Opinion

Merit pay idea lacks substance

Liberal leadership candidate Kevin Falcon is quick to dismiss critics of his teachers’ merit-pay proposal as unclear on his concept.

Most distinctly, he suggests, his plan is not true “merit pay,” basing an individual’s salary on performance. Rather, it would provide cash bonuses to teachers deemed exceptional.

While this distinction seems a tenuous sticking point, Falcon is learned enough to realize the onus is on him to explain how his suggestion would work in practice.

The question is clear. How does one determine which teachers are more deserving of our tax dollars?

One common answer is measuring students’ academic improvement.

But while rising grade-point averages in one term would suggest greater learning, what about subsequent terms—after the cream has already risen?

Pity the pocketbook of the teacher who starts the year off with a bunch of Grade A all-stars, with nowhere to go but stay the course or (gulp) drop.

How about student and parent feedback? Sure we’d see a lot of kowtowing by some. But would this really result in better classrooms?

Clocking teachers’ extracurricular hours? Not necessarily an accurate measurement of quality teaching, and could be akin to measuring fine dining by the pound.

In defending his plan, Falcon talks about his experiences as a student, and being encouraged by a teacher who got him into history and, subsequently, politics.

How would this have been measurable, had there been a like-minded premier in Falcon’s day? Is such excellence even quantifiable on paper?

Until a well-thought-out argument is put forth, teachers’ remuneration should continue to be negotiated in more traditional ways, with exceptional teachers compensated through the knowledge of a job well done and the occasional pat on the back.

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