Whoever among the founders of our democratic society could ever have said that the educational area would be a battlefield for not only scientific, but for the political affrays as well. Nowadays, one of the most objectionable and contentious problem is the dilemma whether the merit pay system shall be introduced in the educational sector of the society or not. This paper provides a brief digression into the problem and outlines the projected advantages and disadvantages of the outcomes ensued from the implementation of this policy.
Historical Overview of the Problem
Traditionally, the merit pay system for the educators in the public educational establishment has been ubiquitously cultivated in the Common Law countries (Ritter & Jensen,2010). The United Kingdom is the leader in this field, the country where the policy is the most sophisticated and highly developed. Another illustrative example is Australia, and a non-common law country Israel, in where the merit pay system is an integral element of the educational systems. However, past experience clearly indicates that the United States educational authorities are still scrupulously deliberating the prospective implementation of the program (Boachie-Mensah & Delai, 2011).
The first attempt to launch the program took place in 1999, when the Milken Family Foundation initiated the so-called Teacher Advancement Program, which is still operable in more than 200 educational establishments across the United States of America (Johnson, 2010). Although the outcomes of the program were entirely positive (the students’ performance increased, the individual professional skills and qualifications of the teachers were considerably enhanced and the teachers’ turnover dropped), it was hailed with harsh criticism by the opponents for the alleged extra-expensiveness and lack of scientifically substantiated proof of the effectiveness.
Another initiative was the Teacher Incentive Plan launched in 2006. The Senate of the USA allocated considerable financial resources to fund the program (about $ 550 million). The program is still underway and the intermediary results of the various research agencies report totally antipodal results. While almost the half of the leading research hubs (Vanderbit Center) stress that the expected outcomes have not been accomplished yet, another half (including Nashvile Center) vigorously advocates the positive outcome exercised by the launch of this motivation program.
The Advantages of the Merit Pay System
The Monetary Motivated Teachers will Work Harder
It is a scientifically undisputed scientific assumption that a well-motivated person is always more painstaking in his or her endeavors to accomplish the task in the most effective ways. Moreover, there is a convergent scientific opinion that the most effective motivator in all spheres of business is the extra-monetary remuneration. Besides, the system of monetary compensation and bonus packages for the achievement of high results is widespread in other areas, like lawyering and accounting. The very essence of the capitalism educational system connotes extra-rewards for the achievement of the extra-results. Besides, several independent scientific surveys have confirmed that the average hours spent by the teachers in the educational centers where the policy has been launched were considerably bigger than the hours spent by the educators who are not additionally compensated for their efforts.
The Implementation of the Merit Pay Program Helps to Concentrate the Most Talented Americans in the Educational Field
Considering the fact that becoming an educator is not widely accepted as the most lucrative career opportunity in terms of personal financial welfare, the brightest students clearly demonstrate the trend to become accountants, lawyers, software developers, top-managers or engage in other heavily compensated areas. It is ubiquitously reported that the top-ten professions in the United States are intrinsically connected with the most sophisticated salary bonus systems. It is normal to assume that when the promising professionals realize that the career path of an educator is secured financially, provided that they perform excellently, it can be assured that the pedagogical profession will soon become popular among the most talented students.
The Labor of the Teachers is Presently Undervalued and the Implementation of the Merit Pay Policy May Help to Balance the Situation
Nowadays, an average teacher’s salary in the United States educational establishments is ranging between $ 40 000 and $ 44 000 annually. The professors rate vacillate between $ 69 000 and $ 213 000 (for the most outstanding and renowned full time professors) respectively. A junior associate of an average law firm can expect to receive a paycheck of at least $ 100, 000 during his first year (upon the completion of a law school). Therefore, it is natural to assume that if this policy is launched, the justice will be administered and the presently underpaid teachers will be compensated accordingly and the indicator of job gratification will improve (Sullivan, 2010).
Besides, the turnover among the teacher and the professors is reported to be among the highest (up to 35% annually) and the effective implementation of this policy will result beneficially here. Previous experience confirmed this hypothesis and the educational centers where the policy of merit pay was launched reported to have raised the retention rate to the minimal 10%.
Moreover, it has been reported that the educational sector of the United States presently experiences the slightly detectable lack of teachers. The number of application to the pedagogical schools and faculties is gradually but steadily declining. Therefore, increasing the future earnings of the prospective teachers and professors may indirectly motivate the promising student to become teachers and professors.
