The Legislature approved funds and loose guidelines for merit pay for teachers earlier this year. I really like the first news I have heard about the issue since then:
Each district and charter school that wanted money had to come up with its own plan following broad guidelines lawmakers set earlier this year. . . .
Lawmakers have referred to the law that provided $20 million for performance pay as an experiment they hope will inform future efforts to create a long-term, statewide system. . . .
Some states have taken years to create pay-for-performance plans, but Utah districts and charters had only a few months after lawmakers passed a bill appropriating the $20 million earlier this year.
I think the Legislature was exactly right to avoid the temptation (and it probably was tempting) to try to create a central, defined system for merit pay. Instead they put out the money and let the districts provide dozens of differnt plans for how to use the money – within general guidelines. The result will be that within a couple of years we will have found a dozen approaches that are not very effective and a few approaches that look very promising.
Odds are that if the Legislature had spent money studying the issue for years to come up with The One True Approach™ they would have spent as much money as they end up losing on the plans that will end up failing from this experiement. The real difference is that they will have a higher chance of identifying good ways to implement merit pay.
Anyone who grumbles that $20 Million is not enough can be reminded that this is seed money that can show us the best aproaches and it can be increased in the future as appropriate to foster the most effective merit pay schemes.