The merit pay provisions contained in Senate Bill 5 and House Bill 153 (Kasich’s Budget) have been contentiously debated by both sides for their, well, merit.  While supporters might claim that it brings these public sector jobs in line with the private sector, opponents will fiercely debate the lack of evidence that these methods have proven to work.  When merit pay existed in the union-busting Senate Bill 5 legislation, it was easy to draw the conclusion that it was a power play by the Republicans, but now that merit and performance pay language has been lumped into the budget, one must look for an economic benefit to Ohioans; we must identify the way these measures balance Kasich’s $8 billion* deficit.

* It’s not actually $8 billion

So let’s presume for a moment that this premise is correct and that merit pay will help solve Ohio’s deficit while improving education.  A win-win for Ohio.

Let’s identify the problem through the eyes of proponents:

We pay good teachers more, but I’m going to suggest that we hold all teachers accountable. Teachers who can’t teach shouldn’t be in the classroom. … If we’ve got teachers who can’t do the job there’s no excuse for leaving them in the classroom. But the good ones — we’ll pay them more.
–  John Kasich

A teacher-pay system that judges educators on student performance would reward the best teachers, allow “teachers that need improvement to get the help they need, and allow ineffective ones to be removed from the system.”
–  Robert Sommers, director of Governor Kasich’s newOffice of 21st Century Education

The real focus on K-12 pay for performance should be on rewarding the top 25 percent of teachers that when compared to their peers excel in terms of the academic achievement of their pupils. And then there is the bottom 25 percent who are below their peers. Get those who underperform help or help them move on to a new career.
–  Matt Mayer, president of the Buckeye Institute

Gov. John Kasich’s budget and the recently enacted Senate Bill 5 seek to move the state toward evaluations that identify the impact of individual instructors on student learning, in order to inform decisions around retention, pay, hiring and dismissal. This is a huge opportunity to raise the needle on student achievement.
–  Terry Ryan, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Most Americans work and thrive in a merit-based system. In a work setting in which supervisors know they will be judged on the performance of their subordinates, supervisors have every incentive to fairly reward the productive, nurture the promising and weed out the ineffective.
–  Columbus Dispatch

Quick Summary:

  • Teachers will be paid based on performance
  • Effective teachers will be rewarded and paid more
  • Promising teachers will be nurtured to improve
  • Ineffective teachers will be fired
  • Student achievement will improve

Consider then, the Budget Bill (p. 1772) that sorts teachers into one of four categories based on evaluations: (a) Highly effective; (b) Effective; (c) Needs improvement; (d) Unsatisfactory.  If we construct a pay scale based on these assertions using the current Ohio average teacher’s salary ($55,958; Ohio Department of Education) as our baseline and those four categories we might end up with a salary schedule that looks like:

This schedule would significantly reward Highly Effective teachers over their peers, keep Effective teachers above average, and provide a large financial incentive for improvement to teachers who are evaluated in the bottom two categories.  Additionally, the range of $45,000 from low to high approximates the range found in numerous existing teacher-district contracts.  In order to estimate the economic effect of this over time, we need to project the annual change.  Under the current system where most teacher contracts include step increases and/or percentage raises, the average state teacher salary has increased 3% per year.  Contained within the proposed changes to the State Teachers Retirement System is an drop in the annual Cost of Living Adjustment for retiree benefits to 2%.  Since this number could be argued to more accurately reflect the current economic climate, and since we’re simulating this scenario, we’ll assume a 2% increase in these salaries.  Therefore, a ten-year projection of the salary schedule looks like:

Under the current system, the of steps and raises, the average salary projects to be $75,070, so this model would appear to slow down that growth of teacher salaries.  But the chart above, and the current system, make assumptions that are intended to be shattered.  The current system based on experience keeps teachers predictable spread out along the array of salaries, allowing for an easy calculation of averages.  The chart above makes the same assumption that teachers will be equally distributed.  But remember that on of the reasons for this change, according to Robert Sommers, is to “reward the best teachers, allow “teachers that need improvement to get the help they need, and allow ineffective ones to be removed from the system.” So, instead of there being an equal distribution of teachers among these four categories, permitting for that easily calculated average, the model proposed by this bill will seek to aggressively shift teachers to become Highly Effective.  This will be accomplished by firing those teachers who are unsatisfactory and replacing them with new teachers who will “get the job done.”  As a result, teachers on the left side of the pay scale will be dropped, while the remaining teachers will improve due to the financial incentives of the merit pay system, the testing of teachers, and the Governor’s other education reforms, and will migrate or remain to the right.  Over that ten year period, the distribution of teachers will shift dramatically to the right side of the chart as shown below (initial distribution of 25% is based on Buckeye Institute comments about teacher quality):

