Boston tniversity School of Education Library



Merit Rating

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SAMUEL M. Hotton, Editor Associate Professor of Education, University of North Carolina

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Vol. XLIII K May, 1960 x No. 8

IN THIS ISSUE C. A. Sherman 400

Of Pride and Prejudice: The Issues of Merit Pay William H. Stegeman 403

The Controversy over Merit Pay for Teachers....W. L. Cragg 408 Myths and Merit Rating Sam P. Wiggins 412 Merit or Morale Robert A. Martin 416

Should Teacher Performances Be Related to Salary Policies? B. J. Chandler 421

The Issues in Merit Pay for Teachers....Victor W. Doherty 426

Merit Rating: Some Questions Re-defined...Mack A. Ralston 429

The Merit Rating Phobia Wendall Wilson 433

Three Realities Confronting Merit-Rating Programs Don A. Orton 437


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What’s Wrong with Merit Rating?

C. A. SHERMAN Superintendent of Schools, Brentwood, Pa.


nce for teachers based on performances have received increased attention during the past decade. Reasons for this are not hard to identify. In the first place, teachers can no longer claim that they are working for starvation salaries. The public has shown a willingness to pay for good education but at the same time this public demands good teachers. In the second place, it is obvious that superior performance is recognized in all other professions, as well as in industry. The question is why is it not recognized to a greater extent in the teaching profession?

Opposition To Merit Rating:

Teacher organizations, per se, oppose the merit system for the establishment of salaries. The chief hue and cry seems to be that teaching cannot be rated and all schemes for rating are sub- jective. This argument is surprising, since it comes from a pro- fession that is constantly judging others—pupils. All of us are constantly judging the other professions—medical, dental, legal, etc. We are laymen judging professionals. But with merit rating, it is the case of professionals judging the professional.

Tenure and rigid salary schedules provide a most restful haven for mediocre teachers. There are the ones who predominantly resist merit rating, and do not want a competitive profession. They are not anxious to have their work compared to their more capable fellows.

Some are aware of the fact that teachers are already in part on the merit system. For instance teachers are selected on merit in the better school systems. Teachers receive promotions on merit. It is sad to note one of the few ways to recognize good teaching is promotion to supervisory or administrative positions. With this practice many good teachers have been lost to the professions. First-rate teachers should be paid sufficiently well so that they do not have to “move-up” in the profession to receive a greater salary.

Many school administrators and heads of teacher organizations are favorable to the lock-step method of schedule making. That is the easy way to do it. There is no criticism except from the

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1960] Wuat’s Wrone with Merit Ratine? 401

public that is beginning to demand a merit system of salaries for teachers. (It is unfortunate, indeed, that reforms frequently must have an exterior origin.) Almost everyone in the community knows who the good teachers are. Ask any of the nonprofessional personnel in the school, and you will receive some logical answers.

As a corollary to the merit system for salary increases, it would seem more high quality persons would be induced to entering the profession because of the realization that productive effort would be rewarded as it is in most other lines of endeavor.

The Plan in Brentwood

The writer has worked under the merit system. He has administered it for 16 years, and from all indications a great majority of the teachers are favorable to it.

When he came to Brentwood, Pa. four years ago, the board of school directors were of the opinion that across the board salary increases did not seem fair and just. One of the reasons for this feeling was that a premium was placed on longevity. Furthermore, it does not take a professional educator to realize that the correla- tion between years of experience and performance is not 100 per cent positive.

The plan was explained to the teachers several times. Many questions were asked. When a secret ballot was taken, the count showed a vote of almost three to one in favor of trying the plan.

In establishing the salaries in Brentwood the superintendent and principals met at least four times and discussed each case indi- vidually. Before the salary list was ready for presentation to the board of school directors, the principals and superintendent had defensible reasons for each salary increase.

Each case must be handled on its own merits. We admit some mistakes have probably been made, but we believe the teaching profession must accept some subjective judgment just as every- body else must accept it. For instance, Superintendents in Pennsylvania must stand an election every four years and are judged by laymen and not by professionals as teachers are. We believe, in spite of the possible errors, it is a much bigger error to have a lock step method that rewards longevity for the sake of longevity itself.

