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Despite union protests, Florida and Houston, Texas are the first to adopt formal plans to tie teacher salaries to student test scores. In a similar manner, Denver, Colorado and some districts in Minnesota are basing teacher salaries on a variety of performance criteria, including test scores.

As a specific example, the Florida Board of Education's program links increases in teachersí pay to improvements in studentsí test scores. The program increases a teacherís pay if his or her students increase their scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, a measure of reading and mathematics knowledge used to determine students' passage to the next grade level. The state gives extra money to schools whose scores are good or have increased from the year before. Each school district is required to list the top 10% of teachers in each subject area, who will then will receive a 5% increase in their yearly pay (about a $2000 increase).

A national survey concluded that teachers generally support performance pay with reservations about the evaluation process:

  • Teachers support performance pay for those who teach hard-to-fill subjects, difficult classes to hard-to-learn students, and in low-performing schools.
  • Teachers support merit pay for teachers who consistently receive outstanding evaluations, who work harder and put in more time, whose students routinely score higher on standardized tests, and who are National Board certified.
  • Teachers, however, believe that merit pay programs would allow principals to play favorites.
  • Teachers remain unsure if merit pay would either make teaching more appealing as a profession to the brightest students or actually motivate teachers to work harder.
While describing a type of merit pay program being piloted in Kentucky, a Cincinnati Observer "Editorial" noted that "opponents of merit pay could make a stronger case if it was structured as a zero-sum game, but Kentucky is not looking to dock teachers' pay, only pay more to high-achieving teachers."

So, how do you feel about the situation? Since mathematics is one of the "high-demand" areas, mathematics teachers would benefit from such merit plans. But, are you comfortable tying the reward to test score increases or principal recommendations?