So, when teachers have dramatically improved thanks to Governor Kasich’s education reforms, we will have the vast majority of teachers rated as highly effective.  Other than questioning the sanity in this narrow vision of cause and effect, very few people would complain about an outcome like this.  A rating of Highly Effective by 80% of our teachers would mean a dramatic increase in student achievement in Ohio.  BUT, this outcome would come at a significant price.  With so many teachers moving into that higher pay scale as intended by Kasich (“But the good ones — we’ll pay them more”) and Sommers, the average salary does change a bit from the previous chart:

Instead of the average salary of teachers dropping from the current system’s projection of $75,070, the reform model and performance pay should actually increase the average teacher salary by an additional $14,000.  For an individual scale, that might sound fine, but consider this AVERAGE applied across the 109,365 teachers in Ohio.  Each year, exactly as the Governor’s Reform Model desires, teacher salaries would increase at a faster rate than is currently happening.  Over a ten year span, the increase in costs would total nearly $12 billion as shown on the chart below:

So sure, maybe that’s their intent all along, to put more money into education and educators, we can’t know for certain.  But can’t we question how this aligns with the Governor’s plan to reduce the $8 billion* deficit?  Has anyone seen the secret documents that actually increase education funding in Ohio by over $1 billion in 2013-14?

Still not $8 billion

And how do  we know that the Governor’s Reforms will work in this manner?  So sayeth the The Jobs Budget: Reforms Book 5, p. 5

The reforms we will implement are aligned to what successful schools require. These reforms will allow great teachers, principals, superintendents, and school boards to ensure student results. The Governor‘s reform agenda will move Ohio from being a manager of the educational status quo to becoming a model that other states will emulate.

Let’s get real.  Not a single soul in the Statehouse believes that this effect will occur because not only is the premise of financial gain as an incentive for teachers off-base, no one in the Governor’s office or legislature is discussing the prospect of increasing the education budget in this capacity any time soon.  Unless they start setting aside HUGE amounts of money (this doesn’t even factor in the Teacher Incentive Pay provision) for education, you’ll know that they don’t believe their own rhetoric either.  REAL planning takes a REAL belief that the change will occur.

Simply more evidence that Mr. 49% doesn’t qualify as a REAL Governor.


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  • Fotogirlcb2002

    way to many numbers here for me —
    So let me ask a question?
    So exactly what will be the % increase from merit pay?
    I keep hearing 1.78% — on like a $14.00 a hour a job thats like 25 cents   
    HELP !

  • gmild

    Sorry for so many numbers, I even tried to cut back some.The merit pay has no numbers attached to it in the real application.  I projected amounts based on current averages and COLA increases as they exist now to project the scenario as laid out in the budget bill and the Governor’s talking points.  From what I know, if anyone tries to tell you an actual amount, they are lying.  After all, it’s based on your “merit”, not some arbitrary scale, right?

  •  If you have children (especially teens) you know that you can NOT force even the brightest kids to do his or her work.  There are not so great teachers, like there are “not so greats” in all other professions.  Merit raises based on performance of children is just not fair.  Many other factors should be taken into account, the politicians are just getting ridiculous!!

  • Fotogirlcb2002

    thx for answering — yes it is “supposed” to be based on merit —
    I will look at it again later–
    maybe if I look at the numbers a while they will sink in–lol 
    (by the way I hope you have signed a petition ) 😉 

  • Jen

    Still waiting to hear how the untested subject or grade-level teachers will be evaluated.  Will someone show up to my 2nd grade music program to decide which eight-year-olds are matching pitch more accurately than last year?  Will my physical education colleagues be rewarded for students who can run a mile under seven minutes?  I’m guessing that we will end up with a merit hierarchy based on “important” subjects vs. music, art, PE, speech, intervention, special ed., ESL, and untested grade levels.

  • Anon

    They were for it before they were against it.
    “The Governor‘s reform agenda will move Ohio from being a manager of the educational status quo to becoming a model that other states will emulate.”

    Doubt it.

    The Rethugs and their evil rich constituensts are leading the race to the bottom at the state and local level but this is a nationwide campaign to continue the downward spiral towards third world status by getting rid of an educated electorate. We already have a disinterested disengaged citizenry; this will just put yet another nail in the coffin of the so called American Middle Class.

