Performance-Based Pay in Schools


Teachers and other school employees constitute the backbone of the education system and their performance largely affects the ability of students to demonstrate proper educational attainment. In order to encourage school employees to achieve better results, special appraisal programs have been designed to monitor their performance and assess their progress. Nevertheless, the performance-based assessments of teachers’ effectiveness tied to their pay may have both advantages and disadvantages from an ethical standpoint which may affect the quality of education.


The first benefit of performance-based pay in the school setting from the ethical perspective is that it stimulates teachers to work better. Essentially, when schools employ teachers, they expect them to deliver on their professional responsibilities and provide students with knowledge and skills effectively (Aoki & Rawat, 2020). Thus, it becomes ethical to assess the performance of teachers based on the results they show and award larger pay to those who demonstrate better achievements. In other words, if one teacher fails to attain the required results while another has an exemplary performance, the latter must receive more money than the former. Thus, such an approach can be considered ethical and fair.

Another strength of the performance-based pay approach is that it benefits the students. In other words, such programs help to identify real professionals and reward them while removing those teachers who offer suboptimal performance. Thus, students get a better chance of receiving proper education which maximizes their potential and helps them to attain their educational goals (Iqbal et al., 2019). Such an approach is ethical since it ensures that the students retain their right to receive quality education irrespective of whether they study at public or private schools. Moreover, the approach is also more ethical toward students’ parents who fund schools whether through taxes or direct payments. Parents must be guaranteed that the schools they fund employ only high-expertise professionals capable of teaching their children according to the highest standards. The performance-based assessment programs help to ensure that only the best teachers are employed.

Nevertheless, there are also disadvantages to performance-based assessment programs. The first weakness of the approach is that it promotes a narrow focus on the required results and short-term thinking (Pham et al., 2020). In other words, performance-based assessments usually rely on standardized tests which are used to analyze the quality of teaching provided by employees. As a result, teachers are encouraged to offer information and knowledge only on the narrow set of topics featured in the test. Basically, teachers stimulate their students to learn only the information that is relevant to tests in order to demonstrate proper results and ensure that the teacher is paid a larger sum of money. Such an approach is not ethical for students because it causes them to miss other important topics and areas of knowledge that are not mentioned in tests. Therefore, students end up not developing extensive expertise but simply learning information that they can easily forget after passing the test.

At the same time, performance-based assessments tied to pay can be unethical to teachers themselves due to several reasons. The abilities of students vary which means that some of them may not demonstrate appropriate educational attainment because of their inherent aspects (Ortagus et al., 2020). For instance, some students require an individual approach and are unable to study effectively in a school setting. In such instances, teachers do not have the ability to help these students to master the expected knowledge and skills. As a result, teachers will not be able to demonstrate the required performance due to the variance in educational capacities among students which will cause them to fail to pass assessment tests. Subsequently, the failure to perform according to the standards will entail a smaller compensation for these teachers. Yet, those teachers who have students with high-level abilities will find it easy to attain better performance and will get awarded larger compensations. Such an arrangement is inherently unethical towards the teachers who have less capable students since it puts them in a disadvantaged position and makes it impossible for them to deliver the expected results.


The use of performance-based assessments of teachers which are tied to pay has many ethical implications both positive and negative and it is important to find a balance between them. Such an approach is ethical toward students because it allows schools to provide better-quality education by ensuring that only professionals with high levels of expertise continue working. Similarly, it is more ethical toward students’ parents who fund schools and expect their children to receive high-quality education provided by teachers who are capable of making progress. Moreover, the use of performance-based programs stimulates teachers to embrace better teaching solutions and improve their expertise to deliver on their responsibilities. At the same time, such programs are not ethical because they put employees who teach less capable students at a disadvantage. Finally, performance-based programs are unethical since they encourage short-term thinking and cause a teacher to stop offering an extensive range of different knowledge to students.


Aoki, N., & Rawat, S. (2020). Performance-based pay: Investigating its international prevalence in light of national contexts. The American Review of Public Administration, 50(8), 865–879.

Iqbal, S., Yun, T., Akhtar, S., &, Sohu, J. (2019). Impacts of performance-based pay on employee productivity; Mediated by employee training. International Journal of Research and Review, 6(10), 235–241.

Ortagus, J., Kelchen, R., Rosinger, K., & Voorhees, N. (2020). Performance-based funding in American higher education: A systematic synthesis of the intended and unintended consequences. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 42(4), 520–550.

Pham, L., Nguyen, T., &, Springer, M. (2020). Teacher merit pay: A meta-analysis. American Educational Research Journal, 58(3), 527–566.

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ChalkyPapers. "Performance-Based Pay in Schools." November 17, 2023.