The inauguration and practice of the merit salary systems re- quires that:

1. Teachers be requested not to discuss their salaries with each other.

402 The Hien Scuoot JourNau [May

2. The basic salary schedule must be high. In Brentwood’s case it is above the state mandated schedule.

3. At least 40 per cent of the teachers must be receiving merit salaries.

4. Teachers must feel free to discuss dissatisfaction with either the principal or superintendent.

5. There must be a mutual respect between the teacher and administration.

6. The board of school directors must not waver after the salary schedule has been adopted.

a. ee =-

Of Pride and Prejudice The Issues of Merit Pay

WILLIAM H. STEGEMAN Director of Research, San Diego City Schools, San Diego, California


OR NEARLY sixty years, the drama of merit pay for teachers

has played the educational circuit. Although severely criticized, it has played to packed houses in nearly every state and sizeable district of the nation.

This drama appears to be of entirely American authorship. The players are the teachers and the critics are the citizens of a “typical” American community. The scene is the American class- room. Although the script has not been published in book form as yet, various pieces of the script can be found in several hundred bibliographical references.

The plot of this production unfolds in two acts:

Act I... one of Pride—let’s reward good teaching,

Act III . . . one of Prejudice—let’s punish poor teaching.

Rather than attempt to review the script, let’s spend a few minutes with the players and the critics. By posing questions and summarizing their replies, we may get some insight as to why this American drama has had such a long run and yet been so severely censured.

What is merit pay?

In general, the answer is of two parts: 1) merit, “those qualities or achievements of a person which entitle him to special recogni- tion,” and 2) pay, “Remuneration or lack of remuneration for exhibiting these qualities of achievement.” In ordinary terms, merit pay means paying an individual what he’s worth. The idea of paying an individual what he’s worth is novel to say the least—and frightening to say the most—especially when we think of it in terms of ourselves rather than the other person.

Why does merit pay have such a wide appeal?

The psychiatrist, the doctor, the social worker, the teacher, the parent, the merchant, the lawyer, the butcher, the baker, and the man-on-thestreet each can read into merit pay his own experiences and can apply his own imagination. To one, this drama may take on the elements of a melodrama and thus capture

404 The Hieu Scuoot JourNAL [May

the appeal of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” especially if the teacher gets caught on the ice. To another this drama takes on the lofty qualities of “Ben Hur.” To still another, this drama expresses the poetic justice of “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained.” Thus, each man reads into this drama his own ideas and desires.

The players and the critics seem to be in fair agreement that merit pay is good in theory, but difficult to work out in practice. The theoretical basis, “good in theory,” seems to keep alive the hope that some day the perfect plan will be found. This element of hope adds to the dramatic qualities of the play. The basic faith in education as a solution to problems and experience with weak- nesses in the system add dramatic quality, also. In a way, this drama reflects the closeness of each person to his alma mater and brings back the “good old days” or “not-so-good old days” to his memory. He has seen, and therefore he knows, that there are strong teachers and not so strong ones—and yet he longs for all of them to be like “Miss Jones, my fifth-grade teacher.” Or like “Mr. Smith, my eleventh-grade chemistry teacher.” Each player and critic is an authority through experience and has the freedom to express himself as to the goals and ideals to be achieved. As each man sees it, the teacher has the responsibility of living up to the highest goals and ideals thus expressed.

If merit pay has such wide appeal, why has it been so severely criticized?

The players maintain that methods still need to be developed which will overcome some of the practical difficulties of adminis- tering such a plan fairly and objectively. The players further point out that major difficulties are most frequently due to a lack of suitable and clear objectives, a lack of adequate and usable measuring devices, the burden of extra load imposed on adminis- tration, the degree of teacher concern, and the general complexity of human relationships.