  • Real Get Real

     I think we’ll end up with a hodgepoge of formulas, procedures, tests, statistics all wrapped in extra paperwork and mandates for administrators and teachers. Without teacher buyin, the system will be seen as ineffective and unfair.

    Truthfully, I don’t know what planet the Dispatch and “reformers” live on. I often wrote my own “performance reviews” in the private sector and supervisors just signed off. Merit and promotions were often based just as much on nepotism, age, relationships, and looks as anything else. The mythical “free market” simply does not exist. Pay was based on how much money the executives wanted to keep for themselves regardless of performance and budgeted a year prior the raises. Even stock option and bonus plans were always calculated from some mysterious formula that no one saw and never seemed to correspond to how well an employee succeeded.

    Vanderbilt recently completed the first real attempt at a controlled study on teacher merit pay. Basically, they found that teachers performed well regardless of merit pay systems. But the GOP should not let facts get in the way of their “progress”.

    Teaching is far too complex to be reduced to simple minded, one size fits all approach. Some school districts may LIKE having seniority as part of compensation and resent the big government intrusion. Others may not want to spend more on administration just to implement a questionable merit system that does little to improve the day to day success in their schools. Others may use this as an excuse to fire older or politically incorrect teachers.
    Beware of the unintended conquences of poorly written legislation and politicans imposing their “reform” in areas they know nothing about.

  • amyvav

     Having negotiated for a contract this spring with an administration that was stunningly pro-SB5, I am seeing an incentive for districts to “save” money by consistently rating teachers as “needs improvement”. They could keep the pay down, right up a nice improvement plan that involves tons of extra planning and documentation for the teacher, then just keep rolling them through plans. “That’s great. You improved in the areas we noted, but now we’re seeing some shortfalls in…” That carrot would keep dangling just out of reach. Sadly, many business-minded individuals would see that as a very efficient and reasonable model for employee motivation. Too bad our students aren’t widgets…

  • Anon

    No it doesn’t work in the private sector either. 


    Because employees are not just a cost but an asset. And, you can’t run a govt like a business. It doesn’t work that way. Education, teachers, etc are assets that need to be developed. 

    More crappy Walmart business model applied to government.

    Evil in America brought to us by the evil rich and their evil minions the evil radical Rethugs.

  • Sluggo

     Nice story Greg.  Careful readers should heed the premise of Greg’s reductio ad absurdum – under the performance system set up by the house, massive numbers of teachers will be fired or forced out because value added data is mandated to be 50% of the evaluation.
    Current value-added models have huge amounts of error.  In one study an “average” teacher has a 35% chance of being rated as ineffective with one year of data, and a 25% chance of being rated ineffective with 3 years of data. A “good” teacher has a 1 in 10 chance of being rated ineffective with 3 years of data.  

    HB 153 mandates that any teacher rated unsatisfactory for 2 years or a combination of unsatisfactory and needs improvement for 3 years or needs improvement for 3 years loses their continuing contract (tenure) and is subject to termination.  Furthermore a teacher who is rated unsuccessful or needs improvement in 1 year cannot be placed in a school unless the principal consents to the placement.  If the principal does not consent to the placement, that teacher is placed on unpaid leave until they can find a placement.

    So 1 in 10 good teachers and 1 in 4 average teachers in any given year could lose their jobs based on random error.

  • Rob

     Just to ask a stupid question, does the budget bill’s version of teacher merit pay stay in place simply for the duration of the budget and then becomes null and void when the next budget bill comes along??

  • sluggo

    Rob- changes in the Ohio Revised Code in the budget bill that are not appropriations are permanent until repealed or revised in future legislation.

  • Go_mom7

    Facts and charts mean nothing to the K-sick gang. The irony is they use their exposed lies as ammunition against us; “we are being partisan, blah, blah, blah” Are we even going to win this battle? I’m scared of of what’s happening to our society. I read conservative blogs, and they really hate us (public workers). I need some assurance….

  • Rob


  • Anonymous

    Merit-based increases will only benefit those teachers who are really good at kissing the principal’s…well, I was going to say butt, but I’ll say feet instead.  And those who don’t make waves or disrupt the principal’s day.  So the teachers who get the best ratings will be those who carry on, day after day, teaching the same things in the same old way.  Who would be crazy enough to try something new or innovative?  That’s not going to get the bills paid.

