesting that you drew an analogy to real estate agents - 99% of whom are independent contractors, not employees.  Dig a little deeper, you will find that the best of the best simply pay a ‘desk fee’ to the brokerage and pocket the entire commission check themselves. 

Hey, maybe that’s what you want - have teachers pay a desk fee to the school to have a classroom and a class list.  Then the teacher charges a commission to the parents (at current rates, about $600 / kid / class for high school, about $3600 / elementary student / year). 

How many of your readers are willing to shell out 3600-4800 / year per child?  I don’t know about you, but I hear crickets chirping. wink

Posted by Wayne Scott Ng on 09/26 at 07:48 PM

Wayne I’d be happy to pay $5000/year if I had that option.  I don’t have that option though, in fact I have no options where I live except public schools.

Posted by Kari on 09/27 at 09:24 AM

Nice try Wayne, but we’re taxpayers are already paying well over 4800 per student to get what we have now - not exactly value for dollar spent.

Add my family to the list of those who, had proof up front of improved achievement levels year by year to individual teachers we’d love that option.

Here’s a challenge for you Wayne - raise your idea at the next staff meeting at your school and see how it goes over THERE

I bet my bottom dollar that taxpayers of all ages, economies would be more open to your proposal than the blob is.

Posted by Chuck on 09/27 at 11:13 AM

What employees are you talking about Wayne?  In the private sector, perhaps the managers, and upper level management. But the low boys on the totem pole not so much. There is always 10 or waiting to take their job. As for real estate agents, would anyone pay them a salary, or a car salesman?  But the manager would indeed received a bonus for the number of homes or cars sold. What incentives does teachers have to improve their skills, or to ensure all students within their class are at the percentage of 68 or higher. In the early days, as a parent I was scolded (in a nice way), that I should not be worried, since my child was passing. Is a 50 % attainment good enough, and call it a day?  And what are the incentives for the school staff, and board staff attending an IEP meeting, to sort out goals that are the best interest of the child? 

The reason I believed that merit pay is a focus regarding teachers, is that the incentives of teachers and the board staff, work together for the best interests of the adults who work within the system. The best interests of the students become secondary to the needs of the school staff. You probably never attended an IEP meeting, but it is a real eye opener on best interests, and how the child’s needs must adapt and fit in the best interests of the adults within that room. Ideology and dogma figures in especially when they defend their practices to prevent higher goals than the usual 50 % level. Or the quiet practice of allowing students go from one grade to the next, without the required foundation to do next year’s work. In my eyes there is no incentives to ensure that each student has the foundation, because it does not serve their best interest.

Perhaps if merit pay was instituted, it would provide teachers to stand up, and force changes to the curriculum, and other practices that hinders learning in children. But than again, it would be tough to do, because the teacher can only be so effective, since they are not in charge of curriculum, and many of the other things concerning the structure of the system, that prevents and hinder effective learning. I never saw much sense in learning knowledge when a student is tripping over the basic foundation in the 3 Rs.

What I would like to see, merit pay on the board staff and the upper levels, and not the teachers. It would be a real incentive that they pay attention to the teachers, and what works or what does not work. Or the stupid rules made by the upper levels of the education system, that prevents progress of students, I really believe that it is not the teachers, as it is with the upper levels micro-managing every aspect of education. Throw in the beliefs and values of those above, that may not fit the reality at the school level, nor the reality of students or the parents, merit performance pay is in order at the upper levels, rather than directed at the teachers.

After today talking to a politician, a former educrat that it is perfectly acceptable and he could see no wrong, that I virtually homeschooled my child,  after attending the public school during the day. But the local teachers knew it was very wrong, a system that no longer focuses on a solid foundation, because as the politician explained, apparently the foundation facts can be taught anytime. Wayne, you don’t have to wonder why you may find it necessary to go over the multiplication tables in grade 10 math class, and the English teacher in grade 11, teacher grammar side by side with learning how to critique an essay. As the politician left, I said out loud frustrated that he could not see, “It all should have been taught in elementary school.” 

This former educrat, was making $200,000 at the time, If merit pay was attached to the board staff, it would be unlikely that I would have gotten the run around in the first place, and my child would have received the proper remediation in the first place, and in grade 1.

So how about it Wayne, merit pay on those who are in charge of the curriculum, training, and instruction methods. I bet things would change in a hurry, making the teachers’ lives easier, as well as providing the proper foundation, for learning to occur. Or is too idealistic?

Posted by Nancy on 09/27 at 11:40 AM

Since we’re talking about how money, I’m trying to find out how much I actually pay for schools in this province. I know that, through my property taxes, I pay about $800 per year (that’s if I’m right that 23% of my property tax goes to education), but I’m wondering how I can figure out just how much I’m contributing per year to public education.

It was stated here that we were paying well over $4800 per year for education, but I’m wondering how I can find out the exact amount that I, as an individual taxpayer, contributes to the education machine every year.

From what other sources does the provincial government draw money for education? I’ve looked at Ontario’s balance sheets, but I can’t seem to get a direct answer from those.

It has to be more than $800 per year.

Posted by Stephen Hurley on 10/01 at 06:56 AM

Leave A Comment

Be polite and respectful. Stay on-topic. State your position clearly and write succinctly. Provide support for claims. Don't hog the microphone. Strong opinions are OK, but outrage is not. Don't post just to upset others.


Email (required but not displayed):


Notify me of follow-up comments?

Submit the word you see below: