Performance Pay for Educators

Should educators receive performance pay?

I believe that in its ideal state, performance pay is an excellent concept. We should always reward teachers for their amazing work and service to our youth. However, there are also a lot of dangers involved in performance pay- political, emotional, cognitive.

What I mean by this is that teachers who desire the bonus ultimately may begin to teach with methods that assist the teacher, but not the student. At the end of the day, progress needs to be about the self-identified success of the student. Performance pay does not put student success first when brought to fruition.

How would performance pay affect you, personally?

Performance pay would affect me personally by creating an environment where I need to decide between my own personal success or the educational futures of my students. I find this outrageous and upsetting. How much I’m paid should not be determined by the scores my students receive on a standardized test if my students are truly engaged in their courses and are learning in a way for them.

As we already discussed in previous blog posts, standardized testing takes away the individualization of learning, which so many of our students need. Therefore, if I am teaching my lessons one way, and the standardized test presents it in a way that only confuses my students, then who is at fault? Is it myself, for not teaching to the test? The test, for not allowing my students to demonstrate their application of the knowledge? Or is it the student, who knows the material but gets nervous on tests?

So, ultimately, performance pay is asking me to choose, but both my own success and the educational futures of my students mean the world to me.

And what if I am not to receive performance pay? Say I do not meet the standards set by my school district to receive performance pay, and say that information is made public. Doesn’t this set me up for failure, when parents call the school and demand their students are transferred out of my class? Doesn’t this make me less marketable if I choose to change schools?

I also think of the women and people of color who are less likely to receive these performance based promotions based on their gender and/or race. This seems like another way for the system to work itself into a bigger knot, and another way to monetize education, which I cannot support.

Do some of your own research and include one resource, that you find yourself, to help support your stance.

As Razo states in her 2014 dissertation,

The educational employment sector does not produce widgets; you cannot simply offer a teacher bonus pay to teach faster or teach more students. The inputs and outputs in an educational organization are more complicated than in an industrial setting.

I fully believe that quote says all you need to know about the pros and cons of performance pay. Teachers are not mechanical- neither are our students.

So why are we treating them both like they must perform as though they are well-oiled machines, and ignoring the ones who are a little rusty?

When watching the video about motivation being driven by purpose this week, I recalled that teachers are not driven by money. They do not go into the profession because they want to make money. They go into the profession because they have a servant’s heart- because they love working with youth and all that it means to work with youth.

Incentive pay or performance based pay draws attention and focus away from that purpose. It ultimately pushes teachers to focus on results, results, results. But sometimes our students need us to slow down and see what their version of success is. Performance based pay does not account for these moments where teachers are truly put to the test.


Razo, A. (2014). Does Rewarding Performance Pay for Teachers Result in Higher Student Achievement?: A Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Education. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from