Duncan Stresses Merit Pay to Teachers Union

Secretary Duncan urges teachers to rethink seniority and tenure provisions.

ByABC News
July 2, 2009, 7:32 PM

SAN DIEGO, July 2, 2009 -- Teachers booed and hissed today as Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged the nation's largest teachers union to change its view of merit-based pay and incorporate student achievement into teacher evaluation and compensation.

"Our challenge is to make sure every child in America is learning from an effective teacher, no matter what it takes," Duncan told officials and local delegates of the National Education Association at their annual meeting in San Diego. "So today, I ask you to join President Obama and me in a new commitment to results that recognizes and rewards success in the classroom and is rooted in our common obligation to children."

The issues of performance-based pay and the tests used to evaluate teachers continue to concern union members, as was evident by the questions asked of the secretary during a town hall-style question-and-answer session. While Duncan noted that teacher evaluations should never be based entirely on test scores, he was firm in saying that students' performance must play a role.

"I understand that tests are far from perfect and that it is unfair to reduce the complex, nuanced work of teaching to a simple multiple choice exam," Duncan told the crowd of 6,500. "Test scores alone should never drive evaluation, compensation or tenure decisions. That would never make sense. But to remove student achievement entirely from evaluation is illogical and indefensible."

The NEA supports bonuses for teachers with advanced certification but does not back increased salaries for teachers in hard-to-staff schools or those that teach math and science.

"School systems pay teachers billions of dollars more each year for earning credentials that do very little to improve the quality of teaching," Duncan said. "At the same time, many schools give nothing at all to the teachers who go the extra mile and make all the difference in students' lives. Excellence matters, and we should honor it -- fairly, transparently and on terms teachers can embrace."