March 11th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

Merit pay for teachers a good idea even if pres. takes on supporters?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

You've got to hand it to President Obama - it seems like he's following through with many of his campaign promises, even if it means taking on traditional Democratic voting blocs.

President Obama says good teachers should get raises and bad ones should be removed.

The president is out criticizing public schools and vowing to change them - in part, by rewarding good teachers and replacing bad ones - something that doesn't usually sit well with teachers' unions and public school systems. The president says good teachers will get pay raises if students succeed and will be asked to take on more responsibility. However, bad ones should be removed. The president stated, "I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences."

The president of the American Federation of Teachers embraced the goals outlined by the president, but said as with any public policy, "the devil is in the details" and it's important for teachers' voices to be heard in this process.

This comes at a time when public education is set to receive about $100 billion from the economic stimulus package; and the president is making a point to link a stronger educational system to future success for our sagging economy.

The president's willingness to go against a traditional Democratic constituency like this is refreshing; and it's not the first time. Mr. Obama recently irked many Democrats with his plan to keep between 35,000 and 50,000 residual troops in Iraq after the draw down.

Here’s my question to you: Is merit pay for teachers a good idea even if it means the president is taking on one of his biggest groups of supporters?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

John from Concord, New Hampshire writes:
It's time we valued good teachers just like good doctors, lawyers and other professionals... pay them more money. But, make it a lot easier to get rid of the deadwood and that, my friends, is where the president and the unions will come to blows. The union protects mediocrity and opposes rewarding anyone who rises [teaches] above that level.

Lynn from Columbia, Missouri writes:
Interesting. He rejects rewarding failure and protecting people from consequences, yet that's exactly what he's doing with the financial institutions and auto industries. It sounds like a double standard to me. Every student is different and teachers should not be punished for getting uninterested students. You can not force an unwilling student to learn. He should be working on the kids and not the instructors. Most teachers care or they wouldn't take such low paying jobs.

Tom from Desoto, Texas writes:
All compensation should be based on merit. I understand the reason behind tenure but no job should be a free ride for life. I knew teachers who had a pint of booze in a drawer and some smoked pot during a break. The auto industry also had that "job for life" concept.

Richard from Orlando writes:
As a current teacher, I do not agree with the president’s merit pay proposal. On my annual evaluations from my principal, she ranks me as one of the best in her school. I chose to teach in an inner-city school with high level of poverty and most of my students come from broken families. I know I have a great impact on the students there, and I feel it would be unfair for my salary to be based on student achievement.

Ronald from Kansas City writes:
I recall the president saying during the campaign that he is not going to tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear, and I can't agree more. Merit pay should apply to all individuals (teachers, politicians etc.) that get paid by taxpayers’ money.

Filed under: President Barack Obama
soundoff (275 Responses)
  1. Kevin L. / Omaha, NE

    If the teachers do well by all means a bonus is in order. If not, no merit pay. Pay shouldn't be a rubber stamp just because of length of time as a teacher or at a location. This is a tap on the shoulder for those supporters to come correct! When it comes to pay, this isn't Wall St.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  2. frankie

    You have to allow that the President might be doing things because he thinks they are the right thing to do. Even though we are accustomed to a model in which no one in Washington has anything but political motives for anything they do, that can't be all there is to America.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  3. CHI-1

    Unfortunately we have all complained for years about the public school system. Kudos to President Obama for having the guts to take a stand and make some REAL changes!


    March 11, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  4. gerry luimes

    Teachers have a difficult and thankless job to perform;How would you like to be one,and being confronted with an uninterested heap of
    youngsters telling you;"O.K ,try to get us motivated".Any teacher that can face and solve such a challenge (and there are many) certainly deserve much attention , especially in the form of better pay!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  5. John in LA

    Obama's doing a great job, but he needs to do more research into merit pay.

    If teachers complete national certification–or agree to mentor new teachers it would be warranted.

    But it is NOT a good idea to tie it to test scores (inaccurately called "student achievement"). There are many reasons its a bad, bad idea–he really needs to investigate more deeply.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  6. Paul S. Columbia, SC

    Just like everything else managed by government, the educational system is broken too and these dummies think that throwing more money at the problem will cure it. A good stiff paddle and no more of this child protection nonsense will fix the problem. It worked before.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:06 pm |
  7. docb

    Absolutely, the NEA has had education over a barrel for years! In Colorado, we even tried early retirement to get rid of some of the non- preforming teachers to little avail!

    The state of our system is a tragedy and we are losing many young minds -our greatest treasure languishing under budget cuts removing the arts and music but keeping the sliders because they are part of the NEA.

    Our new Presideni is brave and bold....we must support him! I worked 15 years trying to get this kind of reform...It is about time the top recognized the real issues! It will not be easy but worth it!

    The old guard and the MSM are tripping over themselves because they can not even handle 'one' thing at a time! I am going to e mail my support at once!!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm |
  8. Karen - Missouri

    As a former high school teacher, merit pay is a bad idea. First of all, at the high school level I've seen good teachers have students who went out of their way to get teachers fired. I've seen students do nothing at all just waiting it out until they were old enough to quit school. I've seen parents baby their high school students to the point of lack of discipline at the entire system. I've seen districts have to "bribe" students to do well on mandated "tests" with pizza parties and trips. What are we teaching kids? If high school students get wind of teachers who get "merit pay" that's above long-time teachers...well, that's the death of those teachers. Students have to be "entertained". Yes there are SOME bad teachers and they leave the system anyway.

    There must be more push for discipline and respect from school districts and parents. Parents must push for students to do well and RESPECT teachers.

    Merit pay will LOSE teacher, not attract them.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm |
  9. Mike, FL

    Charters Schools is the best way to go, proven results and children who actually learn . Public school teachers have proven over the last 30 years they can not teach or provide our children with a good education , regardless of the money we provide them.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm |
  10. Peggy Sue Acklin

    Caff-yes, a good idea and lets hear from teachers in South Carolina PS. I think since the gov of South Carolina is more concerned about the nation then his STATE-which is his job-He should Go!!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:10 pm |
  11. John, Fort Collins, CO

    I think we need to do whatever it takes to make our educational system the best in the world; the future of our nation literally depends on it. If that means taking on the teachers' unions, so be it. Just think how much better off GM would be today if they had confronted the UAW thirty years ago to improve quality and keep labor and benefit costs in check. The unions are great at protecting their members, but don't always do what is best for the country.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:11 pm |
  12. Beth, MA

    Merit pay for teachers is a good idea if all teachers have advanced placement students in subjects for which the students are preparing for an exam that can get them 3 college credits.

    Merit pay for teachers is a good idea if all teachers have students whose parents do not allow iPod's, video games, cell phones, TV,etc. until all homework is completed and the parents have checked that it is done and understood.

    Merit pay for teachers is a good idea if all teachers have students from the same socio-economic background that allows for all students to have quality fruits, vegetables, and grains available for them at each meal. This also requires that each student has access to dental care and preventative medical care.

    Merit pay for teachers is a good idea if the real world does not interfer with the plan. All students would have excellent attendance, parents would be supportive and involved in the schools, students would live in stable and safe homes, there would actually be food in the house, and none would be homeless.

    Some teachers should be forced to leave the classroom but to blame teachers for poor performance without placing any responsibility for students' success on parents and society in general is just taking a cheap shot.

    I have taught in private and public schools and I have children. The economic crisis this country is in arose in great part because no one took responsibility for their decisions. Students are victims of trickle down entitlement; failure has to be someone else's fault. Wall Street denizens made millions without doing any work. Students and their parents want good grades without any work.

    So how is it all the teacher's fault?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:11 pm |
  13. Nancy, Grand Ledge,MI

    Public Schools need to change. They are teaching with one size fits all programs, and teaching to the test, which allows no room for creativity! They need to allow innovative teaching ideas, and teachers who inspire the kids to learn. Too many schools are failing our children, and not all children are destined for college. Some need programs for technical training or other specialty training like a skilled trade. We also need plumbers and electricians etc. Merit pay would be a great incentive.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  14. Paul San Antonio, TX

    Absolutely it's a good idea. Public education has seriously gone down hill, and this is a very good way to ensure that kids are being brought back up to par so that they can truly make a better tomorrow. Who cares if the supporters are lost if the idea is set into place and it works?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  15. Anthony Clair

    Properly-administered merit pay based on a teacher's peer evaluations is a no-brainer and should not be controversial. Merit pay based on standardized tests, however, would do nothing to heighten our students' ability to compete in the global marketplace.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  16. Vic Leeber

    Vic Leeber From Stony Point

    I think merit pay is a great idea for teachers and if it works they should expand the program to include Congress!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  17. Ray in Nashville

    Yes, because these are the people handling our most precious resource and they have to be held accountable.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  18. Samantha

    I think merit pay for teachers is a excellent idea. I get so frustrated when I have to deal with certain teachers in my daughters school. They are lazy and need to find another job.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  19. Ben

    I Feel that he is doing the right thing. Why should teachers that do not know how to teach be kept in schools, and on the same level as those that help students excel? I think he should keep going down this path, to show that there is someone in Washington who is taking real initiative when it comes to Education.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  20. Egberto Willies

    Merit pay is an excellent idea. At no time should we have our children subjected to a substandard education. Do you think anybody in the teacher's union would have their kids educated by substandard teachers? Absolutely not. I guess he is not a socualist anymore, merit pay = capitalist.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  21. Ronald Holst

    Jack YES YES
    This Is like asking Your Doctor To do what he is susposed to do put your health first , Isent that better than just going alone with him putting a cast on your lest foot when your right foot is broke .
    Ron Holst
    San Antonio .TX

    March 11, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  22. Jeff in NY

    It depends on who or what decides the meaning of a "good" teacher. Test scores only tell part of the story. Parents as well as teachers and their unions need to have a voice in this process

    March 11, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  23. Leo Padilla

    I don't know Jack....is it a good idea to give meritt pay to our Police Officers for arresting more people? How about firefighters for saving more kittens from trees? Or Post office workers for delivering the most mail in a day? Teaching Kids is not a business, nor should it be conducted like one.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  24. RSB

    I agree that pay is a problem with the school system; however, any type of merit or bonus pay is a bad idea because eventually people start taking it for granted and expecting it as part of their normal compensation package, regardless whether they meet the qualifications for that bonus. Gradually it becomes just another entitlement and we are back to the status quo. The bigger problem is that qualified teachers are not being recruited/retained because the base pay is too low. We say we value education in this country, but why do we not pay teachers a living wage? When someone with a graduate degree is offered the choice of teaching 8th grade for 25K a year and a private sector job for 75K a year, do you blame them for taking the 75K a year job? The other problem is that teachers are not provided all the tools necessary to be effective, such as enough classrooms to reduce class size to a manageable level, or enough supplies. Not to mention, many parents simply take a hands-off approach and do not get involved. Teachers are expected to be parents, but they are not allowed to deal with disciplinary problems in class. As a result, the learning experience is disrupted for other children. Merit pay will not fix any of those issues. (Roland/St. George, UT)

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  25. Tanya, NJ


    This is not going to work. Who would be the authority to evaluate a teacher's "worth"? What if the classroom of students are not doing well because they are lazy and do not want to do the work? Are you going to punish teachers for lazy kids? This is an insane idea and I'm a Democrat. He needs to stop thinking he can change the country in 100 days.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  26. Pat, Pa.

    Yes, it is a good idea. Not all teachers out there are good. In fact, I know of one case where the teacher shouldn't even be teaching. The kids end up teaching her. True story !

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  27. Dustin in Dayton, OH

    The fact that our president is willing to take on his own supporters means he's not a business-as-usual politician, as some are claiming. Teaching is probably the most important profession in this country, and also one of the least rewarding, financially speaking. It's about time someone is standing up for them.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  28. Elliott from Miami, FL

    As a recent graduate of one of the largest public school systems in the nation, I saw the effect that a good teacher can have on his or her students. One of the primary problems with our educational system is that there is no motivation for our teachers to be the best they can be. In my opinion, merit based pay might be a wonderful idea!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  29. me46

    I don't believe that merit pay is that relevant when we have kids attending high-risk schools with overcrowded classrooms. Kids need smaller schools, personalized instruction, independent study and less homework. Homework is a major contributor to anxiety in kids and leads many students to failure causing them to drop out of school. The student should be the focus of any sweeping change in education and that focus should be upon keeping the child positive and enthusiastic about learning.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  30. John

    Not only is it a good idea, it's about time for crying out loud. BTW. Why do teachers even need a union? The battle cry of the NEA and AFT is and always has been. "For The Children."

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  31. marilyn brown

    The flaw with merit pay is that it over-rewards teachers with high-performing students and harshly threatens or penalizes those with students who come to them with major deficits in learning ability or prior education.

    st. louis, missouri

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  32. Diane Sykstus

    Finally a courageous leader to take on the worst school systems in the world – the teacher's union has been the bain of our schools system.
    I think merit pay is great for teachers and I support the extended school year. It will help with child care and it may make our students smarter – get them off the streets. I am a college instructor and get paid for what I teach I don't get summers paid and I don't get holidays paid and to boot the youngsters coming into my courses had had their grades inflated for years and cannot perform simple math problems nor can they write appropriately. These teachers have to step up to the plate.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  33. Kevin-Boston

    Absolutely! Teaching is an art! The prez is da man! (wish I had better teachers).

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  34. Ann, Arizona

    Yes , it is a great idea to reward good teachers and remove the bad ones. I am amazed that we will pay athletes millions of dollars to entertain us but when comes to educating our children teachers are only entitled to meager salaries. Where is the pork in that comparison?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  35. Renee Broberg

    No- merit pay is not a good idea. Why not an old fashioned raise? At 20 years old, I made more last year than my 48 year old mother who has been teaching high school English for over 12 years. That is pitiful. She works her tail off in at a low income, mostly Spanish speaking school. Should she be punished because the ESL (English as a second language) kids cannot keep up with the curriculm?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  36. Rod in MN

    As a retired 34 vetern of public education. I say "Great Idea"
    Who will print the money to give to the millions of "great teachers" that will get the merit pay increase. If anyone thinks that this will cost a small amount of money, they are mistaken about how many great teachers are in the classroom right now.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  37. Linda

    Jack, Good teachers should be rewarded with merit pay. Problem is who is going to be the judge of their merit. There are so many school systems who cannot even manage their own expenses. Example the DISD in Dallas TX.

