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Michigan’s ‘Pay for Performance’ Bill PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jason Kras   
Tuesday, 18 March 2014 20:27

In April 2013 Representative Pete Lund (R, Macomb County) introduced HB 4625, which was soon referred to the House Education Committee. HB 4625 would amend the revised school code modifying the criteria for determining teacher compensation. Under the provisions of the bill, all newly hired teachers and administrators would be compensated based primarily on their performance in the classroom. Teacher evaluation would mainly be based on student growth data, or more commonly known as standardized tests. This bill would only apply to teachers and administrators hired after the bills effective date.



Currently a teacher or administrator’s pay is based primarily on the length of service or the achievement of advanced degrees while job performance and accomplishments are used as a significant factor. This bill would prohibit the use of length of service and in most cases the achievement of advanced degrees as a factor in compensation. Advanced degrees are prohibited from being a factor in compensation unless one of the two following circumstances are met:

  • If a teacher with secondary certificate having a subject area endorsement and teaching that subject area
  • Teachers with elementary certificates who teach in an elementary grade.


If either of these two circumstances is met then an advanced degree can be used as a factor in determining base compensation.


This bill presents a good concept of better teachers getting paid more. But it lacks taking into account several factors that could make student growth difficult including teaching in low-income schools and hard to staff positions. Denver Public Schools have implemented a compensation system that is based primarily on student growth but also incorporates other factors in compensation. 


The Denver Public Schools compensation system is fair and balanced giving pay increases for student growth, market incentives, additional knowledge and skills, and comprehensive professional evaluations. This system not only rewards teachers who teach in good schools and those who get advanced degrees but also teachers who teach in high need schools and those who take hard to staff positions.


Opponents of this bill include Michigan Parents for Schools, Michigan Education Association, Oakland Schools, and Garden City Public Schools. Gary Murrell, a teacher from Garden City Public Schools, said that merit pay is not an effective way to increase student achievement. “Most research suggests merit pay does little to nothing to improve student performance” Murrell said. But, a three-year study of the Denver Public Schools’ merit system says otherwise. Research done by the University of Colorado Denver and University of Washington Bothell found that the teachers who participated in the Denver merit system did not necessarily set more rigorous objectives for their students but when they did the students were more likely to achieve them. Additionally the study said that the merit-based pay system caused changes in recruitment practices and new data-gathering methods that together likely have helped improve student achievement.


Another opponent of the bill is the dean of Michigan State University’s College of Education, Donald Heller, who said, “The bill does little to ensure that we will have the best people teaching our students in the state of Michigan.” The director of the Ferris State School of Education, Dr. James Powell, was neutral on the bill. He cited that “the bill’s focus on rewarding teachers for only obtaining advanced degrees in content areas would have a negative impact on graduate-level programs that his university offers in special education, career and technical education and educational leadership.”


Supporters include the Great Lakes Education Project, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Students First. In my opinion, this bill as written should be opposed. It does not properly take into account factors like high needs schools where students may be harder to teach. I would suggest a reformation like the Denver Public Schools system. There has been an increase in teacher pay and student overall performance since their merit-type system was introduced which is a win-win for both sides.


This bill was referred for a second reading in late May of 2013 and there has not been much activity on it since. Many unions have come out against any changes towards teacher compensation especially when the changes involve taking away job experience as a factor. Without major amendments written into this bill, I do not see it going anywhere.



House Fiscal Agency. MODIFY TEACHER AND ADMINISTRATOR COMPENSATION CRITERIA. By J. Hunault and Bethany Wicksall. Mi.gov, 22 May 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.

Robles, Yesenia. "DPS Teacher-pay System Likely Boosting Student Achievement, Study Finds." - The Denver Post. The Denver Post, 19 Oct. 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

Smith, Brian. "Teacher 'pay for Performance' Bill Approved by House Panel over Opposition from Educators." MLive.com. N.p., 22 May 2013. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

"Welcome to  Teacher ProComp." About ProComp. Denver Public Schools, n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.


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Andy Chou and Andrew Revard are Education Policy Correspondents for the Michigan Policy Network. Andy is a first-year student in Economics at Michigan State University. Andrew is a senior in Political Science at MSU.

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