Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Accountability/Outstanding Schools

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How should society reward outstanding schools and teachers?

How should society reward outstanding schools and teachers? Rewarding schools and teachers is absolutely important to ensure that students and teachers reach their maximum learning limits. Victor Lavy a professor for economics states “improve the current education system by clarifying teacher goals and by attracting and retaining the most productive teachers.” In the United States most college graduates with a master degree do not pursue teaching because pay is not high enough. Many graduates with the same degree make more money. Is money the only motivating factor for schools systems and teachers? It is debatable and unfortunately there is no simple solution. Teaching is one of the most valuable professions for a society and it is a shame that we do not have “brightest” teaching our children. As a teacher states from Florida “Money shouldn’t be the only reason why your in it, the time is not equal to the money received” (Freeman, 2006) I think teachers need to be rewarded yearly with rewards for achievements made throughout the year. Research indicates that reward systems can be counter active and create bad morale (Dee & Keys 2004). All teacher unions look down upon performance based pay. The main reason is because it is very hard and expensive to accurately evaluate student teacher progress (Lavy, 2007). Throughout the research it was very difficult to find information on rewarding schools and teachers. I find this hard to believe but maybe because it is not done enough. Currently teachers are rewarded by their years of service and education.

Performance-based Pay[edit]

On the matter of retaining and rewarding teachers basing teachers' pay on what administration deem good teaching leads to charges of favoritism and causes tension and morale problems. If salary is to be determined by results like higher test scores, those who teach deprived areas would themselves be financially deprived.

—Morris Finder, Letter to the New York Times in response to "How to pay teachers"

Performance based pay is a way to reward teachers individually and/or as a team for different goals that are set forth. Research varies when it comes down on what should be done to reward schools. It seems the operative word is performance. “What type of performance is the school system looking for?” Performance based pay can be many things to include “… attendance, grade retention, drop out rates, or performance based on tests.”(Lavy 2007) There is indication in the research that teachers do not want to be rated in this way.

Some teachers fear that the impact of socio-economic status on test scores will prevent them from getting a bonus. There was a study done in 1946, 1981 and 1995 that opposes the concern of money. When teachers were asked what motivates them the reply was “interesting work” and not “money” (Diamantes 2004) Performance based pay only pays for improvements and nothing “below threshold performance” (Lavy, 2007) In other studies performance based pay is also called merit pay (Dee & Keys, 2004). “Merit based pay which is defined broadly here as any systems of teachers’ compensation that explicitly reward better performance, has been perceived as a potential remedy for the flaws of the single salary system” (Dee& Keys 2004) These pay systems do not last long mainly because of the opposition of them. “…failure of merit pay is mainly due to teacher and union oppositions”(Dee & Keys 2004) In Dee and Key’s research it states students with merit pay teachers should have higher gain scores. However again there is criticism that this will make teachers not work together as a team and not share ideas. Education Commissioner John Wynn states “As it is with any other profession, compensation for teachers should be based in part, on their results, talent and expertise.” (Freeman 2006) Private schools are 35% more likely to use merit reward systems where public schools use a merit systems only 5% of the time. (Lavy, 2007) Lavy implies that this is because public schools have to prove their scores because students have to pay to go there. In public schools it is different because where you live is usually where you go to school there is not too much choice involved.

Evaluation Processes[edit]

The biggest problem with rewards and incentives for teachers is the evaluation process. In Tennessee they launched a “Career Ladder Program”. In this program the teachers' pay was based on different criteria. The “program blended salary rewards with professional responsibilities” (Dee & Keys, 2004). It was geared toward increasing employee morale in that it did not place a cap on the amount of rewards that could be given out (Dee & Keys, 2004). This makes it so all teachers are striving to do better and meet current goals. This is not a program that is geared to the top 1% or one teacher of the year. The only problem was that the principal was responsible for ensuring that the teachers got certification according to the state board and they only had a few hours of training on evaluating the teachers (Dee & Keys,2004). Due to evaluation being subject the teachers argued that there is room for bias. Another problem with incentive-based programs is that there are so many goals in education. Not just in academics but drop-out rates, violence, and so on. It is very hard to get all parties to agree on goals (Lavy, 2007). The evaluation process is extremely difficult to do well because all things must be considered.