In the words of some of the critics:

... “The contributions of an individual teacher to society are difficult to measure . . . merit rating can be harmful to morale. . . so-called rating scales, to date, are of questionable validity . . instead, eliminate the unfit as the first step in increasing effective- ness of the group.”

. . . “Effects of teachers’ qualities upon pupils are difficult to measure . . . lack of generally accepted criterion for teaching efficiency has been a serious handicap in establishing the validity of a rating device . . . rating of teachers is a subjective process.

1960] Or Prive anp PREJUDICE 405

It is more important that the level of teaching be raised than that a few be rewarded.”

. . . “Existing merit plans are administratively impractical and burdensome . . . they cause tension among teachers . . . it is difficult to measure significant teacher merit.”

... Existing environments and concepts regulate much teacher activity and limit the changes of really meritorious teaching . . . there is little a teacher can do to change or improve the environ- ment or the climate of ideas which exist in a school or system.”

Other critics point out, and we must admit that to the man- on-the-street and even to some day-to-day workers in education, these reasons sound more like excuses than facts. These feelings are graphically illustrated by the words of a “supervisor” who over a cup of coffee at the end of a long day was heard to remark: “What a contrast today. I visited one second-grade room, at the request of the teacher, where the teacher was doing such a fine job, the youngsters were getting so many learning experiences, that I could add nothing to improve the program . . . In fact, I learned so much that really I was the one who gained . . . Later in the day I visited another second-grade classroom, at the request of the principal, where the teacher was doing such a poor job, the youngsters were getting so little leadership they were doing all kinds of things to entertain themselves, the teacher had no plans, there were no signs of organized learning. I was at a loss where to begin to improve this program .. .”

The first teacher was, in her first few years of teaching, near the bottom of the salary schedule, and although closely following the course of study, she was adding her own creative genius to plan a rich educational program for the youngsters in her room. This teacher must have felt some urge for a merit pay program, too, when she realized at the end of a strenuous day that the other teacher in her school was near the top of the salary schedule be- cause of many years of service, despite doing so little to provide a good education for the pupils in the second classroom. “Oh, yes, word gets around. They all know who the best teachers are. Just ask any teacher or principal,” replied the supervisor to further questioning.

These critics point out with emphasis:

. . . “We have paid too much attention to mediocre work in education and not enough to the really fine work more generally common . . . teachers are already rated by pupils, parents, and others.”

406 The Hien Scuoot Journau [May

. . . “Wherever there is hiring or firing, there is rating . . . we must find the fairest and most just way of rating.”

... “Teaching service can be evaluated if we know how effective a job we are doing, if we know what improvements we want, if we see how we can get these.”

When we talk to the players and the critics, we seem to sense there is some degree of truth in each pro and con of the argument. However, there seems to be one fact which emerges. The star player, the teacher, is not in favor of merit pay.

Why doesn’t the teacher favor merit pay?

Although each teacher would undoubtedly express it somewhat differently in his or her own words, the answer in its simplest terms seems to be this: “A teacher resents being singled out as an individual.” The teacher is used to and takes pride in being a member of the total cast and is not by nature a stealer of scenes. The teacher feels that the responsibility for the quality of the edu- cational program depends on the total community—pupils, parents, citizen support, community interest, community resources as well as the teacher.

There is some evidence that the drama of pride and prejudice may have served one useful purpose—it has brought out the issues of merit pay. And possibly by delineating the issues, it has served to develop an interest in better schools, to stimulate dis- cussion, to encourage improvement, to emphasize quality rather than just quantity.

Our talk with the players and the critics seems to leave us where we began. We are left with the impression that the drama has not been completed. It seems the critics have gone home before the players have come on stage for the finale. Thus, the climax is reached and the curtain comes down with the absent critic home writing his review; while the audience rising from its seat recalls the words of Bertrand Russell and wonders, “Are we hammering the tacks where the carpet was yesterday?”

What is the answer?

Possibly the drama as it stands has no ending. However, it does seem that in this drama of such high appeal more than just the issues should be presented. Possibly a third act should be added that would bring on stage the citizens to share in the fulfillment of the drama.

