More Money Matters

It is a blogger’s dream to write something that generates a lot of interest, even when the interest
isn’t positive. I got a lot of feedback from my last post about money and pay for teachers. Every bit of
reaction was virulently opposed to what I said in that post. It tells me I did not do a good job of making
my point.

A few points I’d like to clarify:

1. Teachers are working too hard for the level of recognition and respect they get. I am deeply troubled by the inclination to “blame the teacher” or worse. The bashing must stop.

2. I’m not an academic and I don’t even play one on TV. What intrigued me about this University of Chicago study was the nugget of information about human behavior: paying teachers a bonus up front seems to have resulted in high performance for their students over the course of that school year.

3. I was not suggesting that pay should be tied to standardized tests. I am vehemently opposed to high-stakes testing and I think there are and should be many ways to measure the performance of both teachers and students. Using one test to do that is not only wrong, it’s counter-productive.

4. I believe that all teachers should make more money; a teacher’s starting salary should be $100,000 or more.

Yes. This is a touchy topic and I stirred up some real resentment with my first foray into these roiling waters.

But the bottom line is: Pay matters. Money is the way our society recognizes and rewards excellence. We have to find a way to talk about it productively. I hope I got the conversation started. We invite you to send us your own opinions. This space should be a dialogue. You can leave a comment below or, better yet, write your own blog and send it to

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Comments (1)

  1. Paul Toner


    Thanks for clarifying your position.

    We all think teachers shold be paid more and there is even discussion among teachers on how we can pay people more based on performance and taking on leadership roles as opposed to a standard salary schedule. The comments and research you originally posted, however, were concerning to me.

    The University of Chicago (home of Milton Friedman and school vouchers) is not the place that I usually would call sources of “teacher voice”. The research you cited talked about bonuses directly related to student test scores. Pay for test scores in its rawest form. The NEA, AFT, the MTA and many other organizations have polled teachers and the public on the issue and the public and teachers are very opposed to paying teachers based on standardized test scores. In Massachusetts teachers are opposed by 92% to having their pay based on MCAS scores. Parents are also strongly opposed. Teachers are open to many other ideas for alternative compensation but not a direct link between individual teacher and student test scores. If Viva is supposed to give voice to the ideas of teachers, why are you posting something that teachers are opposed to?

    The experiment that you laud in your article is completely wrong. The moral of the story is that if you make standardized tests scores the be all and end all of a teacher’s performance you will warp their values so that they focus only on pumping up test scores. This is the wrong way to pursue improving schools and student achievement. Test scores are important but we need to have multiple measures of student improvement and we need to recognize that all teachers and parents play a role in improving student outcomes. No one in our Gateway project suggested merit pay based on test scores as a way to improve learning or teaching. They focused on supports for students and offering better training for ELL students and improved programs for students at risk.

    I look forward to further conversations on the issue.


    Paul Toner
    President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association

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