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Cause And Effect Essay: The Negative Effects Of Merit Pay In Schools

Imagine this: you’re a teacher at a very prestigious school, with an exceptional group of students. Your students try their hardest, but some subjects of the curriculum are more difficult than others. Most kids do well on the tests, with a few slipping through the cracks, and the only thought you have is, “how will this affect my paycheck? ” Merit pay, according to google, is the raise in pay based on a set of criteria set by the employer. Merit pay is nothing but pernicious to not only the teacher, but the student and school as well.

Pay for performance leads to no improvement in teaching by stripping teachers of their motivation to teach. It also leads to a narrower curriculum and ultimately more test prep and money. Additionally, it ultimately leads to corrupt incidences, such as the situations in Atlanta, North Carolina and New York. One reason merit pay is ineffective is it does not increase teacher performance. When asked how to raise their effectiveness, teachers replied with a smaller class size, not merit pay (Parents Across America).

This shows merit pay is, according to teachers, ineffective or even detrimental because it would not increase teachers aspirations for their students. Also, we must keep in mind students grades on a test are not solely dependent on just how well the teacher did his/her job. Influence of school attendance, out of school learning experiences, and previous teachers also influence the student’s education. This demonstrates merit pay is ineffective because it offers the fact that teachers are not purely responsible for the student’s test grade, so why pay them like they were (Economic Policy Institute)?

Ultimately, if the district had done its job correctly, the classroom should already have a professional, educated teacher that would want to teach younger generations, not cheat their way to better pay (Economic Policy Institute). This shows merit pay is ineffective because each classroom already has adequate teachers teaching, so no increase in teacher performance would be shown. Another reason merit pay is unfavorable is because it leads to more test prepping and a narrower curriculum.

There has been a widespread agreement that test scores are not adequately dependable because it only covers a sliver of the curriculum (Economic Policy Institute). This reveals merit pay narrows curriculum because the teachers are now changing their curriculum to fit the material on the tests, not teaching students the material on the test and other vital information. More tests equals more money and time spent buying new standardized tests. This shows merit pay can lead to more test prepping, which conclusively leads to the school buying more test preps, which cost the school money, time and learning (Parents Across America).

Narrower curriculum also results in the student not getting a full education. This proves merit pay leading to narrower curriculum is detrimental because the students miss out on a huge part of their education. Lastly, merit pay eventually ends in negative circumstances. School employees may try to tamper with test scores to obtain a higher salary. This validates the fact that merit pay leads to negative effects because it can lead to lying and cheating. One example of merit pay gone wrong is Atlanta Public School in Atlanta, Georgia.

Authorities at the school were accused of lying and misgrading tests to increase the amount of money on their paycheck. This confirms merit pay leads to negative effects because it shows one possible outcome of merit pay, cheating to gain more money. More than eight teachers were sentenced to jail time, with a ending fine of $1000 and 1000 hours of backbreaking community service (CNN). This verifies merit pay leads to negative effects because it lead to a detrimental outcome for these school teachers.

One might say merit pay differentiates the good and bad employees, and tests are a credible source, and that basing pay on test scores will captivate and maintain the most valuable and skilled teachers. As a clever human resource manager, Susan M. Heathfield said, “There is no way with 100% accuracy to differentiate the performance of various employees to determine deservers of merit pay” (About) might also believe pay for performance will motivate and galvanize the teachers to work harder. However, merit pay will not inspire teachers to work harder, but to do the exact opposite; cheat their way for higher pay.

Wait, but doctors, lawyers and civil servants are compensated on how well they do on those tests (About), why not teachers? The answer is those tests determine if they meet the bare minimum to participate in their career choices, not how high their salary is. So should school’s really consider and use merit pay? All in all, teachers salary correlating with students grades on standardized test scores is a bad idea. It does not improve teaching, leads to more test prep, which means more money lost from the school and narrower curriculum, and it leads to negative effects.

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