In Act III the citizens would join the cast along with the teacher.

1960] Or Prive anD PREJUDICE 407

This issues of merit pay revealed in the first two acts, reaching a climax, would fade into the background as the scene changes to seek a solution among the real issues of the future. The players would seek the goals and paths to the educational program of the future. The dramatic qualities of “building together the best educational program the community could provide” would unfold. The spotlight of responsibility would be focused upon the entire cast as it plans and finally discovers the type of educational program that should be provided. As this educational program begins to emerge, a new climax would be reached. The curtain would then come down as the entire cast decides, ‘“Let’s all reward ourselves with the best education possible.”

A new Act III—one of pride—added to the drama would quite possibly assure a continued run throughout the century, since it would apply the appeal and dramatic qualities of the reward of merit pay to all of us. At least a third act to this popular drama is worthy of rehearsal.

The Controversy over Merit Pay for Teachers

W. L. Grace

Superintendent, Ithaca, New York KX

BATTLE RAGES on the salary front. One force includes a

goodly number of school board members, no-nonsense business men, and assorted laymen. On the other side, with banners unfurled, are arrayed the troops of the National Education Association and her satellites (or allies), the state teachers’ associations. The neutrals are a motley gathering of teachers, administrators, and citizens. It is, of course, manifestly unfair and inaccurate to label individuals by their associations in naming friend and foe. There are teachers who favor merit pay; there are some who oppose it; and then there are many who haven’t made up their minds.

This article is addressed to the neutrals.

Since mine is an outright pitch for merit pay, let me start with some fundamentals. Everyone will go along, I hope, with the proposition that some teachers do a better job than other teachers. This is like saying that boys and girls acquire skills, attitudes, and understanding more effectively when they are guided by good teach- ers than when they are exposed to bad teachers. Next, let us assume that if differences in teaching quality exist they can be recognized by people who ought to know the meaning of good teaching and who know when they see it. Finally, we keep reminding our- selves that we teachers belong to a profession (at least we say teach- ing should be so recognized by the masses). If we really believe what we preach, are we not committing ourselves to a principle, reward for service commensurate with value of the service rendered?

If these arguments appear to be a bit lofty, then let us turn to a mundane approach. Introducing merit into salary schedules will bring better pay to more teachers. How? Most school boards can’t or won't pay poor teachers what good teachers are worth. Most school boards are willing to pay high salaries only on the basis of conviction that they are getting more or better service. If we continue, on the other hand, to belabor the single salary schedule idea to its extreme, we are merely tying teacher salary schedules to arbitrary limits of “more pay for living longer and more pay for more degrees.” It is doubtful if we can make a very strong





1960] Tue ConTROVERSY OVER Merit Pay 409

case for paying a premium for experience and training. On the contrary, the emergence of single salary scales has, if anything, tended to depress salaries. Look at it this way: if the poorest teacher is entitled to the same pay as the best teacher, then salaries will be measured at the lowest common denominator. In a manner of speaking, the speed of the convoy will be that of the slowest vessel.

The arguments against merit rating are persuasive, sometimes convincing. One writer is a recent article on the subject asserts that merit rating is “untenable intellectually, destitute economi- cally, and oppressive politically.”

Current education literature is laced with other dire warnings about merit rating: it won’t work, it’s undemocratic, it destroys morale, it is a diabolical scheme to save money and so on. Far be it from me to say that school districts attempting to employ merit rating have always steered clear of these problems. I would be first to admit that a merit pay plan badly planned, presented, or administered can produce any of the negative outcomes cited above.

Certainly schools must exercise caution in introducing merit into a salary program. One district, in planning such a schedule outlines several admonitions:?

(1.) “Any proposed merit plan should be approved by a large majority of the staff members before it is adopted by the School Committee (Board of Education) .

(2) “Any proposed merit plan should have a strong basic salary schedule that is competitive with schedules in educationally com- parable towns or areas.

(3) “Any proposed merit award should be realistic enough to serve as a real incentive for superior service.