The Dedication of Teachers Result in the Enhancement of the Students Performance
Whereas this is the aim of the policy elaboration and implementation, at the same time this point serves as an advantage. Provided that the dedication, enthusiasm and hours spent by the teachers accordingly increase, the projected goals of the policy are very probable to be achieved.
Victor Lavy in his “Performance Pay and Teachers’ Effort, Product and Grading Ethics” (2009) speculate that if the educational accomplishments of the students enhance with the ubiquitous launch of this policy, the negative and the rest of the positive peculiarities of the policy can be neglected, due to the fact that the ultimate goal of the program will be achieved.
The Disadvantages of the Merit Pay System
Although the policy does seem to be entirely beneficial in its nature, several serious disadvantages exist. In order to evaluate and project potential consequences of the policy implementation, all sides are to be carefully analyzed.
The Complexity of the Evaluation Procedures
The first negative aspect of the problem is the indefiniteness of the procedures which are applied to evaluate the implementation of the policy. The emerging bureaucratic procedures are likely to be immensely sophisticated, complex and intricate. What is particularly important, is the fact that nowadays no one can adequately answer the question how is going to be distinguished that the high academic achievements of the students are due to the efforts of the tutor or due to the individual traits of the students. In other words, it is easy to discriminate the students attributing their own academic accomplishments to the work of the tutors.
Moreover, in order to prove that the academic achievement is due to his or her efforts, the complex system of reporting is to be elaborated. The student must be evaluated before the tutor starts working additionally and after the program is over in order to calculate the salary and the due benefits of the professor or of the teacher. The vast number of forms, protocols, evaluations statements must be fulfilled and someone shall control that the educator fills them acting in good faith and strictly following the ethics of grading (Callier, 2010).
Corruption and Violation of the Professors’ Integrity are Likely to Emerge
As far as the incomes of the educational community are concerned, it can be assuredly stipulated that comparatively to the rest of the professionals, they are “insignificant”. Therefore, a professor must be a very honest and incorruptible person to guarantee that his unbiased and neutral approach will remain (Lavy, 2009). However, it is logical that when he or she is pecuniary interested in the high results of the students, it is considerably less complicated to forge the results of the tests, than to contribute academically to the development of a student.
Overall, it does seem to be more reasonable to invest the Merit Pay program funds to the increase in the salaries of the educational community. Upon the completion of this operation, it can be assured that whilst the incomes of the educators will be increased, the unbiased and neutral approach to the students’ evaluation will be safeguarded (Campbell el. al, 2010).
The Discord between the Teachers is likely to be Cultivated
Previous experience indicates that when similar program have been launched, the unhealthy and destructive competition started among the tutors. Unfortunately the positively oriented policy backfired on the healthy working environment of the educational center. The professors were reported to have cultivated more aggressive attitudes towards each other and the workmates were ubiquitously regarded not as colleagues but as a competitors and salary contenders.
Having analyzed the positive and negative aspects of the problem in question and recapitulated the main arguments of both the proponents and the opponents’ two inferences of primary importance can be drawn.
Firstly, the United States of America may implement this policy, as the advantages are evident. However, in this case the complex mechanism of evaluation must be financed and elaborated simultaneously to ensure that the emerging corruption will be totally tackled. Besides, somehow it must be certainly ensured that the neutral, unbiased and ethically consistent approaches of academic evaluation are followed by the agents of the process. Moreover, those who implement the policy are tasked to guarantee that the issue of unhealthy academic working atmosphere is handled accordingly. In other words, the performance of the teachers and the professors is to individualized and separated from the performance of their colleagues, so than no one can directly or indirectly affect the performance of their workmates.
The project is likely to appear more expensive than educational authorities are nowadays planning it to be.
Considering the issues outlined above, it can be inferred that the policy can in fact be effectively implemented in the United States educational environment. However, the effective realization of the Merit Pay system requires the planning and the fulfillment of the set of supplementary programs.
The second scenario connotes that the program in question will be eternally abandoned and the allotted funds being transferred to the salary fund of the educational community. This alternative does seem to be more feasible and realistic, whereas the only accomplishment will be the increase in the professors’ living standards, whose wages will be ultimately increased. However, the ultimate goal, i.e. the enhancement of the students academic performance is very likely to remain at the same points as it stands today.