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Student, Business Engineering, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium

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What do you think of merit-based pay for teachers?

I don't know if the question is still relevant, I haven't followed it until recently but I heard it was quiet a debate at the Presidential election and wanted to know what he TED community thought of this.
Is merit-based pay for teachers a good idea... There are a lot of pros and cons about the topic: Will it help the education of the students (the main goal of the would-be arrangement)? Will the amount of teachers have a positive boost? Will it make the teachers too competitive, lessening the cooperation between them?

Please write your ideas.

(English is not my first language so excuse the grammatical errors and easy language)


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  • Nov 30 2012: At first glance merit pay for teachers sounds good. Effective teachers can generate higher base pay as an incentive to remain in education and improve student performance. How do we determine merit? Student grades, student test scores, principal evaluations, student evaluations, parent evaluations, or peer evaluations are all factors to consider. How do we determine the correct balance of these factors? Other things to consider like what test do we use cognitive abilities test, IQ test, basic skills test, wrote memorization test which best measure student achievement? Additional questions like is effectiveness tied to growth and development. For instance one teachers class is full of high performing students who have been well taught by previous teachers and test scores improve .25%, however another teacher classroom is full of under preforming students who have been poorly taught and test scores go up 3% how do you determine which teacher is the more effective educator? You have a good question that politicians can't or unlikely to solve.
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      Nov 30 2012: how about this: good teacher is a teacher that parents choose to teach their children?
      • Nov 30 2012: That would mean that the parent is qualified to identify a good teacher.
        Besides, in Belgium the parents pick schools, not a collection of individual teachers.
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          Nov 30 2012: not necessarily. if we have free choice of doctors for example, it does not mean people have to identify a good doctor. to do that, they would have to be doctors themselves. but they have many aids. they can trust a doctor based on track record, employing institution, the insurance the doctor has, second opinion from another doctor, occasional check of diagnoses and proposed treatments on the internet, trial and error, and so on. or another example would be buying a car. i personally don't know anyone that does not check internet forums, review pages, peer opinion and lot of other sources.

          how do we know that the harvard is a good university? because we check the curriculum, and assess the professors ourselves? nope. we just trust the reputation of the school that is constantly reinforced by many studies, opinions and results.

          why can't we use the same method to choose schools? and a school board is pretty much capable to decide whether a candidate fits their standards or not.
      • Nov 30 2012: I doubt that many people would do the research needed to really make sure the school is solid.
        There are just too many variables in the equation, and way too many are subject to bias. It's just too easy to forget to check just 1 thing, that one thing you forgot has the potential to seriously diminish your chances of making a correct choice.

        And higher pay does not mean higher quality. Not in this world.
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          Nov 30 2012: I think many districts make it very easy to tell which schools are good, and parents tend to know. In districts with school choice, there are frequently data on a single website showing all sorts of data about individual schools and there are visit days.

          Selecting teachers themselves is a different story. Again, word travels as to which are the best teachers, but practical class size limits as well as the need to schedule students into six or seven classes to cover all the subjects makes the actual parent selection of teachers in all subjects impossible.

          Schools are also not expandable indefinitely and the best schools tend to have waiting lists in places with school choice.
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          Nov 30 2012: today nobody does, since all schools are very similar, and many places, like here, you can not even choose, or only in a very limited way. but if the choice is free, people choose. i remember my parents took me out of one school, and put in another, as it had better reputation. also, the same thing is commonplace for universities. it is strange to me that you doubt that. for me, nothing is more natural than parents looking for information about schools, constantly monitoring their performance, discussing with other parents, etc. humans are extremely good handling many variables. we do that every day with a wide variety of products and services. the same objections could be raised about everything, starting with cellphone providers, through flats and cars, to bars of chocolate. but you don't want to take these choices away from people, based on the impossibility of a perfect choice.
      • Nov 30 2012: Be very weary of easy solutions!

        Sorry but 'reputation' is based on a mix of a lot flawed opinions to me.

        I encourage a system in which any choice is a good choice and only some are perfect/less good.
        I know that IS attainable.
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          Nov 30 2012: again: just like with any other fields. yet, we trust these reputations every day. you are falling for the "nirvana fallacy". you compare a solution you oppose to perfectness, and reject if falls short. on this very basis, you should reject the current, and in fact any education systems.
      • Nov 30 2012: I am absolutely NOT talking about a perfect world, that would be an absolute waist of time.
        Finland has an educational system that works as described.
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          Nov 30 2012: then god know what you are talking about. i have explained what tools are there for a parent, and how it works in every other area of life. then you said that reputation is based on flawed opinions, and that would somehow invalidate the concept. everything has flaws, and every approach is somewhat error prone. so this is not a counterargument to anything. choosing cell phone is based on flawed opinion. choosing diet is based on flawed opinion. choosing place of living is based on flawed opinion. yet we are fine with freedom in these.

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