  • Fedynad

    Oh I am sure he won’t allow teachers to make ANY more than he feels we are worth. Since he wants to destroy public education anyway, I think he is trying to starve us to death. I am surprised they are not taking school lunches away in HB153 too! 

  • Anonymous

    “Good teachers”
    “Effective teachers”
    “Best teachers”
    “rewarding the top 25 percent”
    “impact of individual instructors on student learning”
    “reward the productive, nurture the promising and weed out the ineffective”

    There’s more; I just got tired of typing.

    Not one word about how to do this.  All platitudes and feel-good rhetoric. Test scores have been proven an inadequate yardstick.  Observations are an impossible burden on administrations …

    What’s left? Probably the self-fulfilling prophecy of the administration’s preconceived notions of individual teachers (i.e., do they already think you’re good, or not?)

    Better start kissing up, teachers. Get those good students, get that principal on your side. Because in their zeal to make the unquanitifiable something that they can measure in order to meet their state mandate — and in order to keep themselves from spending their entire year observing teachers — administrators are going to take shortcuts. Those bureaucratic shortcuts will determine your future as an educator.

    An analogy:

    Using test scores to judge teachers is the same as saying someone who works in an automobile factory should be judged not on how well he makes his parts, but on how well the people who buy those cars actually drive them. His pay, then, would be based on the driving records of the consumers who bought the cars (never mind their prior driving record, their eyesight, their personal affinity for alcohol or drugs, how well they can afford to maintain the car, how distracted they are when they drive …) 

    So how would such a plan measure this automobile worker’s success at his job? It wouldn’t. It’s just a bureaucratic shortcut.

  • Anonymous

     “Merit and promotions were often based just as much on nepotism, age, relationships, and looks as anything else”

    Well put. This will happen. The new system will simply reward those already in favor. And if you teach, you are already picturing those people.

    I could give you 15 names right now of the teachers who will most benefit from this system at our local school.  You see them on Friday mornings at Frisch’s, having breakfast with the principal. You see them that evening at Buffalo Wild Wings, having a beer with the principal before they all car-pool to the football game.

  • Fotogirlcb2002

    Anyone see Bill Seitz on Newsmakers today….
    talked about lots of things — he doesnt get the teachers stuff either( attitude Kasich has)
    says he has signed a sb5 petition  –said it would be hypocritical of him not to

  •  This is already happening all over the country.

  • Anonymous

     So if you’re the big-hearted teacher with a class full of special needs kids, or kids with troubling economic realities who can’t concentrate on schoolwork because they’re hungry or living in a box, or kids just going through bad patches at home, you’ll be escorted out the door when their test scores reflect that one caring teacher can only do so much.

    In other words, if the blueberries in your sundae aren’t perfect, you get fired for not tossing out the bad blueberries.

  • Anonymous

     Yep. Let’s fire the third graders because those 9 year olds just ain’t pulling their weight. Kindergarten, you’re next. There’s no crying in business!

  • Anonymous

     Yep. Let’s fire the third graders because those 9 year olds just ain’t pulling their weight. Kindergarten, you’re next. There’s no crying in business!

  • Your logic is flawed. As a result, I dismiss your argument.  The assumption that a 2% increase in the pay of the Year 0 Highly Effective teacher is a constant is a false assumption.  All findings after that assumption are therefore flawed as well.  To assume this 2% growth rate (or any growth rate), you must assume that the underlying tax base to support such an increase exists, which it may not if levies are not passed.  The total cost is limited by the size of the budget and, therefore, will not extend at any given rate without being checked.  

  • Another problem with your logic is that you assume a shift from 25% in each category to 5% unsatisfactory and 80% highly effective.  Such an initial or final distribution is completely arbitrary under your analysis.  An effective merit based system, like any system used in nearly any private sector company, would require a normal distribution be achieved in the results so that the majority of teachers would be classified in the middle groups.  Only a small percentage would be unsatisfactory or highly effective in any given year and over time.

  • The final – and most fatal – flaw in your logic is that you assume (in your mathematics, but not words, the same teachers are always in the same categories.  You show each category increasing at a specific percentage relative to the prior year (2% in your example).  In practice, each teacher would float among the various categories from year to year as their annual performance varies.  Some years, a teacher may get a 0% raise and other years they may get a 6% raise.  The nature of compounding will cause the results to vary from those you described even if the mean were 2% (i.e., a series of higher raises followed by lower raises averaging 2% results in higher pay in the final year than a series of lower raises followed by higher raises also averaging 2%).

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