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Monday, Feb. 16, 2009 | A recent study performed by Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford University found that the difference between a good and bad teacher is a sizeable amount. Hanushek discovered that the students of a bad teacher will learn, only half a year’s worth of material in one school year, while students of a good teacher will learn a year and a half ‘s worth. This startling statistic is made even more shocking in conjunction with the fact that teachers, more than school district, social status, and classroom size affect the amount children learn.

Merit pay should be implemented to reward good teachers and motivate poor ones.

The current payment system to teachers is outdated. Teachers are paid, not on how well they have taught their students, but instead on how many educational degrees the teacher has received. Teachers are not spending their effort on educating the students, but instead on achieving degrees so they can receive more money.

However, what ‘s even more frustrating is that, according to a study performed by Thomas J. Kane, Douglas Staiger, and Robert Gordon, all well known economists, the number of degrees that teachers have received has little or no effect on their teaching ability. We are then forced to witness teachers waste their time and our taxpayer money on something that doesn’t help the students in any way, shape, or form.

Another problem with the current payment system is tenure. Tenure is a form of job security for teachers who have completed a probationary period. Teacher tenure is useful in weeding out the incredibly incompetent teachers who are truly awful at their jobs by not allowing them to attain tenure. But the ones who were just a little better than the bad teachers maintain their position as teachers, and since they have job security, all they have to do is simply display the outward shell of teaching. We are spending our tax dollars paying teachers not for how well they teach their students, America’s future, but for just showing up at school and being marked present.

If students are expected upon arriving at school to work to their fullest abilities, it would seem logical for teachers to be expected to do the same. Implementing merit pay is a necessary plan to enact because it will educate teachers not to rely on tenure. Instead, it will provide the teachers with an incentive to work hard and aim at inspiring their students.

Merit pay is useful in reforming the less-than-average teachers while displaying the truly gifted teachers as goals for other teachers to emulate. For the good teachers, merit pay will be easy since they are already really good and could easily receive a high level of pay. The weak teachers will be forced to either improve their craft by trying different methods of teaching, or will simply discover what should have been obvious when they began that they were never cut out for teaching and should move on.

The controversy over merit pay is that it would favor some teachers over others. A proper way to implement merit pay is by having the students take tests that reflect the curriculum taught during the school year. This would also benefit the teachers by enhancing their ability as educators by showing them their weaknesses, letting them correct their problems before it reflects onto the children. The theory that merit pay would be unfair to teachers who have students who are less ambitious is an incorrect assumption because we can account for these differences by employing statistical models of a student ‘s family background and economic placement and how they would reflect on his willingness to learn, thus ensuring that these teachers are fairly compared to other teachers.

William Lowe Bryan, a former president of Indiana University, once said that, “Education is one of the few things a society is willing to pay for and not get.” It is time we took an interest into how the education of our children is run by removing tenure and instigating merit pay, an important and necessary step towards this goal of further enlightening our children.

Christian Gersoft is a junior at La Jolla High School. His essay reached the finals of the 2009 Essay Contest. The other finalists’ pieces will run this week with the winner’s appearing Friday, Feb. 20.

Works cited:

Gladwell, Malcom. “Most Likely to Succeed.” The New Yorker 15 Dec. 2000.

Mackinac center for public policy. 3 Nov. 2008. Mackinac. 20 Jan. 2009

Mahar, Cynthia. “Should Teachers Be Paid Base on Merit? YES.” Education Report/ 12 Aug. 2004. 20 Jan. 2009

Scott, James. “Teacher Tenure.” Eric Digest. Eric Digest. 20 Jan. 2009

Should Teachers Be Paid Based On Performance?” Speak out. 15 June 2000. Speak out. 20 Jan. 2009

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