Skip to main content

A study from the Fraser Institute says teacher compensation should vary.Geostock/Getty Images

Teacher salaries should be tied to the success of their students rather than their years in the profession, and principals should be empowered to hire and fire educators to create "winning teams," according to a new study.

The Fraser Institute, a conservative think tank, said Monday that the traditional teacher compensation model is ineffective, and its recommendations would help in improving students' academic performance in Canada's public school system and allay concerns among parents and taxpayers about the quality of education kids are receiving.

"There is little doubt that to improve the education of public school students, the way teachers are recruited, educated, certified, hired, and tenured must be changed," writes Rodney Clifton, a professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba and author of the report. "They must have incentives to work diligently at helping students achieve academically. School level administrators, in turn, must have incentives to help teachers teach the core subjects well and to help other school personnel make valuable contributions to the students' academic achievement."

Among its recommendations, the report says that teachers need to pass rigorous certification exams every few years, which would "help weed out teachers who do not stay current in their subjects and do not keep up with effective teaching methods and strategies." Those teachers who pass the certification exams, the report says, would receive salary increases. Further, schools that show students "progressing at acceptable, or better, rates" would receive grants from their districts to be awarded to educators, the report says.

The report also says that principals should be able to hire and fire teachers "so that they can create school-based teams who work together to improve their students' academic achievement." In Ontario, where principals are more often than not obligated to hire teachers on the basis of their ranking on the supply teacher lists, the report recommended that legislation be enacted to allow principal to hire and promote the most effective teacher, not necessarily those who have the longest tenure on the supply teacher list.

The report is based on a review of the research on how teachers are accredited and compensated. The Fraser Institute noted that teachers' verbal communication skills and a thorough understanding of the curriculum have a positive impact on their students' academic achievement.

The recommendations made by the Fraser Institute are unlikely to materialize in Canada. Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, said that "merit pay perpetuates the misconception that the best teachers have the best test scores."

"Teaching is a complex profession, and teachers do a lot in the interest of students that doesn't fit neatly into a measurement framework," Mr. Barrett said. "Yet many of these hard-to-measure components, such as counselling students about academic or personal concerns or co-ordinating and delivering extra initiatives that enrich learning experiences both within and beyond the classroom, are vital. They are crucial to students' motivation, achievement and well-being, and of significant value to parents."

Interact with The Globe