Teacher Perceptions of Merit Pay: A Case Study

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Educational Leadership


Department of Educational Administration


Advisor: David Dolph


The purpose of this study is to identify and explore teacher perceptions of the merit-pay plan after six years of implementation in the Innovative School District (ISD). This qualitative case study will add to the knowledge base and provide interested school leaders with information as they consider alternatives to traditional teacher compensation. This study will provide similar districts, administrators, and scholars with insight into teacher perceptions developed after a merit-pay system has first been put into place and then remained in place for six years. As other school district leadership teams work with their teachers and boards of education to consider and develop a merit-pay system, they may be able to avoid pitfalls in the process of implementation by knowing the perceptions teachers have about this approach. This knowledge can also be incorporated into the curriculum of applicable higher education programs. This study employed a single case study approach to gain an understanding of the perceptions held by elementary teachers in grades Pre-K, one through six through semi-structured interviews. This researcher recognizes that knowledge gained from this study is relative and not absolute, but it will use empirical evidence to generate plausible claims (Patton, 2002). This approach is aligned with Merriam's purpose for qualitative research, which is to achieve a deep understanding of how people perceive what they experience (Merriam, 2009). There were four major themes that emerged from this study. These included: A significant number of teachers in ISD do not have a solid understanding of the structure of the merit-pay program. Second, trust between the teachers and the principal are vital to the success of the merit-pay program. Third, ISD's merit-pay program has been successful with a majority of teachers stating that if they had the chance to return to a traditional salary schedule, they would remain on the merit-pay plan. The final and most surprising theme revealed that teachers are concerned about the amount of time the merit-pay plan requires of the school principal. Teachers were concerned that the principal was now viewed as the "evaluator" instead of the symbolic leader of the building.


Education Finance, Education Policy, Education History, Educational Leadership, Elementary Education, Educational Evaluation, Teacher Education, Teaching, merit pay, teacher pay, teacher pay and motivation, teacher perceptions of merit pay, relationship of merit pay to the principal, impact of merit pay on school leaders

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