    Linda from TX

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  38. Rebecca

    After having personal experience with HORRIBLE tenured teachers at my University, I think Obama is really doing the right thing. Great teachers should definitely be rewarded and bad ones shouldn't be kept just because they are tenured. It's a great way to weed out teachers that just aren't getting things done in the classroom, at any level. It seems similar to getting a bonus, if you are a good teacher and your students are passing their tests, you should get a bonus. Why not?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  39. Trevman Atlanta, GA

    Yes. If the government is giving money to different sectors of the economy and is asking that they prove their viability and effectiveness as a condition of receiving this money then we should ask no less of those who teach our kids. Teachers and their unions might have voted overwhelmingly for President Obama but that should mean they can't be called to account if they're not up to the task of educating our kids. That said, it's not just the teachers who should be judged but the parents/guardians as well. We all want teachers to inculcate positive values in our kids but parents should not feel absolved of this responsibility either.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  40. John

    I have no problem with merit pay for teachers, but Obama's plan to lengthen the school year makes me livid. I had a tough time growing up and I hated school. If someone had taken away my summers I probably would have committed suicide. No one ever stands up for children and teen-agers. Summers are sacred, and not even the president has the right to take them away.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  41. Mark

    I am a teacher who has won many awards for my teaching and am very respected in my community...but I am against the idea of merit pay. Administrators will use it to reward favored teachers and punish those who are on the edge, the ones who are most daring and try innovative techniques in their class. Administrators will give the teachers they don't like the worst classes to ensure that their results are not up to par with those they do like. I have seen it happen already, without merit pay. Also, a teacher's classes can vary from year to year, rendering the idea of tying pay to standardized test results ridiculous. You'll have teachers teaching only to the test, and no real education will take place. It will also encourage cheating by teachers to inflate grades to make their numbers look better. Again, I have seen this happen even without merit pay. The whole system needs to be gutted and rebuilt.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  42. Omar Elizondo

    Obama is a highly educated individual. So, the idea that having a good education is valuable is supported with Obama as the example. I hope merit pay is enacted for teachers. I would be nice to meet a teacher who is not dumber than mud.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  43. Alexis, Indiana

    Yes. I'm in high school right now, and I don't see why teachers should be rewarded if they're not doing their job. I think it's fair that teachers who ARE doing their jobs should definitely get paid more for doing one of the most difficult jobs out there. I don't see who would be critics of this idea unless you're a bad teacher, and in that case, you shouldn't be teaching anyway.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  44. barbara; st. louis

    Hooray for Merit pay! I'm a retired teacher who thoroughly supports President Obama's Merit Pay decision. Maybe some of those "I refuse to change" teachers will get off their duffs and start teaching; or maybe those teachers who have no business in the profession will bow out gracefully. Teachers, listen up, there will be no more excuses.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  45. christopher downs

    merit pay is a great idea for teachers. teachers have had it too good for such a long time. the union is best for the teachers not the students.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  46. Doug

    Jack ... Merit pay is good. Merit pay based upon testing of students is bad. You've been educating your audience for years about how to write appropriate responses to your "file" questions ..... You are great at your job; but, how would you like to be compensated for how well I answer your question on any given day ?? Yep, me neither. ( NJ )

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  47. Jonathan D

    as someone who's pay is based on performance, I welcome Obama's efforts to hold teachers accountable to their performance. The devil is in the details of how they measure this of course, but for teachers to be against this, when after tenure they are guaranteed their jobs, is similar another example of unions trying to hold down ways to be more efficient and productive.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  48. Jennie, Oxnard, CA

    I have been extremely involved in my children's schools for the last 18 years and this is LONG overdue. I've been around a lot of teachers over the years that I wondered how in the world they even graduated college, let alone were in charge of teaching future generations. I supported Obama from day 1. He's the guy in charge and I think that we all need to stop trying to second guessing him.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  49. Mary Abbott

    If the goal of merit pay is truly to reward effective instruction it is a good idea. In the past many times very few teachers were considered worthy of "Merit" because the real goal was to avoid raising taxes for teacher pay even if the teachers deserved it.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  50. E;izabeth Fuller

    The political fallout should have nothing to do with this. Merit pay for teachers is a bad idea, period. Teaching is an extremely difficult job, and making it competitive only makes it harder. Favoritism can be shown by assigning the smartest, most well-behaved children to friends. Teachers may be less willing to help others if it means less pay for them and more for the ones they help. Schools should be places of cooperation, not competition.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  51. Ron Glenn

    Being that education is the only hope we have to demands of country, growth and a wasted government. I agree with the concept of merit for performance. We already know what we have now, so I believe we should go for it.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  52. independent4ever los angeles, ca

    While this can be viewed as a good idea in theory, I am not certain that it would work out in practice. Also, teaching is one of the lowest paid and least respected professions out there. A merit pay plan could perhaps turn what should be an honorable profession into a win at all costs Wall Street mentality. Obama lost a lot of my respect when he proposed this. He's just going ahead and alienating a lot of those who supported him.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  53. Sean

    I'm a graduate student who will be looking for a career in a few months. When I'm doing a job search, one of the top three factors I look at is salary. While merit-pay will result in overcompensating bad teachers in the short term, it will benefit our educational system in the long run by attracting a broader range of qualified applicants. Arguing against merit-pay is a serious indictment of our competition-based labor society that exists among most job sectors.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  54. George G

    I've always thought merit pay for teachers was a bad idea. It appeared subjective in nature and I doubted all teachers would be equally considered. Special Education to Trig or Basketball to the first grade classroom.
    However, I feel Obama has proven capable of addressing this issue and probably has as good a start for a merit pay system as anyone ever has so lets try it.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  55. Scott Whitaker

    Merit pay for teachers would be a fine idea–if is well-implimented. The entire point of having a public school system is to ensure that we have equal opportunity for all children to get a high quality education. If we give merit pay based on test performance, the best teachers will all flock to the schools which are already performing well on standardized tests: rich neighborhoods. The last thing we need is a mass exodus of good teachers from poor schools.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  56. Felipe Cuello

    There's few things better for a youngster than a good teacher, same way there's few things worse than a bad one. Any program that reward the teacher that goes the extra mile is a good program. Screw the teacher's unions. Educated people vote democrat anyway.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  57. Marsha

    Merit raises opens the doors to personality contests which are not a good thing.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  58. claire--wichita

    Absolutely. Pres. Obama promised to give it to us straight–not coddle supporters. I think that represents true change in Washington. Further, merit pay is a wonderful thing. Why should a teacher surfing to retirement get paid the same as one who truly tries to engage students?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  59. Rose Knotts

    Merit pay for teachers SOUNDS like a good idea, but how are special education teachers evaluated, speech therapists, counselors, etc. Pres needs to get some teachers involved to discuss educational reform And, eliminate a lot of the top-heavy administrators.

    Rose, London

    March 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  60. Mark, Newburgh, NY

    I am a teacher who has won many awards for my teaching and am very respected in my community…but I am against the idea of merit pay. Administrators will use it to reward favored teachers and punish those who are on the edge, the ones who are most daring and try innovative techniques in their class. Administrators will give the teachers they don’t like the worst classes to ensure that their results are not up to par with those they do like. I have seen it happen already, without merit pay. Also, a teacher’s classes can vary from year to year, rendering the idea of tying pay to standardized test results ridiculous. You’ll have teachers teaching only to the test, and no real education will take place. It will also encourage cheating by teachers to inflate grades to make their numbers look better. Again, I have seen this happen even without merit pay. The whole system needs to be gutted and rebuilt.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  61. Henry David on waldon pond

    2 wrongs never make a right.
    HOWEVER 3 lefts do.
    so those are Test the Teachers like we test the
    Students, then test the Material used to teach
    the Students, and pay for the best.
    those 3 lefts will be a right.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  62. Brandon from Colorado

    Going against his democratic constituents is a perfect example of Obama's attempt to be bipartisan when trying to fix the countries numerous problems. The problem with his plan, however, is that a student's failure is not always the teachers fault. Students can sometimes be completely un-cooperative when it comes to their education. Even the best of teachers can be dragged down by these students and Obama needs to consider that before setting up a merit system that might punish teachers who worked hard and only failed to teach their students due to some of the children's unwillingness to work.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  63. Pat B.

    All jobs should be merit based. CEOs, teachers even police, longevity does not equate to quality. Often it promotes just the opposite!

    Do a good job be rewarded! Do a bad job, get with the program or go elsewhere. Our children deserve the best not just the leftover teachers that are hanging on for a bigger pension. Some have not changed there teaching methods in decades!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  64. Kris, Washington

    Until performance is tied back to the classroom–to teachers–dumping more money into education is worthless. Good for President Obama! Quality teachers in classrooms being rewarded for performance! It's time we ran our schools like a business based on the output not keeping poor performing teachers employed for 25-30 years! Isn't this about our young people receiving a quality education where they are prepared to be successful when they leave the K-12 system, career and/or college ready.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  65. Fran Clingerman

    Yes, its a wonderful idea. I was once informed when my daughter was in the 3rd grade that it was the teachers job to facilitate. No more no less. I want a teacher that wants to TEACH. If they are only there because they think its a income they can count on, then they do not belong. I miss the days when the teachers actually took time out of their day to help a student.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  66. Roy Chardon

    Performance-based "bonuses" have caused the degeneration of executives into crime. Teaching to the test has been demonstrated where teachers or schools suffer based on performance measures of one kind or another. Discover the real problem rather than attaching a capitalist band aid.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  67. dave depree phd education

    horrible idea. been tried for decades always failed. pay for performace fails to understand the system's input on performace. insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  68. Diane Dagenais Turbide

    Hi Jack,

    I could write for hours on school reform! Do you know why? Because it is about society reforms! Yes, we all know bad teachers...but if they passed their diplomas we have to look at what made them be this way and if they were bad to begin with; with no talent then there is a need for better communication in telling people another career path would be better for you! I do not personnaly beleive in dividing teachers between good and bad since we are already divided enough as a society!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  69. Ruth Zahnd

    It is about time that we put some pressure on teachers. I believe in good education and I believe teachers can motivate students. I had three very bright children to raise as a single mother and I sacrificed my life for their education. I am proud today that they are making it in this recession. It is time that high schoolers get a higher education and be challenged so we can elect smart people to run our country.
    To pay a higher salary to good teachers is fair, the others have to either shape up or be canned.
    Ruth Orange, Va

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  70. Sheri in Tennessee

    Jack, as a former public school teacher, I have deep reservations about merit pay. The dirty secret in schools is that too many administrators would base merit pay on personal attributes of teachers. Of course, teachers themselves know that the problem in education isn't the absence of merit pay, but with parents and guardians who think their kids' education is someone else's responsibility.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  71. Liz, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

    Merit pay is an excellent idea for teachers who excel in their teaching capabilities – who better than the President to take on such a large group of voters? There should be some way to get rid of terrible teachers and reward those that are wonderful teachers.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  72. Kit Carson

    What an exceptionally shallow question about a very deep problem in our society. Who cares about how it afffects Obamas political standing, how about what it means for students. I am a teacher and I believe the money would be better spent hiring more teachers. Lets try to keep the discussion focused on how it affects our schools instead of the politicians.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  73. farbeda

    This would then be the only job whose pay depends upon the performance of someone else – the students. I was a teacher for 2 years and it was a snake pit. Some students were great, but the others disrupted class, failed tests simply by not completing them and generally couldn't have cared less. I've been cursed out by parents (which explains their children's behavior) and told by the administration (ie. principal) just pass them. However this principal did really care that I didn't wear enough make-up or accessories. Until the parents step up to the plate, blaming and penalizing teachers will further demoralize them. How is this equitable?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  74. Carl

    While I support the President, this is one idea that I cannot say will work. Can you attract enough quality teachers to teach special ed or work in an inner city school, when it's hard enough to bring about achievement in those given areas? The answer is no; rather than focusing on merit pay maybe we should direct our resources toward grant money that would aid school districts whose resources are strained by unfunded mandates like No Child Left Behind. But as it stands I fear the current proposal would do the opposite of what Obama intends.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  75. Melissa

    If the merit pay is based on standardized testing, then absolutely not. It would likely drive good teachers out of poorer areas who can't afford the fancy textbooks and SmartBoards that help keep students engaged. I hate the myth that low test scores = bad teachers. More often then not, they are good teachers who simply have high expectations for their students, who are trying to discourage slacking and sliding by. I would hate to see teachers lower their standards to coddle students just to make an few extra thousands per year.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  76. Christine Fransen

    I am a veteran teacher of 33 years. I have taught all socio-economic groups. I can tell you that good teachers will not go to impoverished schools to teach if merit pay is passed. Teachers cannot get the same test score improvements in school where there is poverty. Students who are not nutured at home cannot have the same success as students from flourishing homes. There must be a better answer to keeping the best teachers. Only fabulous teachers should have contracts renewed and all teachers benefit financially.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  77. Michael

    The main problem with the concept of merit pay is that all the studies show the major indicator of a child's performance isn't the teacher it is the parent. How about a tax credit for parents for high performing kids that at least will not punish teachers who already take a cut in pay to work in impoverished inner city and rural schools.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  78. Don Lohrey, St. Paul, Mn

    I generally agree with anything the teacher's union opposes, but it would be difficult to grade teachers mired in an inner city school, with poor facilities and no support from the students' homes. I would applaud an easier road to the dismissal of poor teachers, longer school days and an abreviated summer vacation. With so little time actually spent in the classroom these days, its a wonder that our students do as well as they do.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  79. Patricia Keith

    Got get them President Obama. It is about time someone took on our broken educational system. I am 59 years old. As a child I hungered for a better educational system. When my son graduated college, I continued to hunger for a better educational system. By the time the 3 rd generation arrives, I hope I can look at my grandchildren and say you are so lucky to be going to school in the USA.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  80. Linnea

    It isn't a teacher's fault, nor should they be punished, when a student fails to complete homework, study for a test or show up for class.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  81. Dale Johnson


    I think you hit it on the head. How can he use the argument with teachers that, "failure should not be rewarded," when the top players on Wall Street that bilked the U.S. and ultimately the world out of billions of dollars walk free and are still in their positions? Granted, public schools are already a quasi-government system, but I won't be satisfied until the guys at AIG and the top investment houses are in jail cells.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  82. Steven Nathanson

    I respectfully disagree with you about merit pay for two reasons. One, merit pay is one of those ideas which sound good and plays well to the public, but is difficult to implement. You have to establish sound criteria for getting the pay. Too often, merit pay is linked to test scores or performance on standardized tests which results in teachers teaching for a test, not educating children. As a former teacher, administrator and now professor of education, I have yet to see a merit pay system which effectively identifies and rewards peak performers in the teaching profession.
    Secondly, Barak Obama is not taking on his supporters. He has a sincere desire, I believe, to provide better education for all. Early childhood education, smaller and more effective experimental schools...these are legitimate proposals. His supporters, the professional educators, are waiting to work with him on this.

