Ann Arbor Schools: First There Is No Teacher Merit Pay, Then There Is

Law requires districts to offer it, so effective educators get a 0.2 percent pay bump

A spokesman for Ann Arbor Public Schools says that even though the district has no documents establishing a teacher merit pay system as required by state law, effective teachers there are still rewarded.

The comments came after the district denied a Freedom of Information Act on Dec. 21 — the same day it was received — asking for records of its merit pay system. The district said no such records existed.

But district spokesman Andrew Cluley said Ann Arbor teachers do receive some merit pay.

"Ann Arbor Public Schools has had merit pay for many years," Cluley said in an email. "The FOIA request however was worded in such a manner that no documents exist that fit the criteria of what was requested. When contacted directly we provided the explanation that the board decides on merit pay every year."

The most recent awards were $150 for teachers rated highly effective, he said.

The school district in 2015-16 rated 36 percent (436 teachers) as highly effective and 62 percent (749 teachers) as effective. Two percent of teachers in the district were rated as minimally effective or ineffective.

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In 2010, Michigan enacted a law requiring school districts to give successful teachers extra compensation for good performance. Putting the law in place made the state eligible for grants under the federal government’s Race to the Top program.

That law says that public schools must “implement and maintain a method of compensation for its teachers and school administrators that includes job performance and job accomplishments as a significant factor in determining compensation and additional compensation.”

According to a Michigan Department of Education compensation database that is updated annually, the average AAPS teacher salary in 2014-15 was $72,036. A $150 merit pay reward for a teacher making the average salary in the district would be a salary increase of less than 0.2 percent.

Cluley said in an email that the district follows the law.

“We follow the law. The Board decides on merit pay, type, amount, etc. every school year,” he said. “It is a prohibited subject of bargaining and could change from year to year depending on any number of variables."

Several school districts across the state, including the Lansing School District, do not offer their teachers merit pay despite the seven-year-old state law.

Click here to read Ann Arbor School Board Member Christine Stead's comments on merit pay.

This is part of a series of stories looking at merit pay systems in several of the state’s largest school districts.

Editor's note: This story was altered to include an additional comment from Ann Arbor Public Schools.