By Steve Gunn

TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo school board is about to experiment with a merit pay plan for teachers that could become a model for the entire district in the future.

Interestingly, the district’s teachers union is not raising any objections. That’s a sign of progress.

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The pilot program in Toledo will target teachers at four underperforming schools, according to a story published by the Toledo Blade. They will be awarded cash bonuses if their schools show a year’s worth of growth next year in reading or math, based on student scores from the Ohio Achievement Assessment test. Teachers can also receive bonuses if their individual classrooms display academic growth.

The bonuses would be paid with federal grant money.

One of the major problems at traditional government schools is the use of standardized pay scales which essentially compensate all teachers the same, regardless of student outcomes. School reformers have long called for bonuses – or merit pay – for teachers who accomplish the most in the classroom.

According to the Blade, the new bonus plan in the schoolo district “could become a model to move staff off salary plans based on seniority and academic degrees and onto plans based performance.”

One school official acknowledged that possibility, telling the newspaper “I think there’s been a push across the nation to move off the salary grid and to reward performance.”

Teachers unions have traditionally objected to any type of merit pay. They have long argued that their members all deserve to be on the same pay scale, regarless of performance.

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But there were no objections from the union when the Toledo school board adopted the pilot program.

Kevin Dalton, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, told the newpaper that there is still hesitation to tie compensation to student performance, but the union is willing to bow to public pressure and give it a chance.

“We look at this as a first step and as a learning experience,” Dalton was quoted as saying.