News Story

Detroit Public Schools Goes Big For Teacher Merit Pay

Out of 2,729 Detroit teachers, 96 earned $1,000 rewards for student progress

While many Michigan school districts have scoffed at merit pay for teachers, the urban school district with the worst academic performance in the nation has taken it seriously.

The Detroit public school district has instituted a merit pay system that makes the vast majority of teachers eligible to earn awards, sometimes as much as $5,000. Out of 2,729 Detroit schoolteachers, 96 received awards of $1,000 in 2015-16, according to data from a Freedom of Information Act request.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is reviewing the merit pay systems of the largest school districts in the state. Then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a law in 2009 that required school districts to offer some form of merit pay as part of their teacher compensation system.

Many school districts, including those in Lansing and Grand Rapids, have said they do not offer merit pay systems, which places them in violation of state law. Other school districts, such as Ann Arbor Public Schools, reward top teachers with an extra $150.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District’s merit pay is based on several criteria, including measures of student growth in a teacher’s classroom. To qualify for an award, a teacher also must have a good attendance record and meet some other conditions.

A teacher who might earn extra pay also must be rated at least “effective,” the second-highest of four broad categories in the rating system used by Michigan school districts. In the 2015-16 school year, 68 percent of Detroit teachers were rated highly effective and 28 percent were rated effective. Only 2 percent were rated minimally effective and 1 percent deemed ineffective.

The average salary of a Detroit schoolteacher in the 2015-16 school year was $57,793.

The Detroit school district didn’t reply to a request for comment on its merit pay policy.