    Steven Nathanson

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  83. helen

    When people talk about bonuses for successful teachers, you are making certain assumptuions: all children learn at the same rate; all children come to the teacher with the same set of abilities. When we can arrive at a fair playing field, all teachers should welcome this bonus.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  84. Ellie Andover, MA

    Merit pay for teachers is a very good idea, but how do you stop favoritism that goes on in all businesses? I've seen some pretty stupid people rewarded only because they fit in with some boss. Will there be some guidelines?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  85. Brenda from Georgia

    One cannot see the value of education through the test results of teenage children. One cannot measure the value of an unfinished product. One can only see the results when that child has become an adult. One can only see the value of his/her education when one can see what he/she has become as an adult and what he/she contributes to society. There is no "immediate gratification" to education (public or private). One must look for that delayed gratification. The good that a teacher provides lives AFTER him/her. Many of us do not live long enough to see that GOOD.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  86. Sue

    As a retired teacher, I applaud President Obama's stance on the deadwood in the public school system, but who is going to make the decision about who is going to go and who is going to stay. This will be a problem not easily solved. Will the administration, fellow teachers, parents, or a combination of these groups axe those who are not performing. Grudges, personalities, friendships may come into play. If the outcome depends on test scores, those responsible for choosing will have to look at the makeup of the classes that person has taught.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  87. Joan, Westbury, NY

    All raises should be based on merit. There is no incentive to do a good job if you are handed a raise for a bad job. No profession or sector should get across the board raises.

    Joan, Westbury, NY

    March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  88. Steve

    How about instead of giving more money to teachers we give money for better students? If students earned money for the grades they make, it'll give them incentives to make better grades, which is what we really want. I think we should try that policy instead, as it will directly effect the students. Giving more money to teachers to get better students is like giving more money to corporate executives to get better employees. Look at how that worked out for us in this economy.

    Belle Glade, FL

    March 11, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  89. jeff lady

    Absolutely! I shifted mid-career from practicing law to become a teacher because that is what our next generation needs. There are so many hoops I have to go through just to be able to teach. I'm now back in school at age 44 getting my teaching certification in a 2 1/2 year program. All of this so that I can meet standards to be a highly qualified teacher even though I already have a post-graduate degree. It is nice to know that all this work along with me stepping up to the plate when it is over might actually be rewarded.
    Jeff Lady, Roeland Park, Kansas

    March 11, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  90. Mark of Normal, IL

    Mr. Cafferty,

    The President is on the right track. However, faculty in higher education are not considered and people do not realize that many faculty put in as much time as PK-12 teachers. As a professor in a state university, I make less than the average salary of the local primary/secondary teachers. I am respected by students and colleagues, but low pay is a concern for my small family. The merit pay system needs to include smaller public higher education institutions. Not large land grant universities where professors teach 3-6 credits and make six figures. We need a reason to stay in higher education and unfortunately low faculty salaries are not keeping up with public school districts in many instances. A merit system should be worked out for exceptional higher education faculty, too. Sorry Jack, no witticisms in this one. This is my family I am thinking about. It is tough for millions of Americans right now. More people are going to be going to higher education or returning to higher education to make them marketable. Faculty at all levels should be considered. I know this will not make it on the ‘air’ but thank you for letting me add my thoughts to the topic.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  91. Marilyn Jenkins

    Absolutely, we need merit pay for teachers...poor teachers have long been a part of our "education" problem and have stayed in the system due to tenure but never being evaluated for quality classroom performance.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  92. Cynthia

    Merit pay is a great idea, but not linear. When a child succeeds at reading in 4th grade, how do you determine if it is the cumulative effort of the K-3 teachers – or perhaps an art teacher who helped motivate and focus the child, not the reading teacher? Already teachers are hesitant to take in special needs and at-risk students – won't they opt even more for students with greater chances of success, coming from homes where parents are reading/educated, etc. We have tried merit pay in varied forms and it creates ill will (teachers stop sharing best practices), left hard to teach children 'unwanted', and resulted in even more 'teaching to the test' practice. Teachers are good professionals, but even they will work the system if it means their salary is impacted.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  93. Von

    As the son of two teachers, it seems odd to penalize teachers that choose to work at underprivileged and underfunded intercity public schools. Even the best teachers can be ineffective without cooperation from parents and school administrators. Merit pay would only work if all schools, districts and communities were equal.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  94. Bob

    So called "merit pay" is a lousy idea because it's almost never given objectively. Just as in the private sector, it usually has more to do with who sucks up best or who can "game the system" best then with who actually performs best. The objective criteria by which teachers can be evaluated are way to difficult to measure. Too often, teachers are required to teach to a test and six months later students retain almost nothing of what they learned. Read W. Edwards Deming before adopting a "merit pay" system. Focus on teamwork and adopting meaningful objective evaluation criteria rather then fostering competition among teachers for so-called merit pay.

    Merit systems almost always result in low moral and poorer performance by the employees subjected to them.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  95. margaret Irvine

    Just remember the test results in a Title One School are gping to be far different than that of the perfect school with kids from perfect homes..

    Reward the teachers who teach in the less than perfect environments otherwise the younger teachers will flee the challenging classrooms.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  96. Lynn

    Absolutely! A tremendous amount of work needs to be done to restore our educational system. Educators who rise above the status quo in educating our children should be rewarded. They go the extra measure for our children - the least we can do is go the extra measure for them.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  97. Jeff in MA

    As a teacher who gives his all and is exhausted by paying off debt for a required masters degree and barely making ends meet all while attempting to better society at its base I welcome the notion of merit pay. The fact that my colleagues who reject such notion either know something I don't , are beaten and sarcastic or are lousy teachers who don't want to do there jobs with the same passion that most of us do. If Obama plans things out well, the base that either change or wake up one morning a republican.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  98. Darryl


    It will be refreshing if President Obama has the onions to push through on this issue. It absolutely amazes me that we continue to fund public schools that are utterly failing our children. There are a lot of reasons for the failure, not the least of which are the obstructionist tactics of the NEA that continue to push back against change. If public schools were a commercial enterprise, they would have forced into bankruptcy 30 years ago (barring a government bailout, of course). There are examples around the country of successful teaching models. Why have these models made so little inroads into the mainstream of public education? Hmmm...who not ask the NEA.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  99. Jim


    There are few things in this world more subjective than determining who the good teachers are. Beyond the problem of who decides, merit pay may sound good, but it opens up a Pandora's box of unintended consequences, such as lowering teacher morale (good teachers, particulary young ones, are often burdened with problem students), undue emphasis on test scores, temptations to game states' testing regimes to secure higher pay, and more. For many proponents this would be just another way to hit the teacher unions.

    Jim McGill
    St. Pete Beach, FL 33706

    March 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  100. Mike Bullis

    Your story about the governor who says we're "printing money" needs some facts behind it. The news question is: So, are we just "printing money" or are we selling bonds to back our expenditures? The two are very different. In the first case more dollars in circulation means less value for every dollar. In the case where we sell bonds, the risk of inflation is still a factor but different
    in that we're at least obligating ourselves to pay back the money. So, to what extent are we printing money and to what extent are we borrowing money?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  101. Harold Markham

    Mr. Obama needs to talk to the teachers rather than the school administrators in order to find the real truth as to why our kids are not getting a good education. The school boards are just looking for more money to waist. The teacher really do care about the kids.

    Harold- Waxahachie, Tx

    March 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  102. Sally

    No. The class make up can be manipulated. Who and what determines "progress"? This will stop sharing between teachers, and put them in competition. What about teachers with an abundance of disabled students? What about teachers who have students who might become ill during the school year? Both these factors can have a profound effect on testing.
    If administrators already have the means to dismiss teachers on basis of planning, instruction, record keeping.
    Just because a politician went to school does not mean that they can teach school. There is a connection between teacher and student that creates a positive learning environment and it is NOT measured by statistics. Politicians should look at Bloom's Taxonomy, including the affective domaine, the area that is SO neglected by politicians.
    The politicians might want to spend some extra time on protecting the coast, defending the borders, and regulating the economic infrastructure instead of making the public believe every teacher is a slacker.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  103. Paula in Albuquerque

    An EXCELLENT idea! Have you LISTENED to the way youngsters verbally express themselves, these days?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  104. Sally Dawson

    Strong teaching skills are needed in the class room, however, teachers can only do so much. Teachers cannot go home with the students and turn off the TV and the video games, and make sure kids get healthy meals. How does Pres. Obama plan on making parents to start parenting? Parents have to do their part. Turn off the TV and the Video games and make students do their home work. Teachers cannot do it all, yet they are being ask too.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  105. Trev in Vancouver

    In the elexion one third of states wid highest education level voted Obama and one third wid lowest education level voted McCain. President Obama's push to improve education is a nefurious plot for Democrats to monopoly power. Stop educatin the people for GOP's sake!!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  106. Juan Subirana

    As you said, the devil's in the details. As a teacher and now an Administrator in a large, very diverse NYC high school, the discussion has been this: Everyone wants to measure performance by test scores but no one wants to take into account the large percentage of English language learners in our school who will not perform well on tests nor the large number of immigrant teenagers we get each year who barely have a third or fourth grade education in their native language and can't perform well. So what kind of merit pay is proposed for the teachers who work so hard with these children. And let's not forget all the external bagge many students come into our schools with. Other issues need to be addressed to improve student performance and it doesn't begin with pay scales.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  107. Karen Solverson

    I think it is great to urge all teachers to reach for higher standards, but there are a few things most people may not consider. Often, a teacher who is really good at working with at-risk students will get a higher load of students with special needs. In the end, that teacher may see fewer substantial gains with their students compared to someone down the hall who could be teaching the AP Chemistry class. There are some years, too, where a certain class just really struggles, and as they pass from grade to grade, their reputation follows. We have all experienced this in our own lives......some classes were labeled by other students in the school.....some had a lot of leaders, some classes were labeled partiers, some were more academic. There are too many variables in a classroom to pin a pass/fail on a teacher. There are review processes in place, so now if the school would be able to bypass the union JUST A BIT to allow some consequences based on a tested method of teacher evaluation, we might be able to get somewhere with teachers who need to move on to another profession. There are so many teachers out there doing an outstanding job, so without throwing more money at the problem, just find a way to make the union stop protecting the ones who have blatantly not met the standards as established by the state and/or district.

    Karen S. – Viroqua, Wisconsin

    March 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  108. Donna S

    Merit pay for teachers would be great if we lived in a perfect world. In the real world, who is going to teach the kids with special needs if your pay is based on their achievement? How will the merit pay be decided? On test scores, grades or principal evaluations? If it is based on test scores, guess what teachers will do all year...teach the test. If it is based on grades, teachers will pass every student, regardless of whether they learned anything. If it is based on principal evaluations, you have to assume that every principal has the students best interest in mind and not what NCLB demands or what the parents demand or what the school board demands. His job depends on all of these things, not on whether the students learn anything. How about merit pay for principals and administrators? Let the teachers rate them and see what happens!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  109. dave depree phd education

    one idea study the best performers in the world and see what they are doing to get the results in the classroom. it will be revealing to our so called experts in education.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  110. Keith Dash (Texas)

    Obviously they did not have standarized test in Hawaii when Obama was a student. Merit pay will be judged on these results and learning will be put aside while teachers prepare their students to extend their pay. How does this move our country forward?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  111. HamRadioWD9HOT

    Yes Jack, I think Incentive pay for teachers is a great idea, Still, I would sure like to be that fly on the wall at teachers lounges around the country.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  112. Diane Dagenais Turbide


    I read your comment about your personal life and of course also made connections since my father, uncles and grandparents were all alcoholics. I guess some connections were also made since I have an idea of the life as a daughter living with alcoholism but also as an adult who promised to herself not to repeat this living. Thanks for your authenticity!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  113. Chris

    I voted for Barack Obama and I fully supports him in everything else but this. I work in the school system and rewarding good teachers are hard to measure. If a teacher work in a school which has low economic students, the teacher can be punished for working in that school. This bill is going to cause teachers to leave low economic schools. I hope Barack Obama change his mind.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  114. Pam

    I am a teacher in the Philadelphia Suburbs. Let Mr. Obama walk one year in my footsteps and see how much merit pay he deserves. Students are not cogs and cannot be taught the same way year after year. Each year we get a new "product" that is unlike any we have seen before. I like that Mr. Obama would like to get more parents involved. I bet if he raised taxes on the parents of students who didn't achieve then maybe teachers would see a difference in student motivation in our classrooms. Teachers are doing everything we can and much much more. Wouldn't it be interesting if Congress and the President had to take, pay, and PASS classes every five years to keep their jobs instead of having a popular election?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  115. Carol in Idaho


    1. Getting rid of bad teachers is a good idea. Let's apply the same standard of performance to the financial wizards and incompetent regulators who created this mess. Oh wait. . . those people are still in charge and got rewarded.
    2. Getting rid of bad teachers is a good idea. Makes you wonder why more administrators and school boards don't do it. Oh wait. . . those people spend very little time in classrooms. How would they know a good teacher from a bad one?
    3. Giving teachers merit pay is a good idea. I teach US history. It's an entry level class. I have students who are totally non verbal, paraplegic and can't lift a pencil or use a keyboard, on a respirator and require a full time medical attendant –among others. I'll admit it, they don't do all that well on standardized tests. The teacher across the hall from me teaches Advanced Placement calculus and his students do great on standardized tests. He has no handicapped students. Who gets the merit pay?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  116. Dan (Minneapolis)

    Merit pay can work, but Obama must first ensure that this isn't going to destroy inner city schools. There must be a way to account for a teacher's effectiveness in relation to the type of students they are dealing with. A teacher will "teach" better in the suburbs than in the inner city based on test scores. This is dangerous as it promotes the best teachers to the suburbs so they can get their maximum pay. This will put worse teachers in the inner city and those schools will fall even further. We need to increase all funding to education, but focus on lifting our inner city PUBLIC schools. Struggling schools need more teachers and programs. Merit pay will not give either of these.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  117. Barbara

    Hi Jack,
    ABSOLUTELY!!! Unfortunately, I have encountered a few lazy teachers throughout my life, and the only ones to suffer are the kids (oh and I guess the taxpayers that pay their salaries). I believe some of the bad teachers become lazy after they receive their tenure. Although, there are teachers that just can't teach and shouldn't. However, I also believe that tenure only promotes laziness. Please, tell me in what occupation can you be guaranteed a job for the rest of your life? Not to mention, a pension and I believe never a pay cut. The rest of the real world endures a constant threat of a job loss or pay cuts, and you can only succeed by doing an exceptional job. Why shouldn't a teacher be judge for merit.