(4) “Any proposed merit plan should be administered im- partially with no deviation from that pattern accepted by the staff and voted on by the School Committee.

(5) “Any proposed merit plan should be periodically reviewed and revised when necessary.”

The strongest argument for incentive pay schedules is a pro- vision for professional growth of the teacher on the job. Growth does not come about by doing the same thing year after year. It is not assured by additional summer sessions at the state teachers college, either. Growth is change to meet needs and the acquisi- tion of means of meeting them more effectively. One of the most neglected areas of education today is the field of supervision. We have become obsessed by pupil guidance as we have forsaken teacher guidance. And as the process of teacher guidance, or

410 The Hicu Scuoot JournaL [May

supervision, is carried on, it must be accompanied by evaluation. “Supervision plus evaluation equals good teaching.”

Much of the opposition to merit rating is concentrated on the upper levels of salary. There is a tendency to overlook the other end of the scale. Not only must merit pay be based on careful evaluation, but the retention and promotion of teachers requires the same diligent attention. An instrument is needed in every school system whereby teachers’ growth and effectiveness can be ascertained. Should Miss X be reemployed? Should Mrs. Y be placed on tenure? Should Mr. Z be made a consultant in science education? These are decisions every school board must make. They depend on evaluation. Whether evaluation is scientific or not depends upon the availability of a quality measuring instru- ment and its wise employment by school supervisory personnel.

The success of any merit plan is, in the final analysis, de- pendent not only upon acceptance by the classroom teacher and the community but also upon the ability and readiness of super- visors to administer a program of supervision and evaluation. Merit rating won’t work if principals don’t have the tools or the time to observe, consult, and guide teachers. On the other hand, if a principal and a teacher can sit down together and review all aspects of the teaching task, better teaching will result. Evalua- tion strengthens the teacher’s position by letting her know what her supervisor thinks is strong or weak and affording the oppor- tunity to do something about it. At the same time, the supervisor’s hand is strengthened. He is in a position not only to criticize but to help the teacher overcome obstacles to effective teaching.

The same principles and practices which apply to supervision apply to merit rating. The criteria which help decide on the disposition of a beginning teacher will serve to measure the effec- tiveness of a veteran teacher. Failure to develop criteria of evalua- tion is a dereliction of duty by supervisors and an abomination to professionally oriented classroom teachers.

Two of the most widely used arguments against merit pay deserve special consideration. The first runs something like this: “A merit system is just a ruse employed by school boards to keep salaries at a low level.” The facts do not bear this out; every suc- cessful plan for recognizing quality employs salary brackets well above those prevailing in automatic schedules. School boards find that merit plans cost more—not less.

The second argument is couched in a familiar cry: “Merit


1960] Tue ConTROVERSY OvER Merit Pay 411

rating destroys teacher morale.” Much of the talk on this subject gets lost in the fog. A survey conducted by New York University in 1958, which explored factors affecting teacher morale, concluded that merit pay didn’t appear to have much effect one way or the other.

One of the most frequent questions asked about our merit pro- gram, which has been in effect for more than ten years, is “Doesn’t the teacher who fails to receive a merit increment become bitter or discouraged?” What happens is quite the opposite.* After an initial period of disappointment, injured vanity, and sometimes coolness toward the department head, the principal and the superintendent, the unhappy victim begins to take stock of him- self. Now, of course, I can only conjecture what goes on in his mind, but the outward manifestations are plain enough. He usually signs up for a refresher course at some college (this may be his first visit te a campus in twenty years). Next, he begins to talk over his teaching problems with fellow teach- ers and supervisors. He sometimes arrives earlier in the morn- ing and even stays at his desk after school, instead of vying with the pupils to see who can be first through the door at the bell. He pays particular attention to the items on the evalua- tion report in which his rating is lowest. If it is in the area of pupil self-discipline, he finds out how he can get the class to work with him instead of for him. If it is in the area of staff activities, he begins to help the other members of the curriculum committee, of which he has been, up to his time, only a nominal member. With it all, and through it all, he begins to find that the super- visors and administrators are there to help him, and he begins to want and use that help.

