Land of 10,000 bonuses

Too taxing to decide who deserves a raise and who doesn't? Here's a simple if inane solution: remunerate everyone. That's the thinking, at least, in Minnesota, where the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune found that in 22 districts, only 27 of roughly 4,200 eligible teachers were left empty-handed under the state's Q Comp merit pay program. Yes, folks, that's a whopping 99 percent payout rate. Today, forty-four districts and 28 charter schools are enrolled in Q Comp--a local-option state program. Since each district negotiates the specifics with the local union, the result is a mishmash of policies where hoop-jumping--like continuing education credits and being evaluated by colleagues--can reap more rewards than boosting student achievement. Perhaps more telling is that districts seem to like the program, not because it offers them a way to reward highly effective staff, but because they can score $260 extra per pupil from the state in a year of tight budgets. Former Eden Prairie, MN teacher Steve Watson offers this trenchant elucidation: "They found out the teachers would buy into it if they just paid them off." We have applauded Governor Pawlenty's efforts to implement a merit pay system; problem is the Minnesota system as implemented rewards practically everything but merit.

"Is it 'merit pay' if nearly all teachers get it?," by Emily Johns, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, February 1, 2009

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