    Barb in NJ

    March 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  118. Bob from New Brighton

    It sounds good until you try to figure out who will choose what deserves merit pay and how much. It would be better to get rid of tenure and get rid of those who can't or don't want to teach. Pay should be determined by skill and nothing else. I know kindergarden teachers that make $85,000 a year for 180 days of work. There are others in poorer districts that could never earn that much no matter how good they are or what grade they teach.
    Maybe the answer is a national scale. Who could sqwalk because all of them get and accept federal monety to operate so we should have a voice in compensation. That would sure go a long way towards equalizing education all over the country.
    Equal work deserves equal pay.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  119. Brian, Buffalo, NY

    Jack, this is commonsense and one hopes that teachers will have the commonsense to realize it. If some don't, then maybe they deserve to be eased out. Our kids deserve the very best we can give them and, somewhat selfishly, we need a well-educated generation to cope with the mess being left to them by an age that was blinded by greed.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  120. Margaret Holdeman

    President Obama should explore merit pay for teachers "even if it means the president is taking on one of his biggest groups of supporters" if that is something he believes will improve public schools. BUT just using test scores is NOT a valid way of judging a teacher's merits. Not all groups of students start in the same place, have the same opportunities, the same family support, etc. Even if a group of students starts out as high scoring, it often will prove to be more difficult to show large improvements. How can all the variables be judged and assigned merit in a non-subjective, VALID manner?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  121. Antonio from Uniontown PA

    Merit pay is a good idea but an ineffective one. The schools that have the best teachers also have the money to hire the best teachers. In this case the money would go to those who don't need it. Schools which are struggling financially such as inner city schools are the ones which need the most help and subsequently have the teachers with the worst performance grades. If Obama wants to help the schools he should crack down on nepotism which gets under qualified relatives hired instead of good teachers, and changing the community outlook on education so that children in troubled areas can see a potential dividend on their time spent in schools. Education needs revolution not just change.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  122. Karen McC, Beaverton, Oregon

    Merit pay in the current "dumbed down" educational system will only encourage more teachers to "teach to the test" not do a better job of getting students to think or acquire worthwhile life skills. The tests used currently were developed during "No child left behind" and really do not measure achievement. The "basic" skills appropriate for surviving in the mid 20th century are outmoded now. We need an educational overhaul from the bottom up, not from the top down.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  123. Rex Phelps

    I am a teacher in an urban school in Florida. Our mix is about 50/50 white to black, but my classes are about 70/30 black to white. Merit pay for me is far different than for a teacher in a school that is not "free and reduced lunch" qualified. What people want is to have college ready students, but I have 73% of my students reading far below the 10th grade level. Whose fault is that? I get them and have to get them to a level that they should have reached in the fifth grade. You would think that it would be easy to make great gains, but it just isn't the way it works.

    The President's problem is with the administration of the schools, not the teachers. Anyone who has spent five minutes in a classroom like mine will see it. The NEA already knows this but the mantra of the school administrators is to put down the teachers, not take accountibility for lack of discipline and lack of planning. The President would get more traction if he recognized classroom teachers to solve the problem rather than "wiz kids" who got extra mail order diplomas to get out of the classroom. A Masters Degree in Ed Leadership is an oxymoron!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  124. dave depree phd education

    hey take a look at how well pay for performance has worked on wall street and the banks and at the big three. enough said.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  125. Nurse Timothy

    Sure, Jack, at least the good teachers will keep supporting him.

    Maybe our high school graduates will be able to graduate nursing school at greater than 25% success rate.

    Conditions might be helped enough that greater than 50% of new RN's will remain in the profession.

    The nursing shortage has more causes involved, but this could have potential to really help.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  126. DSL1

    Take the log out of your own eye before attempting to remove the splinter from your neighbor’s eye. If President Oboma can take the politics out of politics, then I'll believe he can do the imposible with the school systems. I have a master's in education and yet I could not get a job as a full time teacher because of politics. It's not what you know or how good you are, it's who you know. I was a swimming teacher for about 13 years and all the other swim instructors would always ask me how I was able to get them all to learn and have fun. I tried to show them, but that's just something that you either have it or you don't. Why penalize teachers for a subjective report on their teaching abilities. You will never get an objective report when talking about a job of any kind.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  127. Lisa Heck

    There are inept teachers at every high school. I say let the students provide feedback on teaching skills and expect principals to take action. There is no fair measurable way to judge quality of teaching. In my opinion, the ones that teach lower level core courses should be given fewer students plus the resources to get effort from students likely to fail. I love President Obama but don't think merit pay based on student performance would ever work as he hopes!

    Hillsboro, Oregon

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  128. kellye

    Not only do teachers deserve more pay, the students deserve more teachers. The ratio of 1:20 is ridiculous. If the ratio was 1:5 all students would have the opportunity to excell at their own pace and interests.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  129. Deb (New York)

    Finally a President who cares about the middle class and their children. I believe there are a lot of great teachers and like all else, there are a few bad apples. Teachers protect our most worthy asset; the future of this country and they should therefore be paid accordingly. We should not scimp on teacher's salaries.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  130. John in Simi Valley, CA

    Merit Pay?

    231 out of 970 teachers in my community of Simi Valley, CA are being given pink slips tomorrow. That's an overall reduction of almost 25%. How can anyone justify merit pay when we can't afford to keep the teachers that we have.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  131. Richie

    Jack, my mom is 52. She teaches autistic children and comes home everyday so tired, that she can't even stay up to watch "Dancing With the Stars." She gets battered, bitten, slapped, snotted on and cleans up the kid's waste. Her job only pays her $25,000 a year. Obama better get this one right. You mean to tell me that if the autistic children don't stop biting, my mom doesn't get a pay raise? This plan should be based on effort and work ethic, not on a child's performance regardless of brain capacity. Love you mom!!!

    Ardsley NY

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  132. Elaine

    The best teachers are those who teach from love for learning. No one goes into teaching for the money, but some go into teaching because they can't figure out anything else to do. Those who feel compelled to teach are usually the better teachers. They deserve to receive better salaries if they do a better job of teaching. On the other hand, I feel that standardized testing is not a good measure of how well a teacher teaches. Standardized tests could be better implemented by giving them once in September and again in May. The comparison of scores by each student would give a good measure of how well the teacher taught.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  133. Cliff Claven

    I'm a mathematician and there are techniques to predict results or outcomes, given a set inputs that can be economic or cultural factors. Factor Analysis is one such method. But predictive techniques require lots of test data to identify the factors that produce the best outcome. So where is the evidence that test scores improve with a known set of teaching methods ? There aren't any, because there are too many external influences that effect student perfomance. Some of those external influences include family income, genetics, and family support. None of these are withing the control of the teaching profession. What will happen is teachers will feel they have to teach to improve performances on the standardized tests and not teach to help students learn.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  134. Richard Marshall, Orlando, FL

    As a current teacher, I do not agree with the Presidents merit pay proposal. On my annual evaluations from my Principal, she ranks me as one of the best in her school (and if not the top tier in my district). I chose to teach in an inner city school with high level of poverty and most of my students come from broken families. I know I have a great impact on the students there, and I feel it would be unfair for my salary to be based on student achievement. An average teacher at a high rated upper middle class school on paper would look like they out perform me due to the different environments resources available to the students. If that were the case I might as well just find me the best rated school in my city to guarantee my pay and job security and not take a chance with the other students in need.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  135. Anthony...Swedesboro, NJ

    As the Unions have made them more and more untouchable, teachers act as day care providers. You know, throw the students a coloring book, make sure you don't hurt their feelings , be sure they're fed, sit at your desk all day, and send them on their merry way. Kids own the classrooms and teachers simply show up. It's a joke which won't be so funny as our country falls further behind the education curve.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  136. Joe


    Merit pay for teachers is no better, than merit pay for broadcasters. Who is to decide which teachers are doing well when they 120 individual students in their classrooms, each with their own problems. We cannot generalize or place total responsibility upon teachers.

    Whenever someone is graded in a subjective manner there will always be favorites! Student scores on national tests may not reflect how well the student is taught. In other words Jack, there are too many variables to decide who is teaching well and who is not; except, on occasions when the teachers are blatantly not doing their jobs.

    It is nice to sit back and judge, but if you place yourself in a teacher's position, then perhaps you may think twice about "so called merit pay?"
    Joe, Binghamton, NY

    March 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  137. Steve Burns

    Jack, I am a former teacher. I have my doubts about merit pay. It all depends on how it will be given out. I can see it being abused by administrators who have favorite teachers. It can not be done subjectively. I realize teachers should all be well trained but where does parental responsibility come in. I can work as hard as possible in the classroom but if homework and other things are not valued by parents then what are we to do. Parents have to take a huge role in their child's education if things are going to get better.


    March 11, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  138. Mitch

    Yes. Teaching is as patriotic as any profession and doing it successfully should be a fundamental responsibility for all teachers. Rewarding them, even at the expense of some supporters, is a true golden parachute to the middle class.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  139. Sue

    P.S. I want to add that sometimes good teaching does not always involve academic performance, but "life" inspiration as well. With those students good marks may come later on down the road. Saving a life may be as important as knowing how to add and subtract. I suspect that President Obama would find many, many good teachers out there who have to deal with more than one would find in an elite private school.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  140. Betty, San Diego, Ca.

    Teachers should be held accountable for performance and be subject to professional discipline and removal for incompetence like doctors, nurses, lawyer and other professionals. But there is a difference between a teacher's ability to teach and a student's ability and willingness to learn. Therefore, the criteria to determine whether a teacher has met their professional requirement to teach must be separated from a student's ability and willingness to learn.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  141. Linda/Bradenton, FL

    Absolutely! Why not give merit raises to those who do their job
    with commitment and dedication, not unlike working for any
    other corporation. Afterall, we parents put our children in their
    good (or not) hands to teach them skills for all our future years.
    And, it's the tax payer who provides their salaries....haven't we
    seen enough wasted tax dollars??
    Linda/Bradenton FL

    March 11, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  142. Jerald Wheeler

    A move has to be made in this direction, though a full sea change The teachers union is a necessary component in the dialog. But it sometimes takes on the attitude of a monopoly.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  143. Sharon

    If the TCAT (TX test) is not taken into account in judging teachers I would agree with giving the merit increases to teachers based on how their students are doing, however, when a teacher has to teach for this test they are not doing the students justice. Many children cannot test. They freeze up, but if you take their daily work they are many times B and C students....give them the TCAT and they cannot pass it and the teacher is judged on that one test. It is not fair to the child and it is not fair to the teacher.
    Woodville, TX

    March 11, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  144. Nora Fraser

    I agree with merit pay although I am from canada. However teachers should be evaluated on many levels-presentation, communication, participation in school activities, and test results could be part of a bigger package because the community and parents also contibute or take away from test results. How cana student learn successfully if his home circumstances are filled with dire circumstances. I t would be hard to set up the template for merit pay.
    from a retired teacher

    March 11, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  145. Melissa

    Merit pay is a wonderful idea! As a teaching student I am a big supporter. It is getting harder and harder for good teachers to find jobs. It isn't fair that teachers who have been teaching horribly for 10 or 20 years can still sit in a class room and draw a check and insurance for doing nothing! We need to move these teachers out of the system and put teachers, like myself, in their spots who aren't in it for the money but in it to educate America. I'm all for Merit pay!!


    March 11, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  146. Dave, Vancouver, Canada

    In principle, you bet! Paying teachers on merit is smart and bold. In practicality though, I fear the law of opposite outcomes may prevail. In politics we know the devil is in the details and so often great ideas result in exactly the wrong outcome. For example, what's to stop teachers from giving failing students passing grades to keep their jobs. Result: More ill-prepared students graduate and enter the workforce.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  147. jane Balfour

    Merit pay only if something is done about discipline in the classroom. Teachers cannot teach in a room full of thugs who obey no rules except those of their gang leaders. Worse yet are the parents who protest every time their little brats are disciplined. We need more strict discipline in the schools and parents who complain should have to substitute teach for a week so they can see first hand the problems of undisciplined students.

    It's NOT the teacher for the most part, it's the students and their overprotective, out of touch, in denial parents.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  148. Jim Grider


    As a conversative who didn't vote for Obama, I commend the president for his merit pay decision. If this country is going to regain its global competitive edge in areas like science and medicine, we have to start with the quality and effectiveness of our educators. Performance-based pay works in other occupations, so why not education? Now if we can just throw the UAW into that mix....

    Jim Grider
    Prior Lake , MN

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  149. Alex

    You wish...good teachers certainly deserve to make more money than bad ones, but that brings up another issue: What defines a good teacher? A teacher whose students get high scores on national exams may be considered a bad teacher for giving bad grades to students in class, and a teacher whose students fail national exams may be considered a good teacher for giving them high grades in class. Not to mention, we can't blame teachers for students who drop out of school at age 16. From an overall standpoint, the reason education in this country is falling behind is not that our teachers are falling behind. Anyone can be a good teacher. It is mostly that students are getting spoiled and slacking off. The solution? Enforce school attendance up through college instead of at age 16, for example. Put a higher tax on those who choose to drop out of school. Think of it this way: if the president's daughters fail in school, will he pressure them to work harder or will he fire their teachers?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  150. Dave - Montreal

    Wow! Rewarding achievement and not accepting failure.What a novel concept! Seriously though, I thought while growing up that's how the world worked because that's what I was taught. Amazing how our values and work ethic have changed in just a few decades.

    But even more of a novelty, a politician who follows through with policies based on his values and convictions on which he campaigned regardless of party affiliation.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  151. Abel P. Ochoa, McAllen, TX

    I am a Teacher's Union man and there is nothing wrong with merit pay if consideration is given to student rankings or standings. We need to recognize that it's not fair to evaluate teachers who have students who are ahead with teachers who have students who are behind in specific standings or levels. That is, not all students who are in specific classes or grades rank at the same level, understanding or needs. Doing this "special consideration" is where merit pay becomes complicated or difficult. We need to make sure that merit pay is fair to all teachers even those who have special need students.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  152. Matt Deller


    If the President's new merit-based pay plan for teachers in fact becomes law, then we better put into action an equally tough plan that rewards good parents who raise their kids to value education and respect their teachers and punish those who would rather sit back and allow public schools to raise their kids instead. I agree with Mr. Obama on many issues, but as a public school teacher, I must say that this is a terrible idea. If my pay is based on the quality of the product I turn out of my classroom, then I want the BEST raw materials walking in the door.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  153. Frederick M. Zoss

    As a former teacher from Sioux Falls, SD I think merit pay is an excellent idea. Lets start with merit pay for politicians in Washington and see if President Obama has the grit to take on those people.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  154. David from Tallahassee

    Jack, I'll bet you a box of doughnuts that if you take a class full of upper middle class kids with two parents in the home and compare it to a class of lower income kids from single parent homes, and then switch teachers, each time the teacher with the kids who have the two parents in the home will look like the superior teacher. Aren't we just rewarding the teachers who get kids from a better invironment?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  155. Nora Fraser

    I agree with merit pay although I am from canada. However teachers should be evaluated on many levels-presentation, communication, participation in school activities, and test results could be part of a bigger package because the community and parents also conttibute or take away from test results. How cana student learn successfully if his home circumstances are filled with dire circumstances. I t would be hard to set up the template for merit pay.
    from a retired teacher

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  156. Sharon S.