Let me rest my case on a single conclusion. Merit pay is not only an equitable way of recognizing superior quality of service, it is also a means of encouraging improvement in the teaching process.

1C. Currien Smith, “Why Teachers Dislike Merit Rating.” Overview, February, 1960, p. 43.

2 Lape, James T. and Frederick Gorgone, Jr., ‘“Merit Pay Proposals Studied.’ Your

Schools. Wellsley, Massachusetts, June, 1959. * Gragg, W. L., “Merit Pay for Teachers.” The Nation, June 13, 1959, pp. 529-530.

Myths and Merit Rating

SAM P. WIGGINs Associate Professor, George Peabody College for Teachers


N FEBRUARY, 1956 I placed this statement on record to a section of the National Association of Secondary School Princi- pals:

“Despite the limitations of merit rating, despite some of its failures, despite some of the ulterior motives that may have prompted its sporadic acceptance, despite the prospect that we are never likely to achieve an ideal rating plan, I am fully convinced that we would be something less than pro- fessional if we abandoned our efforts.”

In the ensuing years, we have all too often done just that. Per- haps worse still, we have given the possibility only a half-hearted effort, burying the idea of merit rating with apathy. It may be that we have been so governed by myths and unexamined assump- tions that we cannot go directly to the heart of the problem . . . meanwhile philosophers chide us with the truism that we are at the mercy of our assumptions.

The next few paragraphs are intended to bring out of the shadows and into the penetrating sunlight of thought a few of the irrational assumptions which have us so culture bound to the conventional views within our profession on the subject of merit rating. The concluding paragraphs sketch the outlines of a general proposal for merit rating.

Myth #1—“You can’t tell the difference between the meritorious and the mediocre teacher.”

Well can’t we? All measures are, of course, only approxima- tions on the human scale of observation. Fairly refined approxi- mations, however, are sufficient for a successful merit rating system as truly as they are for weather predictions. We do not really need to discriminate between rank order of the 48th and 49th teacher. We need only to separate the top 15 to 20% from the vast majority of far less effective teachers. If we cannot do this, then we should have enough regard for the principle of consistency to disregard student teaching grades in selecting teachers, and to discontinue our efforts to rate or grade, the learning achieved by pupils on even a rough grade scale.

1960} Myrus anp Merit Ratine 413

Myth #2—“Teachers do not want merit rating.”

This, of course, depends on which teachers we have in mind. Even as a hasty generalization, this statement is far short of con- clusive documentation. Obviously, only those teachers who regard themselves as superior or who believe themselves capable of “beat- ing the system” are likely to have much yen for favored treatment of superior teachers. Superior teachers, by definition, constitute a minority group, and minority groups are unlikely to be popular with the majority, for long, in a competitive relationship. _(Per- haps, this is what gives appeal to the rallying cry attributed to Mr. Adlai Stevenson, “Eggheads of the world, unite!”) Teachers who regard themselves as actually or potentially superior would seem, logically, to favor a valid rating plan. The merit plan might create such dissatisfaction among mediocre and incompetent teachers, of course, that they might walk out of the classrooms and leave their pupils unschooled.

Myth #3—“Rating should be cooperative, with teachers having a decisive share in rating.”

Cooperation is always an enticing word, but a separation needs to be made between cooperation in general improvement of instruction and having a share in decision making of an executive nature. Teachers should be protected against a conflict of interests, despite the appeal of the idea that they should have, directly or indirectly, a vote in their own rating and salary level. To illus- trate, should teachers vote on whether to spend X tax dollars for increased teacher salaries or improve pupil transportation?

Myth #4—“Merit rating leads to personal favoritism by. administra- tion and apple polishing by teachers.”

This is a natural concern in view of the universal tendency to describe truly great teachers in terms of personal qualities. Yet the argument doesn’t quite ring true that a superintendent can safely be entrusted with handling million dollar budgets and can- not be trusted, with reasonable accuracy, to discover ways to identify and reward superior teachers, involving a relatively few thousands of dollars.

