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Collected Works - Serials; Reports - Evaluative
President Reagan's promotion of merit pay as the main vehicle of educational change has prompted a sharp debate. This monograph presents arguments for and against merit pay and assesses its relative worth as a means of improving American education. First, merit pay is defined as a compensation system linking individual teachers' salaries to performance evaluations. "New style" merit pay ties salaries to students' standardized test scores, instead of to teachers' classroom activities. Merit pay differs from master teacher plans aimed at increasing hierarchical complexity to construct better career paths for teachers. Merit pay can provide monetary incentives, rewards, feedback, administrative controls over the teaching process, and retention and recruitment benefits. Arguments against merit pay outweigh advantages; pay-for-performance systems overemphasize teachers' need for extrinsic rewards and motivators, may negatively affect desire for high performance, foster teacher rivalry, and pose administrative burdens associated with defining and evaluating superior teaching. Overall costs and union resistance are even thornier problems. Several alternatives are discussed, including reforms and exceptions within the unitary salary schedule, career promotions, and goal-oriented management and participation systems compatible with effective schools reasearch. This literature emphasizes cooperative agreements and mutual problem-solving as keys to changing school management. Appendices include synopses of recommendations of major reports on education (1983) and three sets of data on teacher salaries in relation to salaries in other occupations. A bibliography with 57 references is also included. (MLH)