    There is nothing wrong with merit pay, unless it is used as a tool to undermine the collective bargaining rights of unions. I do have one problem with charter schools though. That is that while taxpayers are required to underwrite them with ever expanding local taxes, we have absolutely no say in how they are run. They should be subject to the local school board in some way, and they are not.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  157. Allen in Hartwell GA

    Jack, this is such a good idea that I think President Obama would gain two supporters for every one he loses. Why would the teacher's union not support this plan, unless maybe they are protecting under/non-performing teachers? Our children deserve better.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  158. L. Silva

    Merit pay for teachers is nothing but "political pork" in the education sector. I, as an educator, know that teachers that get rewarded are the principal's pets. Teachers will go as far as changing answers on students' tests to make themselves and the schools look good, and the principals will look the other way in order to get high marks recognition. Mr. Obama needs to call this "educational pork" rather than merit pay. In the end, the "students suffer!"

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  159. Eric Bracke, Fort Collins, CO

    It seems like a good idea, but merit pay always seems to backfire. A better question is "since when did the Federal Government get involved with the pay scales of teachers at the local level?" Doesn't each elected school board determine salaries of there employees?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  160. dan paton, from kingston, on, canada

    In theory, yes, it is a good idea. But how do you differentiate between good and bad teachers? Virtually every teacher is capable of teaching towards a standardized test, but only the good ones can go beyond the curriculum and make a real impact on their students. Without a reliable, objective way of identifying these teachers, this cannot work.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  161. Lydia

    What I'd like to know, Jack, is how is the Obama administration is going to determine what it means to be successful. If it means that students need to pass the standardized tests, then give me the tests and I'll teach them the answers. But what about the small accomplishments, like getting a student to come to school everyday or getting involved in community service. My fear is that merit pay will pit teachers against each other, encourage teachers to report on each other and create resentment. But my greater fear is that my taxes are paying for people to teach my children and they're not doing their job. This will not be easy– but school wasn't meant to be easy.

    Lydia, Portland, Maine

    March 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  162. Troy

    This is proof that Obama understands that our political system is broken. Neither party seems to have the right prescription for our country. Obama seems to be a pragmatist who's putting reason ahead of partisan politics. Besides, does anyone think that Obama could do anything that would make any of these left wing unions and special intrest groups ever vote republican. Perhaps his political ideology is similar to mine. "I'm not necessarily a democrat, but I'm definitely anti-republican."

    March 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  163. Tony in IL

    Absolutely, pay the teachers what they are worth. Growing up, Iv'e had some very good teachers and I have also had teachers that had no business teaching. This not only goes for k-12, but also colleges. I have also taken some college classes and I had a few teachers that may seem book smart, but they are idiots without the books. I personally know a teacher who has job hopped because she can't make it.......she just found out she isn't going back after the end of this school year, PBL didn't renew her contract.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  164. Vivian Hansten

    Dear Jack,
    This idea is good or bad depending on how the worthiness of the teacher is determined. If the principal decides who he likes and doesn't like, then it is a terrible porposition. If the teacher is graded only on test scores, that is not good either. What are the criteria: attendance numbers? discipline problems? parent comments? This can be a very touchy and unfair process. I'm a retired teacher. Most of my career I worked with a great staff and administration, but there were exceptions, and I would really hate to be judged competent or otherwise by a few of them.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  165. Jeanne Berrong

    Merit pay for teachers would be wonderful, but only if a teacher's effectiveness can be determined in a way that does not harm students. If merit pay is solely based on test scores, who will want to teach special ed students, at-risk students, English learners, and others who do not test well? Who will want to remain in a school that is having difficulty meeting its yearly goals? If you think we have a problem attracting qualified teachers now, imagine the fallout if a teacher's "worth" is determined by the test scores of their students.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  166. John Grinnell

    Yes, I think it s a good idea that the President seek merit pay for good teachers. Hopefully there are more good teachers than bad. Why should there job be guaranteed through tenure if that aren't teaching our children. I don't think your job is guaranteed, is it Jack?

    John from MI

    March 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  167. Janet Lichtenberg

    Yes, merit pay is a very good idea. There are many competent teachers and some less competent teachers. We need the very best people teaching our children. Merit pay would help in attracting the best people to the teaching field. In other areas of work a person can be fired for very insignificant reasons. Everyone would like job security but no one has it like teachers. Why should teachers have job security if they are less than competent?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  168. Brittany from Palm Beach, FL

    If the teachers unions think it is a bad idea to reward good teachers and get rid of bad one, I don't think that says anything good about our teachers unions.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  169. Navy_Chief


    I think merit pay for teachers that demonstrate an outstanding ability to reach out to their students and motivate them to learn is a great idea. Like any idea, however, the program must have adequate oversite to ensure that the money only goes to the best of the best.

    The problem with education today can not be attributed solely to poor teachers. Much of today's problems rest with parents who show little interest in their children's education.

    If we're going to fix our school system, we need the parents to take an interest in their children's future, as well.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  170. warren Loeffler

    Merit pay for teachers may seem like a good idea on the surface, but my experience as a teacher for 34 years begs the question of how it will be awarded and to whom. Most school administrators have little classroom experience, were never outstanding teachers to begin with and left teaching either for money and/or power or just because they were failed teachers. They would most likely corrupt the process through cronyism, manipulation or just plain sheer ignorance, not knowing good teaching if they tripped over it.
    "Teacher of Year" honorees, are usually give to teachers of the big 4, Math,Science, English, and Social Studies. It requires thinking out of the box to recognize outstanding teaching, in Special Education, Reading, or the Arts.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  171. Cassandra from Atlanta

    Teachers are on the front lines and if they are held accountable, the parents and principals, the people ultimately responsible for the children and schools, need to do their part as well. Parents mold the work ethic of their young ones and are often the primary problem when their spoiled children will not complete the minimum required. Principals are responsible for establishing a culture of discipline and academic excellence. Plop the best teacher in the world in a chaotic school with apathetic kids and they'll struggle to succeed.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  172. Mary Calderone

    Merit pay for teachers is all well and good when the teachers are all on an even playing field. For 35 yrs. I taught in an urban school district where I was teacher, mother, father, disciplinarian, friend and confidant for many of these children. I worked my tail off trying to teach these children. Unfortunately, most of my time was spent disciplining the children. I was doing things that parents should have done from the get go but didn't. Our test scores showed this and we had a "failing" school. Does this mean I was a bad teacher – I don't think so. But if I was being patd for the progress my students were making in academics, I would probably have to pay them – progress is not being made to the point of where it should be and NOT because I was a bad teacher. I would be penalized for teaching in an urban school disttrict. You CANNOT compare the progress of a suburban school with the progress in an urban school. There is one major difference and that is parental involvement. As is typical with government – it is so easy to say what should be – But what would they say or how would they do if they were in "my shoes" – On paper, they are looking at all public schools as being equal – too bad in reality they as as far apart as Harvard and a Community College. Thank you.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  173. Tom, Wichita KS

    In a perfect world, pay for teachers based on merit is a great idea. But, in a practical world, the problem is how do you get a meaningful measure of merit? How many of you have worked for and been rated by a boss who had never done your job, came from another unrelated department, and didn't have a clue about how to do a good job in your job. In addition, you had better normalize how well a teacher's students did at the end of the year by what kind of students he/she had at the start of the year (they don't all start out with students of the same capabilities). These problems are not peculiar to education.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  174. Lori, Dayton,Ohio

    Why should subpar teachers be allowed to keep teaching our kids?
    Why wouldn't we want to pay bonuses to the ones who inspire our kids to perform well and boot the teachers who don't do a good job?
    Get rid of the bad teachers so more great teachers can get a job and help to turn our educational system around!
    Accepting complacency gets us incompetance! Reward excellance and we will get more excellent teachers and more excellent students! Win-Win!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  175. paulette

    I agree with the president. I have seen some of these teachers during my years as a parent and have had to ask if they got their degree from K_MART this is really serious to pay teachers that are just there for the pay check. If having a baby doesnt make you a mother then the same is for teachers. Just because you went to school for teaching doesnt make you a teacher. I am glad they are checking out these teachers and putting them on notice. Do better or get another job. Our children deserve more

    March 11, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  176. Amy

    As a teacher, merit pay is a great idea. It is a huge motivator is most other professions, so why should teaching be any different, esp. since it is one of the greatest influences on the next generation. However, the problem lies in how merit pay will be evaluated or determined. NCLB was great in principal but got lost in translation as states chose to use superficial, non-research based methods for determining progress. If Pres. Obama gets legislation passed with merit pay for teachers, it should be based on proven methods and not solely on student acheivement. If it isn't, then it will create more problems that it solves.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  177. Pam

    Good grief "NO" merit pay is a lousy idea. Who would decide who gets the merit pay? Administrators? That's a laugh. They don't leave their office to observe teachers now, because if they did more teachers would be teaching.
    If Obama wants to buck the teacher's union (and I hope he does) he should get rid of the ridiculous protectionism teachers get wrapped with a bow called "tenure". No one and I mean NO ONE should get to keep a job just because they show up every day and don't molest someone.
    If a union carpenter shows up but doesn't do his job, or do it well, the company can ask him to leave. Not so with teachers.
    I should know. I'm a teacher and my husband a carpenter!

    PS Go to school year around – a lot of folks just drawing a paycheck will leave, students will reap the benefit of a stable environment year-around, tweens won't be running the streets and parents won't have to figure out what to do with their small children all summer!!!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  178. Jeff Mangold

    How do you measure merit? The answer is money should go for technology and smaller classroom sizes. Teachers should be required to have a masters before they can teach. This will weed out the ones who teach for their summers off. The best and the brightest don't go into teaching anymore, because the money is not there. Get the best and the brightest in the system with the tools to do so and you will see results. Although none of this will even work until students and parents are held accountable for their education. Mr. Obama, ask a bright student (instead of a union member) and you'll get a good answer of who is a good teacher.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  179. Ann

    I have mixed feelings about merit pay for teachers. One question I would ask is how are students and parents to be held accountable. Even the best teachers have students who, by choice, do not perform, turn in homework, cause classroom disruptions, etc. There are also parents who do not encourage their children or teach their children anything at home. They expect the schools to teach the academics and everything that should be taught at home, and then blame the teachers/schools when their children are not succeeding. How will such factors be figured into the equation of merit pay? Also, will success be measured in any way other that standardized tests? Teaching to the test in order to have students pass in occuring far to often in schools as it is,. Merit pay based only on test scores would only enourage this practice. If a good process for determinining successful teacher can be established, I think merit pay would be wonderful and greatly appreciated by deserving teachers. Working in the schools every day, I see the great teachers and have the utmost respect for them. They deserve the best!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  180. PatriCIA JONES

    My sister teaches first grade in an inner city school. She works twelve hours a day teaching children, many of who have one or both parents in prison. Many of her students were crack babies and what they learned on Friday, they've forgotten by the following Monday. She has few resources. She leans on friends and relatives to donate books to her class. And she has been known to bribe a janitor for extra desks when she's been given more students than there are desks. She is dedicated and brillilant with a sense of mission about the occupation of teaching and has many stories that would break your heart. How will she be assessed when it comes to merit pay, given the circumstances she works in? What teachers will be motivated to teach in these kind of schools, when your "results" will be so much more guaranteed in upper income schools? Like Obama. Not sure this is a good idea if you want to lift up the under-privileged. Maybe he should re-think.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  181. Marilyn, Powell Ohio

    Merit pay would not have to be a consideration if we would pay teachers a better wage to begin with, which would encourage more intelligent, caring individuals to enter this occupation. I am appalled at the salaries paid to college coaches, athletes, performers, etc. We have our priorities in the wrong place!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  182. Pugas-AZ

    Mert pay is probably a good idea to help retain top notch teachers. However, applying it correctly is a very dificult task. It must not be applied for the wrong reasons. It should be aimed at fostering positive results in the very basics of the learning process. After substitute teaching for a number of years, I got to see where the "fluff" in the classroom was and where the real meat and potatos of education were, and which teachers taught that way. Let's reward those who are teaching in the latter fashion.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  183. Sam, Quad Cities Iowa

    Merit pay for teachers will only work when teachers can choose the students that enter their classrooms. American public schools educate ALL children. AOur education system is unqiue because we educate all of our children not just those who excel. However, public schools are expected to motivate all students to meet the same standards and to achieve the same level of excllence. How is that possible? There are no simple answers to the complex question of how we make our schools the best in the world. But, we must continue to educate all of our children because education underscores our democracy. Merit pay for teachers will never make our schools better.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  184. Ken Wyatt

    Dear Jack. I agree we need to improve our education, and I am sure some teachers are not doing a good job. That said I have a friend who is a teacher in the NYC school system. This person is up untill 2 am each day marking papers or preparing lessons for the next 3 days, a requirement incase he is out sick. This person tells me that they spend most of their time trying to keep the kids in there seat or from fighting. If a fight breaks out he can not get involved, they must call security, who most times does not show up. Also this person spends about $1,000.00 a year out of there own pocket for school supplies. I know I am rambling on here, but I donot think the teachers are the problem here. Keep up the good work Jack. Ken NYC. PS what happend to the money from the NY lotterey to finance our school systems, into the general fund like everything else?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  185. Alton

    I think you said it best Mr. Cafferty! Obama is talking out of both sides of his mouth on several issues not just education. He gives the banks an out for bad budgeting and investments, yet is not considering some students just are not teachable. He is willing to say he does not want ear marks, yet signs a large package today full of them. He is trying to give everyone what they want so his own personal ratings seem high.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  186. Randall

    A merit pay system for teachers can only be a win, win for the educational system. Teachers unions, for the most part, work solely for the enrichment of its members and at the expense of student achievement. I am all for the President taking on these organizations for the betterment of education of our future generations.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  187. Angela Tacoma

    Jack, it is an excellent idea, do you know any one who does a good job and would not take a pay raise?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  188. Karen, Beaverton, Oregon

    Regardless of any political impact, merit pay in the current “dumbed down” educational system will only encourage more teachers to “teach to the test” not do a better job of getting students to think or acquire worthwhile life skills. The tests used currently were developed during “No child left behind” and really do not measure achievement. The “basic” skills appropriate for surviving in the mid 20th century are outmoded now. We need an educational overhaul from the bottom up, not from the top down.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  189. Jerry Jiang

    As an immigrant from Asia, it is very clear to me that the US public education system has been failing. The problem is not spending, it is the teacher, and the system producing teachers.
    It amazed me even more when I got to know that a middle school teacher teaches math, language arts, and science at the same time. I, and my Asian and European friends call this "ridiculous" and "no sense". It happens only in the US.
    It is even more unbelievable that some people are talking down about the standard tests. Is the test too difficult? Then, passing it means the students learn something. Is it too easy? Why not being able to pass it. In any education system, there has to be some "hard" standards which can be used to measure how the students have learned. The current tests may not be perfect, let's improve it. But it must be there.
    I believe that Obama's approach is a right way to fix the problem. Starting from teacher and the system producing teacher.