Myth #5—“The principle of merit rating sounds good in theory, but it simply won’t work in practice.”

We could, of course, argue that sound theory and sound practice are inseparable—that theory becomes sound only through

414 The Hieu Scuoot JourNau [May

experimental testing. We discard that promising approach, however, to observe the more obvious fact that non-public schools and colleges have employed and do employ merit rating practices, and their leaders have not considered a departure from such practices. They are convinced that “nothing else would really work.” Perhaps the old saw is true that what we're not “up” on we're likely to be “down” on.

Myth #6—“Mistakes wil be made no matter how good the plan is.”

This statement cannot be repudiated and cannot fairly be regarded as a myth. The myth is the inferred notion that the statement is an argument against merit rating. Any “cross the board” raise is likely to result in many mistakes as it rewards uniformly, the competent and incompetent, the lazy and the in- dustrious teachers. (The argument indeed is cogent that any cross-the-board raise is downright immoral.) Its defense, of course, is that its mistakes are pure chance, impersonal errors. If we assume that a calculated effort to identify superior teachers will result in more mistakes than blind chance, we are assuming the intelligence among the framers and executors of merit plans to be less than zero—an impossible negative quantity.

Enough of myths. Let us imagine, for a moment, a state which chose to provide, not an increased salary schedule, but a merit fund to each school system in the amount of ten cent of the amount annually due the system from the state for teachers’ salaries. The only stipulation by the state was that each school system set up and administer its own merit plan for superior teachers—not extra work of superior teachers for extra pay—an abortion of the merit pay concept.

School system A devises a plan to provide a $1,000 annual bonus for a period of three years to ten per cent of its teachers, with new selections being made each year. No teacher is eligible for selec- tion two consecutive years, but only on alternate years. For example, teacher B may be selected in 1960, 1962, and 1964. His bonuses will be as follows:

1960-1: 1,000 1961-2: 1,000 1962-3: 2,000 1963-4: 1,000 1964-5: 2,000 1965-6: 1,000 1966-7: 1,000

An examination of the plan shows that between 20 and 30 per cent of teachers may be eligible for bonuses concurrently, depend- ing upon the extent of repeated selections of eligible teachers.

a ia

1960] Myrus anp Merit Ratine 415

Without describing the plan in full detail, these are the factors considered in the plan of school system A, which uses the local school as the unit of operation of the plan, except that a teacher designated as meritorious is eligible for bonus pay if he teaches anywhere in the school system for the three succeeding years:

Factor A—Teacher scores on intelligence and professional teachers’ examinations

Factor B—Approximate ratio of academic achievement of pupils to ability of pupils to achieve (Superior, good and poor ratings based on standardized achievement and scho- lastic aptitude tests where applicable. This factor not considered in such areas as health and physical educa- tion, appreciation courses, etc.)

Factor C—Secret ballot rating by principal and teachers to select top 20% of teachers without knowledge of A, B, and D.

Factor D—Parent-pupil council selection of top 20% of teachers without knowledge of factors A, B, and C.

A visiting committee of four teachers and one school principal are employed to make selections for the school system based upon the above data, requesting interviews with individual teachers, only as necessary. They should not have information on previous selections; only a list of eligible teachers.

Now, you may protest that this is a very rough plan, difficult and expensive to administer, and fraught with many dangers. The assistant editor of the High School Journal, however, wisely limited the length of this article in soliciting it. Thus, space provided only the opportunity to develop these general principles. You are invited to work out your own details, remembering, above all to beware of myths and unexamined assumptions, wherever you find them—even in merit rating proposals.

1 Bulletin of the National Association of Secordary School Principals, 41:228, p. 27.

Merit or Morale

RosBert A. MARTIN Principal Mariemont High School, Cincinnati xx

ERIT RATING is a splendid idea and ideal—but for the fact that it is almost totally impractical. In seeking to achieve its objective it destroys the very morale necessary for its success. Only under very special and essentially artificial condi- tions has merit rating survived and attained its desired objectives. Boards of education who rightfully set policy and direct strategy should heed the counsel of those experienced on the battle-line and should seek a different approach to the objective desired by the taxpayers, administrators, and teachers alike: encouragement of

excellence by the rewarding of excellence.

