Merit Pay Plans Abound

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Joining the merit pay bandwagon, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent James Pughsley last week announced a $52 million plan to strengthen high-poverty schools in the district, a plan that includes substantial teacher pay incentives. And similar to the seemingly successful Chattanooga, Tennessee "Benwood" model he may even force weak teachers to transfer to less challenging classrooms to make room for more effective teachers.

Pughsley's plan would include increased security, more social workers, school nurses and other support staffers. He may also enlist national headhunters and significant signing and retention bonuses to recruit talented, strong principals who will be empowered to send those 'decent teachers who aren't succeeding at that type of school' packing. Or perhaps more gracefully, he will just transfer them to more appropriate placements.

And for more controversy, Pughsley has written a 'state of emergency' provision, in which high-performing teachers could be drafted (but for a higher price) for three-year stints at schools with records of poor performance. Pughsley's emergency rhetoric could be apt; it may just take a state of emergency to get this plan past the local teacher's union.

Other short takes in the merit pay movement this week:

The Wichita school district is considering launching a five-year, five-school pilot program to reward good performance and provide incentives to work in hard-to-fill jobs—as it stands now, current teachers with doctorate degrees in that district can't top out at $46,534 per year.

Renegade union leader Adam Urbanski, now the VP of the AFT in Providence, Rhode Island said Governor Carcieri was alienating the unions by mentioning without a heads up the need for merit pay in his state of the state speech. Says Urbanski: "The question isn’t should we have merit pay. It's how can we examine how teachers are paid."

In La Crescent, Minnesota teachers have gotten the attention of Governor Tim Pawlenty with their 'individual improvement plans,' inspiring him to promote a large-scale, $60 million move away from the steps-and-lanes salary schedule to fund districts which implement merit pay instead. Quoting Pawlenty: "It's not meant to be a punishment. I think we're all big enough to realize the system we have now is outdated."