    Jerry Jiang

    March 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  190. claudia

    Jack, I agree with the teacher's union when they say that teaching is not a science but an art. But no matter what it's labeled, there has to be some way of diffentiating between good and bad teachers. The methods for determining pay have to be based on certain predetermined behaviors and teacher required performances as well as test scores of students. These tests must also take their students' abilities into consideration. Hopefully, teachers will be the responsible parties who create these merit criteria and not some bureaucrats who have never taught anything.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  191. suzy nelson

    Regarding the teacher merit discussion by Obama, I retired from teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District . My students in English classes only read at a third grade level when they started my classes. Only the top 5-10% were able to achieve even close to grade-level expectations due to their background. (Most were second generation Hispanics.)

    Regardless of how good my lessons were, there was a limit on how far these students could advance in one semester.

    Should teachers be fired who are in this position? If so, who would want to teach the kids that lacked the necessary background to excel?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  192. BJ

    The devil IS in the details. As you listen to the comparisons of public to charter schools. Don't forget that charters have the ability to choose the students they accept versus public and should therefore perform better. But I have not read where many charters teach to the"test" any better than public?.

    With the profit aspect of charters in mind, what happens to our constitutional guarantee of an education for ALL and for FREE from K-12. Hang in there publics. You are needed. Continue the magnets and stem schools and keep working hard to improve as you have here in boarded up Cleveland, Ohio.

    I look forward to hearing, the how and the who of reform.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  193. Ellie

    A better idea would be to have smaller classes.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  194. Mike in Colorado

    Merit pay is an excellent idea, so should we all jump on the bandwagon? ABSOLUTELY NOT. This is a state issue under the US Constitution and our over bearing Federal Government could easily balance our budget and begin saving if it would keep its nose out of state matters and stay withing it's Constitutional limitations.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  195. John Munday

    Collin Powell is more worth listening to than Obama on this front! You hear a lot about failing schools and teachers, but what about the failing parents and students who are not meeting their responsibilities in the educational process? Are the teachers expected to make up for students who will not do their assignments and their parents who don’t value the educational opportunities their students have and strongly encourage them to take advantage of them. Schools and teachers will not succeed with out parents who support them. But these people are not as easy to go after as teachers.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  196. Tony Olonode

    Merit pay is a good idea but we need qualified teachers first. In New York colleges such as CUNY people with Master degrees teaching people with Doctorate degrees that is example of merit or stealing from goverment and the students. I am waitng to see how merit is going to work when all the teachers are of the same cultures or religions. We need to put qualified teachers in classes first before we talk about merit.

    Tony Olonode
    Houston, Texas

    March 11, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  197. Tony from cleveland

    Absolutely. Education like any other field is a business. In this case, a public business that can have a strong influence on the future of the economy. Essentially, it will create more competition among teachers, which has the potential to produce better results in student performance. As for teachers who don't agree, it's not about you. It's not about the person who can do a better job than you, its about the students.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  198. Peggy Sue Acklin

    Caff-Yes, let the President do his job already! He has nothing but great ideas and after the last 8 years and I am being nice, how can our president have a bad idea?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  199. Tom in New Hope, MN

    Money is the motivating force for many people. Merit pay would weed out the ineffective if they don't improve and improve the rest. Competition is good for all. With this said the teacher evaluations must be fair. You can't compare the results of a teacher of gifted students with a teacher of special education students to determine their pay. Education level can't be the total determinate either because some are good students and poor teachers. Status quo, however, is not an option.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  200. Isborne Fredericks

    Hi Jack,

    Merit pay for teachers is a very bad idea. If a teacher is given
    excellent students, those students will make that teacher look
    like a genius.
    If you want to find out how good a teacher is, put him/her in the worst schools. If those students show improvement, then you can give him
    merit pay.
    Merit pay allows administrators to reward their friends and punish
    those teachers who are considered rebels. Many of these " rebels" are
    the best teachers in those schools.

    Isborne Fredericks
    (Proud Vietnam Vet.)

    March 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  201. Daniel

    Sure Cafferty, It might be a pretty good idea. Maybe it might scare the teachers a bit, but sometime putting a little pressure on someone's job will create that need for them to strive to do better or find another job, which everyone one you choose, it's your life. But I hope as Americans we would strive and do what is best for this country. And it all starts with our Children. Have we not learned from our mistakes? We need the best education we can give these kids. It's the best way to make it as a country. The Children are our Future. So teach them right.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  202. Dean in Pa

    I think it's a bad idea. If the teachers are truly bad there are ways to reprimand and/or fire them. Merit pay only works for the teachers who butter up the boss, if you get on the bosses bad side, you will never get the merit increase, even if you are the best teacher in the world. All merit increases creates are "yes" people.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm |

    Dear Jack;
    We all know that you guys are trying very hard to be even handed after you and Blizer dumped on W.
    Truth is CNN is not giving Obama a break and already dumping on him for doing too much, killing the economy, and generally being a socialist. All this destruction in two months! What a guy!


    March 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  204. Sheila Hill Carter

    Hi Jack,
    As a teacher and a great Obamaite I have to leave him here after 40 years,of teaching in many countries both here and the US. I wish I could agree with the President but knowing the frailty of man (Sorry woman) I warn that we are on a slippery slope here. Who will be the judges..... The kids who expect to learn by osmosis? or the Principal who might and I do say might...?
    .Unless he can set up clear accountability goals and I mean less of those who are 'sleeping' with the students......you know what I mean...
    less Eros and more Agape there is little merit in Merit Pay.
    A good teacher is like a good doctor. This is a profession .A teacher is no Joe the Plumber. the Award process is in the traing of a good teacher in the hiring and a good Salary..... no need for Merit Pay ....too many loopholes.
    PS I hope we are looking at those countries who out-teach us whether we call them Third World Countries or not! Quiwhipsi

    March 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  205. Cliff in Texas

    Not a good idea. Jack, it’s pretty amazing to me that the teachers are still being blamed for a failed education system. The people that really are to blame are not the classroom teachers but the school administrators and school boards. Classroom teachers are the most over worked and under paid professionals in this country while school administrators are just the opposite. Most administrators are those who can’t teach but are the ones who evaluate those who can and do teach. These evaluators determine how a classroom teacher progresses in his or her career and how the classroom teacher is to teach. I am not nor have I ever been a teacher or administrator. I voted for President Obama but he is wrong on this topic.
    Cliff in Texas

    March 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  206. Dawn

    Three words for you, Jack: bring it on. As a teacher, I'd love merit pay. In fact, I think most teachers would. But here's the thing, who's going to determine if a teacher is good or bad? The same people indiscriminately handing out TARP money? Our dysfunctional congress? It's got to be done right, or it will be a joke.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  207. Tony Logozzo

    I am a supporter of Obama, but I think he is crazy if your report is right about the teacher's salaries. The proposal does not give details about inner city teachers ability to create successful students.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  208. Marge in New Port Richey, Florida

    It's a fabulous idea. What a ridiculous thing for any employer to be stuck with deadbeat employees...and there are plenty of deadbeat teachers. That's part of the problem with the pathetic school systems in this country. Deadbeat, burned out teachers are carried year after year and the quality of education keeps declining. On the other hand, if the good teachers were rewarded, perhaps they would stay in the profession rather than getting out to make enough money to support themselves. I taught high school math for 6 years in the 70s and I left for one reason...to earn more money. I can't believe how watered down courses have become and how expectations from students has reached a new low. In Tampa, if a student has perfect attendance (meaning they just show up in school everyday), they get excused from some of their final exams. It makes no difference whether or not they apply themselves or whether or not they've learned anything The whole system needs to be revamped.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  209. Amelia

    President Obama is right to issue a merit system for teachers. As a graduate student of education, I am appalled at the incompetence of some of the teachers I have seen in the public schools.

    Teachers should be annually evaluated for performance. Just becuase you've been teaching for a long time, doesn't mean you're any good at it.

    Buffalo, NY

    March 11, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  210. Becky

    I understand Obama's frustration with "education." But I also think the teachers' unions feel there is no fair way to approach what is a "good" or a "bad" teacher. I've been a public school teacher, a parent of 2 public schooled sons, and a classroom employee in a public school. What's "good" for 1 is "bad" for another. Who decides? By what criteria? If you think "health care" is a boondoggle, just step into "education."

    March 11, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  211. Lisa, A Teacher in MD

    STOP blaming teachers for what our children are lacking. We pay politicians, physicians, lawyers, engineers etc. good salaries. But where did they get their knowledge and skill? From teachers! Before we talk about merit pay, how about we fix the base pay so that our nation's best and brightest might be attracted to the profession.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  212. claudia

    Jack, yes there should be merit bay. The methods for determining pay have to be based on certain predetermined behaviors and teachers' performances as well as test scores of students. Hopefully, teachers will be the responsible parties who create the merit criteria and not by bureaucrats who have never taught students.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  213. dave depree phd education tempe az

    hey take a look at how well merit pay has worked for wall street, banks, and the big three. enough said

    March 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  214. Adam

    The only way that merit pay would be a positive for teachers is if the principal, superintendant, and/or school board were the people evaluating the teacher. These are the only people that can legitimately tell if a teacher is effective. I'm an actual teacher in an actual classroom not someone who is on the outside and thinks they can fix something that they know very little about with more tests. Why should the little bit I get paid be determined by a kid who could care less about school and just answers B on the standardized tests that educators are judged by. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make the horse drink it. Shouldn't we be evaluating the parents that are raising these kids to have the attitudes and motivation they do also? We are highly qualified teachers. If these politicians think they can fix the education system, have them spend a year in a classroom first and then see where the real problems are. I agree that there are ineffective teachers, but there are also ineffective parents.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  215. Jeremiah

    Good idea but, the most difficult part will being able to measure success of a child and determining which teachers deserve merit pay. You can't qualify a child's success based on test scores, that will encourage cheating. I think generally most teachers work hard and are able to do the best job they can based on the resources available. It should be the responsibility of the school administration to make sure that teachers are successful. The good ones stay, the bad ones have to find another career. Teachers are drastically underpaid and need support, especially from our President. He will have to walk a fine line with the teachers union.

    Frederick MD

    March 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  216. Mary

    Absolutely. I used to teach in a school where an excellent history teacher and a terrible band director received the same pay because both had masters degrees. The band director's masters degree was in bilingual education and he couldn't even speak Spanish. The way our public education system works now, the only way for an excellent teacher to advance is to leave the profession.

    President Obama's high approval rating doesn't come from the democrats or the NEA. It comes from the rest of us. As far as I'm concerned, he's our country's most productive employee, and he's doing exactly what we hired him to do.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  217. Brian

    Yes, finally a plan that holds teachers accountable for not doing there job. I cant see why the unions would have a problem with this, protecting failing teachers will not protect the success of future generations.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  218. Kenny

    Only if the STUDENTS vote to determine the better teachers! Kids are free from adult "politics."

    March 11, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  219. paula

    Obama wanting to give merit pay to teachers is a really bad idea. We have been discussing this at work and our fear is that the more experience or master teachers will choose to teach all the higher level classes such as the honors and advanced placement classes. These teachers will not choose to teach the lower level classes because of the merit pay. Then the inexperience or new teachers are teaching those children who may be struggling or have learning difficulties and these are the children that once again are not benefiting because a more experienced master teacher is better equipped to help these children but are discouraged to do so under this plan.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  220. Agnes from Scottsdale, AZ

    Jack: Yes. It's amazing when a candidate actually follows through with his campaign promises. Good for Obama. Finally someone is doing what's right for the country vs. what will get him re-elected in 4 years.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  221. walt Utah

    Dear Jack,

    Merit pay for teachers is a GREAT IDEA. Pay the PERFORMING teachers who are educating,inspiring and molding our children into future good citizens. On the flip side get rid of stagnant teachers who are only around because they are protected by the union.
    Unions exist to protect the sub-standard employe, whether in business, industry or education.


    March 11, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  222. David,San Bernardino,CA.

    The public school system has a lot of problems,but putting teachers in competition with each other is not the way to go. I have put my children through the public school system and have observed that most of the problems are not the teachers fault. They have a bloated school administration to do battle with,clueless school boards with their own agendas,not enough money trickling down to the classroom,unruly students who are only in school to socialize and cause trouble and make sure no one else gets an education and parents who just don't care. It is wrong to put all the blame on overworked and underpaid teachers when the students are not their children. I know several teachers who have or are getting out of the teaching profession,it's just not worth the aggravation.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  223. Ron / Broward county , Fla

    Teachers are all special people and they all should be rewarded fairly and equitably . How do you pay some more than others , Most school districts already use experience to do that .Measuring an educator's success is definitely complicated . It's almost like rewarding a cop who makes a lot of arrests because he works in a high crime infested area vs. another cop who works in the quiet suburb of an affluent neighborhood. both are doing the same job , but we don't raise the salary of the one making more arrests. Educators are not to be forced to compete against other educators for money. The students should be pushed and motivated to compete against one another for higher grades .

    Ron the teacher / since 1992 and still learning to teach, inspire and motivate forgotten inner city kids .

