Officials in Suttons Bay, about 15 miles north of Traverse City, have abandoned the traditional teacher salary model which pays educators based on seniority, and adopted a system which ties compensation to performance.

Is this a good idea?

Suttons Bay Superintendent Mike Murray told Michigan Capitol Confidential he wanted to pattern the pay schedule after a law firm and get away from the old automatic raise model, which he said treated teachers like "factory workers."

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  • New teachers would be much like "Associates" at a law firm, with a "developing teachers" salary ranging from $35,000 to $50,000.
  • The second tier would be "professional teachers", making $50,000 to $60,000 annually. Using the law firm analogy, these teachers would be like "Partners."
  • "Master teacher" (much like "Senior Partner") status would be granted only to those that are deemed most effective, and pay between $60,000 and $65,000.

According to the Superintendent, teacher effectiveness would be determined by standardized test scores, internal standards and assessments, and student growth. Teachers who are highly effective could move up the pay scale quickly, regardless of seniority.

No automatic pay increases would take place for teachers who further their education. But Murray noted that if, for example, a teacher earned a master's degree, and that degree helped increase the teacher's effectiveness, compensation would increase as (s)he moved up to the next tier.

So what do you think? Do they have the right idea, or is the seniority-based structure still working?