Deron Durflinger is a secondary principal here in the great state of Iowa. Even though we only live a few hours away from each other, I've never had a chance to meet him or visit his district.  Perhaps some of his ideas about teacher pay and teacher quality will be closer to reality by the time we actually cross paths.  In his recent post, he brings up many good points.  Here is the one that hit home with me:

"We also know that teachers are not paid at the level they should be, especially our best teachers. The factory model we currently use supports mediocrity and encourages teachers to be paid for their experience or their level of degree, not for their ability to help kids learn."
I've been interested in merit pay ever since I went into education, but not because I ever felt that I was being under-compensated.  Instead, I've always felt like the salary scale is setup to promote mediocrity.   To summarize Deron, the system encourages teachers to do the wrong things...stay in the profession longer and take more classes.  When neither of these factors directly improves a teacher's practice, the compensation system, from my perspective is just as flawed as many of our classroom assessment practices.  In a nutshell, here's what I mean:

In the typical classroom, teachers create a currency of "point accumulation" rather than learning. Students learn to merely turn in work to earn points (just put in your time...), complete and take seriously assignments with large point values and ask for extra credit assigments when they desire a better grade even when we know the extra credit doesn't usually enhance their level of understanding. In the same way our compensation system in education is flawed...we encourage mediocre teachers to stay longer so that they can get paid more (just put in your time...).  Even worse yet, we've created incentives for them to take graduate courses and seminars  so that they can get even more money, even if these seminars don't directly improve their practice (sounds like extra credit!).  The parallel here seems pretty obvious to me.  How silly is our system?

Before the flames begin, I have no idea what the solution to this problem might be.  Using test scores to reward teachers doesn't make sense, but neither does our current system.  That's my thoughts on teacher pay.  Feel free to post your own thoughts, solutions and rebuttal in the comments.