    March 11, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  224. Jacqueline Mongeot

    From a professional point of view, it is a bad idea. I would have earned merit pay when I was teaching French, a difficult elective, to motivated, high achievers, elite students for the 25 years of my career. They were a joy. I was successful. My daughter is presently teaching 4th graders in a poor California neighborood. Most of the parents do not speak English or struggle with the language, are unable to make sure their children complete assignments or have time to study. My daughter has established an unpaid study hall after school to help the pupils who want to learn and succeed. Yet, these children's State tests scores are mostly below average. According to the statistics, she is not successful. She will never get merit pay in spite of her efforts, her dedication and the great amount of time she tutors these children after school hours without pay.
    A question: Who would decide who earns merit pay? The school principal? a panel of teachers? other observers? or the results of State Tests?
    Jacqueline – San Diego CA

    March 11, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  225. Bill

    I worked at a professional level in business for 35 years and then the last 4 years in public education. You just would not believe the productivity wastes that exist in the state public eductional system. There just hasn't been much change in the process for the last 100 years. It could be a whole lot better. Improvements should be considered by school system personnel who have process management, personnel management, financial management experience with input from the customer – students and parents of students, not just from teachers and school system administrators.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  226. Kris from NY

    I do not think merit pay is a good idea if the assessment is based on how a student performs on a woefully biased state test. Student assessment should be broad-based and take into account progress in behavioral modification, classroom performance and alternative assessment. The kind of evaluation that President Obama suggests is no better than No Child Left Behind, which narrows the classroom experience to one purpose only– to teach " to the test."

    March 11, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  227. SimpleTruth

    Maybe we will finally get rid of the warm-body teachers, they are just glorified baby sitters. This may be one way to keep and get the motivated, intelligent, engaged teachers. If the unions were not involved we could fire the worst and get great people in this depressed economy.

    The reality is we just need to start over. Tracks of study, real world certification classes...IT, real estate, HVAC Repair, etc... Maybe we should give the option to graduate career ready and a useful citizen from high school.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:39 pm |
  228. dwaine

    How can Obama support unions and at the same time bash teachers,
    unions protect there bad eggs! maybe teachers and schools need more help financially, staff is being cut everywhere, and at the same time to give money to fix the buildings and not balance budgets. open your eyes Mr Obama.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:39 pm |
  229. Lawrence from Benton, Illinois

    Absolutely Jack! It seems to work quite well in the private sector. If people know that management is handing out merit raises to those employees who work hard, resulting in improvement for the business, then maybe they might just muster up a little more effort that helps them and the company. In addition, I feel those who disagree with the President's plan, are the ones who are underachievers and hide behind the old rules just so they can keep job.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:39 pm |
  230. Jen in FL

    I absolutely do not think merit pay is a good idea for teachers. I do agree that teachers should be paid more than the measly wages they are making now,don't get me wrong, but merit is not the way to go. The problem is how subjective the idea of "quality teachers" can be. They will probably handle this by giving the pay raises based heavily on improvement in standardized testing scores. Standardized testing is such an imprecise basis for determining the quality and worth of a teacher. These tests are best at predicting not the level of education or how much has been learned, but how well the student takes tests. What happens if a good teacher gets students who have test anxieties? What if a horrible teacher gets students who can take tests well regardless of the limited or careless instruction they receive?

    The only way to determine the quality of an educator is to observe their method of teaching and encouraging their students to learn. This cannot be ranked on any kind of scale, especially since it depends a lot on the relationship between the teacher and the students and on the ingenuity, creativity, and personality of the teacher. It's just not a very good idea to base pay on something that can't be measured or rewarded accurately. As for upsetting a support group, I would like to think that, setting aside how awful of an idea this is for a moment, the president would consider the options based on their viability and usefulness, not how popular they will make him.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  231. Maria

    It's a sticky issue. As someone who not to long ago was still in public school (I'm now a college student) I say yes and no. Yes because in my many years in public school I had several teachers who were not motivated at all to teach. I don't see how taking a different stance with some of his supporters would be a bad idea, he's not a robot and is free to take a different stance

    March 11, 2009 at 4:41 pm |
  232. Donna Hunter

    The idea of a better educational system, motivated by merit pay sounds wonderful, until one asks the ugly question, "Where's the money coming from?"
    As a retired teacher that spent over 35 years in the classroom, there was never enough money to go around....and the evaluation of teachers was not done in a manner that was seperated from the political processes in the school system. One might be "golden and outstanding" for one administrator, and "unstructured and average" for another. "Oh, but the test scores will tell us who is good!" you say.
    Enter the saga of "No child left Behind" once again??? I hope not!
    Now let's look at this thing.....the best teachers would have the best scores....but wait a minute, those teachers that teach the most difficult children, often spending hours and money to create special materials to meet the exceptional needs, frequently do not show the best scores, and work harder even if their children have made huge gains.
    I do think that the agarian model for the school year needs revamping, and totally agree with the President that we must get parents on board. I was fortunate to work with many wonderful parents, but feel that the priority must also include parent involvement and support.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:41 pm |
  233. ivan ladizinsky

    Regarding the flap of unionizing the workplace via cards and/or a secret ballot, the Republican Senate leadership equates the secret ballot as the hallmark of democracy and a sacred entitlement. What the Republican dodos ignore is that business or the workplace is not a democracy' its a dictatorship.
    Delray Beach, FL 33445

    March 11, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  234. Angela Tacoma

    The teachers in disagreement, are the bad teachers... my dad always said "A hit dog will holler"

    March 11, 2009 at 4:44 pm |
  235. Anna

    Jack this is bad idea. You see what happens to our industry where CEOs get bonuses for good performace. They just cook the books for their benefit.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:44 pm |
  236. charmaine a nygaard

    Having been a teacher myself and knowing that all students cannot learn the same things. The good and decent teacher works with all students hoping they will learn. There is more to learning than grades.Some students reach a level and then that is it, no effort can help beyond a person's ability. Teachers take PRIDE in their work, extra pay is just a bribe and cannot be given out fairly. Look where the child is coming from, environment, drugs, alcohol and many other facets they are exposed to . The teacher working in this situation, works hard for the children to succeed. Students shouldn't be paid to go to school either- it is the law. There are consequences for hard work self esteem and pride.
    Also, if we keep aborting fetuses and babies, we won't need teachers or schools.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:44 pm |
  237. Jim Walker, Yucaipa , CA


    First, if you have never been in charge of 216 8th grade students at an inner city middle school, your ability to determine "merit" in education is highly suspect.

    Second, merit pay is an interesting idea and money does work as a motivator for some people. However, most teachers, like myself, did not enter the profession for its promise of fabulous wealth. Also, it is difficult how such a program could be fairly implemented. My eighth grade students are overwhelmingly English Language learners. They read, on average, at a third or fourth grade level. They will not perform as well on standardized tests as native English speakers will because they can hardly even read the questions. Do I work hard every day trying to improve their reading abilities while also teaching them the U.S. History I am obligated to teach them? You bet I do. But it is an uphill battle. So long as my merit is determined by measuring my students' progress only against students from the the same socio-economic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, then I am okay with the idea. Otherwise, it would be inherently unfair.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:45 pm |
  238. Don Mellesmoen

    I am presently retired but I was a math teacher for 38 years and an officer of the Duluth Federation of Teachers for over 30 years. Teachers are not against merit pay as the public and politicians seem to think. The problem is coming up with a system that is fair and equitable. The "merit" needs to be at a national standard that is not a whim of a principal or supervisor . A merit system is only fair if it is not linked with getting along with your principal. A merit system has a potential of being very dangerous and political.

    Don Mellesmoen
    Duluth, MN

    March 11, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  239. Mike S., New Orleans

    I admire Obama for dealing with difficult issues. He is owned by no union, no lobbyist, and not even the Democrats. He has made bolder decisions than this one, and I look forward to his logical and common sense approach to problems that have been overlooked by politicians for far too long. I'm not sure Americans know how to deal with an intelligent and honest president.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  240. Stash from Pennsylvania

    Merit pay? No, thanks. I taught English for 32 years and never saw an honors student except in the hall. I did my job well, but my basic skills students weren't much of a match for the honors kids in the next classroom. My kids, unsurprisingly, scored well below the kids taught by the honors teacher when they took standardized tests. But who's to say who did the better job? How can you judge if I did better for my basic students than the Honors teacher did for her advanced ones? No, that system gives too much power to whoever sets the standards. If we'd had merit pay when I taught and if it had been offered to me, I'd have refused it. Besides, most incompetent teachers (not necessarily the unpopular ones – sometimes there's a difference between incompetent and unpopular) leave on their own. The job itself drives them out.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:47 pm |
  241. Mari Fernandez, Salt Lake City, Utah

    Yes, merit pay would be an incentive to teachers, if not merit pay then let's give the best & brightest bonuses like the ones the crooks on Wall Street get! Now that would be fair!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:48 pm |
  242. walt Utah


    Merit pay for teachers who are performing well....what a GREAT IDEA.

    Look at how extremely well an individual is paid for hitting a baseball, throwing a ball throw a hoop or running down a field without getting tackled. The good ones are Multi-Milionaires, the bad ones are cut from the field.....so be it with teachers.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:48 pm |
  243. Latonda Lewis

    I understand that Mr. President Obama is trying to clean up and set straight an educational system that has many flaws. This must be done in a fair and constitutional matter!!! I do agree that , teachers should meet a certain criteria;however, a teacher that teaches at a school in an urban setting should have different guidelines and goals to meet than those at schools where students are exposed to the world and more!!!

    Still waiting

    March 11, 2009 at 4:48 pm |
  244. Arline

    Dear Jack:
    I am a retired principal that came up through the ranks in NY. I started as a substitute teacher, became a regular teacher, tenured, went on to work at the district office, worked as an assistant principal and ended as a principal – all in public schools. While I am in favor of merit pay, we need to make sure that the playing field is level for all teachers. A "neighborhood school" is quite different in the South Bronx from one in Rhinebeck, NY. The economic level of families affords children different opportunities and therefore different rates of improvement. Some schools give preferential treatment to certain teachers; they get the best classes with higher reading scores, while the last to be hired, usually get the lower performing students. While a good teacher would function no matter what the situation, we need to be careful as to how we define progress. I always told my teachers that we needed to concentrate on what we could control so I never accepted the excuses of -well they come from a "broken" home, they are poor or their parents are llitereate or they have mental disabilities. My motto was always, you get what you expect, and I usually won out. Having said that, I also always afforded my staff all of the materials and staff training they needed. I was relentless in looking for funds by writing grants, canvassing local businesses and doing fund raisers. One of my teachers once stated at a district-wide conference that I could get money for under a rock if I needed to, just to ensure that my teachers had everything. I am not stating this for applause, but merely to emphasize that adminstration must also be put on merit pay so that they give all of their teachers the tools necessary to succeed. In all of my years in education (33 before retirement), I only found two instances (while I was a principal), in which a teacher did not want to improve and I rated both unsatisfactory (and both left my schools). Unions came about in part because of the lack of impartiality when it came to assessing teacher performence. We need to make sure that if we go with merit pay, that it is truly based on performance and not favoritism, that a standardized system of measurement is in place so that all teachers have the opportunity to shine and our children truly are educated.
    PS- I am still involved in education as a part-time instructor on the college level. Education is my passion and I applaud Pres. Obama's focus on it. It is about time that we had a President that didn't just talk, but actually did something for the public education system.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:50 pm |
  245. DSL1

    I am a parent, qualified teacher and, of course, have been a student. There are many problems with finding the "Good Teachers." How are we to grade the teachers? Are the students, administration of the schools, parents, or outsiders grading our teachers to give the best results? The problem with School Administration grading the teachers is the "Good Buddy" system. The problem with students grading teachers is that the students don't always know what they really need. The problem with parents grading teachers is that most parents aren't educated enough to know what is good or not with teachers. The problem with outsiders is that they don't know what works for our community. So who grades the teachers? The President? Does he really know what is needed when even the education community is still guessing? Is there a real solution or just theories? Theories do not ussually work. Everyone has their theory on how to run education, the government, Social Security,...but does anyone have "THE SOLUTION"?

    When someone figures out "THE SOLUTION" to all our problems, that person will be the riches person in the world.

    Don't put too much stock into the President's solution to education in the U.S. A.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  246. Jerry EZ, TEXAS

    Jack, 16 years of Republican rule in a DICTATORSHIP is where we find ourselves right now, a mess due to INCOMPETENCE.

    Competence pay, Hmm... I'll reward great thinking teachers; it is time to change the cronyism and practices of unqualified and non-productive teachers and put responsible, qualified teachers back to work and recruit the NEXT generation of teachers who will broaden the minds of our children.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:52 pm |
  247. Shirley Wallace

    Due to the fact that there are many subject areas for which there are teachers, merit pay is a questionable idea. On what would one base merit pay for physical education teachers, special education teachers, AP Calculus teachers, and kindergarten teachers which would be a fair assessment of their effectiveness? As a remedial reading teacher would the expectations for student achievement be the same as for a high school English teacher or a teacher of the gifted student class?

    March 11, 2009 at 4:52 pm |
  248. Jan Bomstad

    Merit pay has been kicked around for years ~ my husband was a high-school teacher for 33 yrs. and it was brought up way back then; the question is, who is going to decide WHO are the good teachers that are going to get the merit pay? My daughter has been a teacher for 21 yrs. now and has a "witch" for a principal, has obvious "pets" and if you're not one of them, you would never be recommended for merit pay, even tho' you certainly deserve it. And ~ this is the problem! Who is going to decide who gets the merit pay? Do you really think that teachers stay in teaching for the money? How funny is that! It is one of the lowest paid jobs there are, and yet you deal with unruly, mouthy, undisciplined and pampered kids every day, 25 plus kids at a time in a classroom, 5 days a week! Some kids have no parental guidance, some barely speak English, their parents can't help them with homework, they miss alot of school, and yet those schools will never meet the No Child Left Behind requirements and will be punished by Federal money taken away! AND ~ those poor teachers will have worked very hard to teach these kids, and yet their school will fail! How fair is that? Add this to the fact that those teachers will never be recommended for merit pay! The president needs to listen more to teachers that "have been there in the trenches" instead of those sitting in their ivory towers, recommending things about education that they know nothing about! And that goes for our Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, too ~ he's on the same page as Pres. Obama, and neither one of them knows anything about what teachers go through! It is NOT like a corporation, cannot be run like a corporation, and teachers CERTAINLY don't get paid like CEO's, or even corporate employees! Merit pay cannot, and should not, be implemented!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  249. Bob D. Morristown, NJ

    I agree in principle, but am concerned about some of the implementation details.

    If one wants talented people to go into teaching, they should be paid competitively, they are not today.

    Merit pay is a good concept, but evaluating merit objectively is tricky. When classes are formed to achieve homogenaity of performance levels, teachers with lower performing students should not be penalized. Learning growth is a fairer measure of teacher worth, but even that criteria cannot be adequately or appropriately measured by standardized tests that fail to evaluate the really important educational elements, like critical thinking, reasoning and research/discovery.

    Teachers were originally granted tenure to avoid political abuse, Tthis protection should be retained.

