Merit pay: School Board wants more discussion

Thursday, January 21, 2010 | 12:35 p.m. CST; updated 11:16 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 21, 2010

COLUMBIA — The Columbia School Board put a plan to pay teachers based on merit on hold early Thursday.

The plan, as conceived by board member Michelle Pruitt and her committee, would "develop and implement" a merit pay system by 2014-2015.

Merit pay means teacher salaries would be based on student academic performance rather than the currently used salary schedule, under which teachers are paid based on level of education and years of experience with the district.

Although merit pay has been discussed as a possibility before, putting a start date onto it sparked a discussion showing opposing views. Board President Jan Mees, for example, "wholeheartedly" disagreed with implementing merit pay. Christine King also opposed the plan, saying there are too many factors involved to make the system fair to teachers and to hold them accountable for student performance.

However, King recognized a key argument in favor of merit pay, saying, “In every other facet of employment, you’re based on performance whether it’s under your control or not.”

The plan arose as part of the district's long-term Comprehensive School Improvement Plan. As a result of the discussion, the merit pay portion of the improvement plan will read: "The district will study, develop and consider implementing an appropriate model."

More about merit pay and the board meeting will appear later on and in the Missourian's print edition on Friday.


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