I Predicted This One

Dateline Texas: Another teacher merit pay plan bites the dust.

Texas is canceling the Texas Educator Excellence Grant (TEEG) program and is shifting some of the funds to another incentive program. The TEEG program rewarded individual teachers at poor schools for individual performance. Surprisingly, to the State and the sponsoring politicians, the program was not successful.

Lead Your School Readers, I was there when this plan was hatched. When the project was assigned to TEA, I was called to give them my ideas on how to best implement the plan. Here’s what I told them:

1. The plan must award teams of teachers. When teachers are awarded individually, it quickly creates a “pie” mentality. If you get a piece of pie, then my piece of pie becomes smaller. In effect, this “pie” mentality reinforces teachers working in isolation, instead of breaking down the practice. Now, I have a financial incentive not to help other teachers. Instead, reward teams of teachers for reaching team goals. Now, I have an incentive to help my team, because if we lose – I lose.

2. The metrics must be based on the concept of value added. Otherwise, there is a disincentive to work with the most difficult students.

3. Get an expert to help craft the basic plan. Building an incentive plan is only easy at a surface level. There are lots of moving parts and it requires a lot of attention. Letting busy, but well-meaning amateurs create their own local plans from scratch is a recipe for disaster. As an aside, Ed Rogers, of the Penicle Group (www.peniclegroup.com) is an excellent resource if you are considering implementing an incentive pay plan.

By the time I finished point 3, it was obvious that they were irritated with my advice. So, I told them good luck and that I hoped that they would prove me wrong. After four years and $100 million, they didn’t.

In summary, I do think that the way that we approach compensation in education needs to be addressed. Raw experience should not be the sole determinant of salary. But, when people think that incentive plans can replace leadership and collaboration, failure is assured.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…

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