    Experience shows that if performance rewards like merit pay and job retention aren't fair and efficacious, they do more harm than good. Witness the teaching to the standardized tests that have helped bring down the efficacy of our schools.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  250. Antonio from Uniontown PA

    The only method that will work on education is a high expectation nationalized learning requirement for all schools. You can't have students vote for the best teachers because they will vote for the easiest and those whom pass failures. You can't have merit based pay because that only harms those who need the most help. Students should be required to meet some standard goals nationwide in order to graduate

    A or B in at least Algerbra
    A or B in Advanced History
    A or B in 2 or more advanced sciences (Bio, Chem, Physics)
    4 courses of at least a B average in a foreign language (with schools teaching more languages)
    4 physical education courses with active participation
    A or B in reading AND writing at a 12th grade level
    most students taking part in after school activities
    12 month schooling, no more summer breaks.
    A or B in classes involving personal finances and money management

    I'm sure there are more, but these are things that are NEEDED by ALL Americans, and the elementary and high schools should be required to supply this to our future, I mean our children.
    After all, we are behind the Chinese, Europe (particularly Germany), Japanese, and a few others in terms of public education.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  251. Ron K

    Hi Jack:

    There are some areas of this country where no matter what a teacher does to help the students. They don’t study. If they don’t study, they don’t pass. In addition, there are some areas of this country where teachers have been gunned down for failing a student. I grew up in an well to do area of NJ. And I had a few BAD Teachers. I recall one smoking pot in her car during the lunch break. Undeniably there are teachers that need to be FIRED. That being said, I think merit pay might be to the advantage to teachers in middle class areas and higher. I do not feel it would be fair to those teachers that earn hazard pay everytime they go to teach a class. Something has to be done to improve conditions in those lower class areas. Those teachers need help from law enforcement to take back the classroom. They can’t do it on their own.

    Ron San Diego

    March 11, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  252. Charles in Lawrenceville, NJ

    Merit pay works everywhere else, or at least hire/fire(“we’ll call you”), so good luck with that. As incentive, remind them all how well computers on-line work, even home-study for some kids with onsite testing. Brain science has improved dramatically with active PET, MRI and CAT scans ect., showing dramatic differences in male/female brains, suggesting unisex classrooms, including the teacher are probably the way to go.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  253. Keith Schleicher

    If it's done well, with union support, then both sides win. The union is rigthfully concerned the execution will be poor (see No Child Left Behind.)

    March 11, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  254. Parisa

    Teachers who disagree with merit pay are just making excuses. They are making things complicated on purpose. The merit pay should be paid out to a teacher after his or her class has moved onto the next teacher's class. The next teacher should be able to access whether the current class has had sufficient instruction. If the class is able to perform well in the classroom and on tests. Well the previous teacher gets their bonus.

    1. Places responsibility on the previous teacher to get help for students falling behind.
    2. Forces teachers to work together to ensure continuity between grades.
    3. If the class isn't up to par it will be evident in the first few months.


    March 11, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  255. Janet

    Before any decision is made it should be required that all legislators spend a week substituting in a public classroom. Then they would have a clearer picture of what impedes the actual teaching that is able to take place in a classroom each and every day. And after that, shadow an administrator for a week and maybe then there will be a clearer understanding of the enormity of the responsibilities these jobs entail.
    I also suggest that there be "merit pay" for parents. Rewarding those who do their job as parents: You know, making sure that their child gets a good night's sleep, eats healthy, monitors homework; and limits video games and TV watching, reads to their child each night etc.. Do we dare suggest that kids be taught manners and how to get along with others as a prerequisite for school attendance? Oh wait, these are the skills that used to be taught in preschool and kindergarten classes. Now teachers have to take children who have probably only been potty trained for two years and make them academic wizzards.
    Additional pay for those teachers who take on leadership roles, team leader positions, mentors, etc. is very appropriate. It is already common practice at the middle and high school level but not nearly as often at the elemenary level.
    I worked under a merit pay system in 1964! A set amount of money was allocated in the budget for rewarding those selected. This meant that the number of teachers who got this pay boost was dependent upon the amount of money available. Merit pay was eliminated during budget crises.
    Teachers need the support of their colleagues to survive! Pitting teachers against each other is not the way to go.
    It is more appropriate to have a look at the quality of teacher evaluation systems in place in each state. The administrator of a school is responsible for observing teachers in the classroom, and evaluating their skills. I haven't heard much discussion about this part of the quality of schools issue. Poor evaluations mean that poor teachers will be eliminated from their jobs.
    Those of us who have been educators know that not all children learn at the same rate in the same way. There are outstanding programs in all states that are models of reform. To suggest that one curriculum, one test, one solution shows little understanding of child development. Taking away the arts, physical education, and hands on courses is taking a step backwards. I certainly hope that our new Secretary of Education is familiar with the research on multiple intelligences!
    I am glad to be retired!

    March 11, 2009 at 4:58 pm |

    Merit pay : Yes. Merit pay tied to student performance No. Not with a student-teacher ratios of 1: 25 plus! No teacher can control a classroom with this high number of students, regardless of age, still teach effectively and devote what is left of his/her classroom time to students who need individual attention. And good luck with trying to remove all of the politics from the classroom: dealing with the NEA, the AFT, the PTA, and the local school boards. When students fail, every aspect of his/her failure must be examined: home environment., the teachers, the curriculum , parental participation, and the school administration/school board. Folks, this is not a simple problem! Solving the ridiculously bad state of our public school system requires total community involvment .

    March 11, 2009 at 4:58 pm |
  257. Corinne Higbee

    They had merit pay in Texas and the administration used it to reward the heads of departments. These heads were selected by the administration to begin with, so excellent teaching was not fairly rewarded.You have to have a better way of doing it . Pay them a professional salary and give them a good retirement . You can recruit the best. and they will provide the best education for the children.If you want to pay by merit it has to be more than a horse and pony show evaluation.
    Basing it on the students performance is not a solution as every one would want to teach the advanced students. They can move at a quicker pace. The measured gains would outstrip the regular and special education students.Teachers should be evaluated as all professionals and pay raises given as decided by a comprehensive evaluation.Usually merit pay is a limited anount of money. many who deserve it are often excluded.Merit pay sucks.

    March 11, 2009 at 4:59 pm |
  258. Sarah

    There was time in this country when parents couldn't help there children with their homework because they couldn't read or speak the language themselves or because they worked all the time. Stop using parents as an excuse NOT to do your job properly!!!

    March 11, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  259. Dennis Pedler, Elkhart,In.

    Merit Pay for Teachers:
    Yes, I agree with President Obama. Our educational system has failed our country and we need to take steps to correct it. Teachers are no different than any other career field. There are excellent and poor teachers. When have you seen a school system let a teacher go for unacceptable performance. As a manufacturing manager responsible for hiring the best applicants for management and factory openings, I have been shocked beyond belief with the lack of math and science skills our young people possess. We need dramatic improvement to compete on the world stage.

    March 11, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  260. Malcolm Mafield

    Teachers should be paid more for being good teachers.No child left behind is strangling the ability for americans to strive. If they talk about merits NCLB needs to be fixed first. There needs to be more Gifted and Advanced classes for students that accually want to learn, like myself instead of depriving them. Also the Government shouldnt dump all of its money into Title 1 also strangling advanced students.

    March 11, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  261. Retired teacher

    Merit pay for teachers will encourage the teachers to teach the test and make the tests completely invalid. Some teachers will cheat for the students to receive a pay increase. When Florida tried merit pay some teachers lost their license because they were caught changing answers on state testing to make themselves look good so they could receive the merit pay.

    March 11, 2009 at 5:05 pm |
  262. Serena

    I have been teaching for 9 years. I also hold a teaching certificate in 5 subjects because I love learning & love teaching-even though I have to go 8 hours without bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, etc. I would love to see merit pay for teachers. I am the type of teacher that gives 110%each day for all my students, yet I am paid the same amount as a teacher who just talks on their cell phone, sit at the computer, &/or passes out worksheets (busy work). I'd love to see the teachers paid for performance because honestly many teachers do the bare minimum & give us all a bad reputation. However, we also need to come up with a program used to hold parents accountable too. They play a huge part in the academic success of their child, yet many see school as "free babysitting".
    Perhaps merit pay would also serve as an incentive to attract intelligent people who are discouraged from going into education due to the low salary, long hours, & having to deal with constant behavior problems. Believe it or not there are teachers that truly want to impact the lives of the students they teach & consider it their life...who put much of the little money they make to purchase supplies & incentives for their students. I even buy food, clothes, etc for students because it hurts my heart to see them in need. Many teachers even use the holidays & summer break to take more classes, read more books, & prepare for the upcoming year. It is a year-round job for "real" educators! Bring on the merit pay, but keep in mind, summers for "real" educators are devoted to learning & planning for the next school year, changing lives, & preparing our future leaders!

    March 11, 2009 at 5:05 pm |
  263. Jim Sargent

    How can you possibly rate teachers when they are forced to accept illegal aliens who barely speak English. The teacher is faced with an impossible choice of either slowing the rest of the class down or ignoring the illegal aliens and getting a poor grade for student performance.

    March 11, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
  264. Barb

    I don't know if it is the same for people with six figure salaries, but merit raises don't always work well. My family and friends have found that, if the boss likes you, it doesn't matter if you are a good worker or not, you will get raises and promotions. If he or she doesn't like you, it doesn't matter how good you are, you won't get them. That is one of the reasons that we need unions. Also, I'm tired of teachers being blamed for students not learning. I had good teachers and not so good teachers, and I still wanted to learn and did! I believe, if a student wants to learn, he or she will. Parents need to instill that in their children.

    Also, when I was an elementary school secretary, one of our best teachers was fired, because the principal didn't like the way she dressed. She didn't wear fine clothes, because she worked with the students on special projects that required not so fancy clothes. I'm tired of teachers being blamed for students' failures.

    March 11, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  265. Everette Surgenor

    Merit pay is not the answer.It is a "change" not a reform.If President Obama is successful with his proposals, he will have recreated the best 1960's Industrial Age education system one could ever desire.Merit pay is an attempt to create higher levels of teacher performance in the classroom.There are better ways to accomplish this.
    Instead of merit pay et al we should instead be talking about a substantial and comprehensive reform of the system .This reform would include developing a new instructional process designed around the latest research in learning with an appropriate balance between theory and application.The curriculum should be expanded to include technical literacy and technical writing,genetics,financial literacy,process skills for managing and sharing knowledge as well as better math and science instruction across the system. In short ,we need to provide all students with the 'form,function and practice " to thrive and survive in the 21st century,
    To do this, there has to be a fundamental redesign of the system :one that embraces new models of leadership and governance,learning partnerships,shared resources,new assessment and evaluation models,more time at task for learning,as well a reconsideration of the use of technology to support learning in an :"anytime ,anyplace ,anyone,any pace ,any where " environment.As part of this redesign process ,we also need to ask ourselves about what we keep,what we need to do differently,and most importantly, what we need to stop doing.

    March 11, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  266. Kristin

    If merit pay is based on what students score on nationally normed tests, you will find teachers unwilling to accept academically, emotionally or behaviorally challenged students into their classroom. Why should a teacher be punished because of a compassionate heart? If all students were the same, you could compare classes. Even the best teacher can not teach with one or two incorrigible students in a class. Public school teachers have no choice which students are in their classroom. Some teachers get a great class while others wind up with many challenged students. You can't compare apples with oranges.
    If merit pay is based on 'administration evaluation' then it becomes a popularity contest.

    March 11, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  267. Stephanie L.

    Although merit pay seems like a good idea, I'm defiantley not siding with it. To reward a good teacher and replace the bad one will tighten the school systems and curriculum but, I believe every teacher has their own teaching habits and ways. Now as a 15 year old girl I understand and respect my teachers and the way they approach to teach the acedemic's. In my classes I've noticed that if a student is struggling in a subject, they most likely will go for extra help. If the student then takes the unit test and does poorly, is that the teachers fault? There could be many different resonds why the student did poorly but I think that to replace a teacher who is not presenting or explaining the information correctly may not be the way to go. There are circumstances where it may be necessary for a replacement but if there is a complaint for a small problem the solution is not to cut them out of the school. I have learned to cope with my teachers teaching habits and although there are teachers I disagree with I still have a duty to learn. I also believe that if a student has a learning disability or some other problem the teacher can only do so much and letting them go because they didn't properly teach well enough is unconstitutional. Also is a student does not care about acedemic's you could teach them the world but, they will never learn; because they dont care! And remember one last thing, teacher's don't give grades, you (the student) earn them!!!
    Thank you for reading my response and option.

    Long Island, New York

    March 11, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  268. Lisa Johnson

    As a teacher of 15 years, I believe in standards and accountability. However, there should be extreme caution in how you "evaluate" a "good" teacher. If it is based only on test scores, this is unfair because a student's home life situations ie. diet, health, family dynamics, are all variables that a teacher cannot control. How do you measure success if you don't tie it to testing scores? This is the concern. Why not give merit pay based on if the person uses BEST teacher practices (organizational habits, lesson planning, personal skills, etc.) rather than ONLY student outcomes. Then we can place responsibility for failure where it belongs, on the parents!

    March 11, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  269. Donald in CA

    I get a review at the end of the year at my job. My merit raise is based
    on how well i did that year. Why shouldnt teachers be held to the same
    standards. Why should a good teacher get the same pay and merit raise at the end of the year as a bad teacher.

    March 11, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  270. Terence

    Jack, I agree with Obama on merit raises also. But we should take the money from the wrotten teachers and use that for merit pay. Then we can weed out all the wrotten eggs. PHEEW!
    Terence , Piscataway, NJ

    March 11, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  271. David in Raleigh, NC

    Merit pay for teachers based on performance of students is the best thing that could happen to this country. The current system protects mediocre teachers while encouraging the good teachers to leave teaching and take higher paid jobs in the private sector.

    March 11, 2009 at 5:52 pm |
  272. Bruce

    Teaching is way too political for merit pay to even stand a chance. Good teachers will be offended, and be lost to better paying industrial jobs. We should be encouraging home schooling instead.

    March 11, 2009 at 6:23 pm |
  273. Cindy

    I did not see my first e-mail, but I saw a similar comment-that teachers will cheat to get the merit pay. Standardized tests are easily changed to reflect classrooms that seem to be perfect. There is no way to stop teachers froom doing this-they do it to keep their jobs.

    March 11, 2009 at 6:23 pm |
  274. mary,florida

    Its still business.You wouldn't keep someone if they were a lousy worker.I sure wouldn't want it for my kids.Bad employees should be let go.

    March 11, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  275. Kyle - Phoenix

    Absolutely, its very "mavericky" don't you think?

    March 11, 2009 at 6:37 pm |