Merit Pay Would Not Improve Student Learning
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When teachers are paid based on merit, they are obviously going to start teaching to the test and how to pass it or, even worse, they will engage in cheating. This has been scientifically proven countless times, most recently in a research paper from Harvard University that evaluated a merit pay program in New York City.
Instead of teaching test-taking strategies, teachers should focus on teaching students how to approach problems and come up with creative solutions. This is the only way for United States students, who have just learned a ton of facts that they cannot really interpret, to compete with foreign students. Merit pay does not encourage that creativity; it focuses attention on superficial scores generated by flawed exams.
Our teachers should not be incentivized to cheat and they certainly should not be incentivized to turn us into mere fact robots. America needs students who can go beyond just facts (though facts are obviously important). America needs true innovators, and the best way to achieve this is to NOT use merit pay that restricts creative and truly innovative teaching.
Our education system is not without flaws. We obviously need to improve parental involvement, lure talented graduates into teaching and improve American students’ ability to think analytically rather than robotically. But paying teachers based on performance on standardized tests certainly is not going to help our situation.
To put it simply, merit pay will develop a nation of followers, while allowing truly creative teaching will develop a nation of leaders.