In the 2017-18 school year, Texas had 362,192 teachers educating Texas students. We know that those 362,192 teachers can’t all perform at exactly the same level of proficiency and excellence. The best way for us to attract the highest quality, most skilled, and best-suited people to serve as public school teachers is to support and encourage school districts to implement merit-based systems that allow the best teachers to earn higher wages. This incentivizes the most-skilled folks to become, and remain, teachers.
Merit-based pay can be a controversial topic, and there are objections to the idea. One of the most common objections to a merit-based system is that there is no universally agreed-upon definition of a “good teacher.” It is difficult to rate the quality of a teacher because every teacher will face his own unique challenges in the classroom, with his students, and with the subject he teaches. Additionally, the average day in an El Paso ISD teacher’s classroom may look very different from that of a Texarkana ISD classroom. While this concern is real, it is also a great opportunity for innovation across the state at the district level. Allowing the districts themselves to determine the metrics for teacher excellence or to pull from existing initially successful models, such as the Teacher Excellence Initiative used by Dallas ISD, allows decision makers at the local level to put their heads together to help define what a “good teacher” really looks like.
Merit-based pay has the potential to radically improve education in Texas. It gives teachers the opportunity to increase their compensation to the point where they can quit second jobs, an unfortunate trend for teachers trying to make ends meet. Merit-based pay will help identify and weed out lower performers, while attracting and retaining the superstars. Merit-based pay is better for teachers, better for students, and better for Texas.