Merit rating as used in the present context is defined as a system of rewarding teachers in accordance with the conclusions of an evaluation program involving criteria of teaching efficiency. The distinguishing characteristic of merit rating plans is the provision for the addition of monetary bonuses to the basic salary received by all teachers having similar levels of training and experience. The number receiving such bonuses usually is limited to a certain percentage of the staff.

A fundamental function of a merit rating program is to pro- vide for deserved promotion without removing the teacher from the classroom. In most vocations meritorious service tends to earn opportunities to move up into positions of greater responsibility, wherein the employee’s superior efforts bring about increased re- turns to the employer and correspondingly increased remuneration to the employee. This situation does not prevail in educational work. In a school the opportunities for advancement in position are limited and even then such promotion may not be desirable. A teacher with a reputation for brilliant classroom achievements may produce only mediocre results when promoted to a position involving supervisory or administrative work with adult staff members. Because superior teachers ought to be encouraged to stay in the classroom, the problem is one of providing deserved “promotion,” yet retaining the superior teachers in the same posi- tions. Merit rating programs seek to do this by a system of monetary rewards.

1960] Merit or Morae 417

Implementing the idea of financially rewarding teachers for meritorious teaching seems very simple to so many outside the ranks of professional educators. In fact, proponents of the idea more often than not look with suspicion upon school men who claim the idea is impractical. While the arguments against merit rating have been set forth well and often by the N.E.A. in various publi- cations, these arguments are usually discounted outside the pro- fession as being the viewpoint of a group lobbying for higher salaries for all, rather than for just the few which really deserve them.

In school systems where the pressure of lay citizens for merit rating is strong, a compromise arrangement often develops as a salary study leads to the adoption of a new salary schedule. Merit rating is not imposed flatly, but provision is made in the schedule for it, contingent upon the staff's establishment of the necessary criteria of meritorious service and the establishment of evaluative procedures to be employed. The consequent involvement of the staff in the basic design of the merit rating program is expected to result in an acceptance by the staff of the merit rating policy. The staff is literally handed prizes for the best teachers with in- structions to distribute them according to the rules the staff devises. The customary result is that the teachers establish a com- mittee to (1) draw up a statement or a listing of the characteristics of good teaching and (2) suggest instruments for measuring the degree of attainment of each teacher. This committee starts its work with great hopes and some doubts. As the meetings progress, the hopes sink and the doubts rise. Each member sees in himself certain characteristics of a superior teacher and favors these over those supported by others. Less and less agreement develops, until the matter is tabled. In school district after school district this pattern has prevailed. Merit bonuses are provided for in the salary schedule, but the prizes go undistributed and unclaimed.

Why do teachers not want the bonuses distributed? Un- doubtedly if the bonus payments were offered on a lottery basis, the staff would rather quickly set up the necessary mechanism by which these prizes would be distributed fairly. Few teachers would deprive another of the opportunity to be lucky and win an extra sum of money—assuming the teacher felt no portion of the money rightfully belonged to him in the first place, and this as- sumption is a questionable one so long as tax revenues for salary purposes are still very limited.

418 The Hien Scuoot JourNnauL [May

The reasons why teachers do not wish bonuses distributed are many. One, there exists no unanimity of opinion as to a fair way to judge teaching efficiency. A review of the literature on the subject as published in the past fifteen years will cause one to be very pessimistic about the probability of ever establishing an ac- ceptable (to the teachers) analytical rating procedure. The nature of meritorious teaching has been described often, yet actually is still unmeasurable. We fractionate “good teaching” as we seek to analyze it. We then assign some estimated weights to the com- ponent fractions noted and expect that in the synthesis of these same fractions in application to another teacher, the weights will add up to “good teaching” also—but often some essence seems to be lacking. Even