Rewards Based on Experience and Training[edit]

The current reward for teaching now is years of service and the amount of education that the teacher has. Rewards now include a small annual increase for each year of service. I do mean small. Mostly they pay you a little more for what type of degree you have bachelors, master doctorate. Dee & Keys states that “… the ‘single salary approach’ was widely adopted in the first half of the century, partly as a response of capriciousness and out right discrimination that had existed under more discretionary forms of compensation. It is very hard to reward teachers because of the continued pattern that was started with equal rights and equal pay. Unfortunately in research voters are not giving raises to teachers due to low over all academic performance on standardized tests (Lavy, 2007). It is believed that voters would vote in favor for incentive money for schools and teachers that are performing above average (Lavy, 2007).


In conclusion, it is important to reward teachers. Hopefully one day all teachers, administrators, school systems, and voters will come up with an amiable solution. Unfortunately teachers and school systems are stuck with minimal rewards. Society needs to take a more active approach in increasing rewards. Public schools need qualified teachers and this is directly related to the reward system. There has got to be a better equation for Performance based pay. The pay should be calculated by many factors including individual goals. Hopefully everyone will take the time an evaluate what is most important. The United States needs to step it up a notch and put education first with funding. Rewards are important to recruiting qualified staff for schools.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

How are teachers rewarded today?
A. Performance-based pay.
B. Merit pay systems.
C. Based years of service and education.

C. Based years of service and education.

What type of school is most likely to use reward systems?
A. Private
B. Public
C. Vocational

A. Private

Why is performance base pay disliked?
A. It is hard to evaluate accuracy.
B. Discrimination against teachers.
C. It creates income disparity.

A. It is hard to evaluate accuracy.

Who is most against performance pay?
A. Teachers
B. Principals
C. Teacher unions
D. Voters

C. Teacher unions

In the Career Ladder program what was supposed to boost teacher morale?
A. No limits on rewards.
B. Limits on rewards.
C. Performance gains.

A. No limits on rewards.

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal sample responses.

What are the problems with rewards systems and briefly what do you think will fix this?

There are many problems with rewards for teachers. There are many different ways you can reward a teacher. You can reward a teacher by testing scores, reduced violence, teacher certifications and goals etc. It is hard to have everybody agree upon the same goals to reward on. However it is the teacher unions that mainly end up kicking out most of the monetary rewards for excellent performance. They are dedicated to equality and believe there is no way you can adequately measure how much effort a teacher puts in. On the flip side I would think something is better than nothing. Due to teacher unions most rewards for teaching are ended after a couple years. They believe that giving monetary rewards to certain teachers creates bad morale and prohibits team work. I would fix the reward system by having group goals and individual goals. This means the school together needs to increase current academic performance by a percentage. There would also be individual goals where you increase your classroom percentage by a certain amount. I would also put no limits on the rewards. I believe by making attainable goals and money available one can obtain the best rewards for teachers and students.

The problem with reward systems is that there are so many levels that teachers are evaluated on. There are so many goals that we all want met when we send our children to school. For example we want our tests scores higher, violence lower, and drop out rates lower. These goals are all supported but which are we to focus on more than the others? This is one of the biggest problems with setting specific goals for teachers to earn rewards. They may become focused on winning and not really on the wellbeing of their class. This is one of the main issues seem by people today and this is usually where unions step in saying that it promotes unequal pay rates. Yet the unequal pay rate is exactly what they are going for with rewarding teachers for doing their jobs better. I feel that a reward system would be a good idea but I don’t think that one principal should judge it. I feel that it should be a committee from the community that sitting in and listen to the rates of the top teachers chosen by the school board. The rates being how they improved their schools rating on violence drop out rate, and standardized test scores. This I feel would be a more favorable way of judging because it would give some distances from the teachers in their everyday lives and it wouldn’t just be principal’s favorite teachers all the time. —Katharine Bratton


  • Beck, AuthorJudy1, & Weiland, Lynn2 (2001). Should "Good Work" mean more work?. Science Scope. 24,
  • Dee, AuthorThomas S, & Keys, Benjamin J (2004). Does Merit Pay Reward Good Teachers? Evidence from a randomized experiment. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.. 23, 471-488.
  • Diamantes, Thomas (2004).What Principals thinks motivates Teachers. Jornal of Instructional Psychology. 31 1, 68-74.
  • Finder, Morris How to Pay teachers. (2001). New York Times, p. A24.
  • Freeman, Marc For top teachers the reward is . (2006, April 23). South Florida Sun Sentinel,
  • Lavy, Victor (2007). Using Performance-Based Pay to Improve the Quality of Teachers. The Future of Children, 17 no 1, Retrieved September 23, 2007, from