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Winning conditions for introducing merit pay for teachers

Montreal, September 14, 2011 – A recent Leger Marketing poll revealed that 67% of Quebecers believe that teachers' performance should be evaluated and that the best among them should be paid better than their less effective colleagues. Some concerns have been expressed about how to carry out a fair evaluation of the work teachers do. That is why the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) is publishing an Economic Note today on best practices in this regard.

Evaluating the work teachers do is a delicate task, admits Nathalie Elgrably-Lévy, who authored the publication. "When it is done properly, basing remuneration on performance encourages teachers to excel and thereby contributes to improving the quality of the school system," she explains.

For several decades now, merit pay in the field of education has been in effect in such places as the United Kingdom, India, Portugal, Israel and the United States. From these experiments can be drawn certain keys to success:

  • Autonomy for school administrations to decide whether or not to introduce a merit pay policy and to define its parameters.
  • Multiple evaluation criteria that reflect the diversity of teachers' tasks.
  • A substantial bonus on top of a base salary in order to create a sufficient incentive while preserving income stability.
  • The real possibility of firing a teacher whose evaluations are repeatedly very poor.
  • Merit pay for principals and administrators whose work is essential in supporting teachers.

"We have to keep in mind that teachers work in a wide variety of conditions and socio-economic environments, and that their evaluations must take this reality into account. As a result, uniform criteria for the whole province handed down by the Department of Education or by a professional body would not be useful in evaluating their performance," concludes Ms. Elgrably-Lévy.

The Economic Note, entitled Merit Pay: A Tool for Improving the Education System, prepared by Nathalie Elgrably-Lévy, lecturer at HEC Montréal and senior economist at the MEI, in collaboration with Germain Belzile, director of research at the MEI, can be consulted free of charge on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its publications, media appearances and conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms. It does not accept any government funding.

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Information and interview requests: Ariane Gauthier, communications coordinator, Montreal Economic Institute / Tel.: 514 273-0969 ext. 2231 / Cell: 514 603-8746 / Email: agauthier@iedm.org

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