DETROIT - Merit pay is likely to come under more consideration in Michigan schools in the coming year due to public support from President Barack Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, according to the Detroit Free Press.

In contrast to paying teachers based on seniority and education, merit pay is linked to teacher performance, typically measured by how well students do academically, the Free Press reported.

At least three Michigan districts have some form of merit pay, according to the Free Press, and report mostly positive results.

"The public supports paying teachers on the basis of performance," Thomas Toch, co-director of Education Sector, an independent think tank, told the Free Press. "They believe that there are good teachers and bad teachers and they want to do anything that increases the number of good teachers."

Union representatives, however, say there is no conclusive evidence that incentive plans work, the Free Press reported, and some teachers believe they foster unhealthy competition.

"That's pitting professional against professional," Michael Fields, a third-grade teacher in Au Gres-Sims Public Schools, told the Free Press. His district has an incentive pay plan that rewards the entire staff in a given school.

Michigan Education Association spokesman Doug Pratt told the Free Press that the union is not universally opposed to merit pay. Teachers want to be judged on multiple measures, not student test scores alone, the Free Press reported.

The Detroit Free Press, "Can merit pay for Michigan teachers boost student performance?" Feb. 16, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Merit-Pay Pilot Program for Michigan Public Schools," Sept. 23, 2008