Monday, July 25, 2011

Merit Pay: What should it be based on? #education

Merit pay is a constant thought that is always bouncing around in my head. Sometimes I think it could be the key to education reform, and sometimes I think it could very well destroy the education system. With all the news coming out of Atlanta with their cheating scandal, it seems to look like the bad guy right now. However, I have always believed that merit pay, when tied to test scores would ultimately lead to cheating. Why then are we still talking about tieing pay directly to test scores? Because the question remains: What else do we tie it to? I have thought about this for years, and I have never come up with a good answer.

However, today I had an idea. I haven't decided if it is a good idea, but it is an idea none the less. I am wondering if it would be possible to tie merit pay to student projects. We want our students to create. We want them to learn 21st Century skills and become responsible digital citizens. We also know that by participating in exciting projects our students will be more engaged. And we know that anytime there is a story involved (which a project can become) it is easier for our brains to recall information. All this leads to the fact that quality projects are good for students.

So what if we create a way to measure the quality (not quantity - we don't want to just give out rewards for volume) of student projects that are produced throughout the year. Is that even possible? Does anyone do that now? Educators could create a portfolio of the work that their students produce, and submit that for review at the end of each year. We could build a review process that encourages improvement through the creation of student projects, and rewards those that are succeeding in that area.

In theory this style of learning should lead to improvement in student performance. But would it? What are your thoughts?