Merit Pay in Chicago Public Schools?

from the CORE Testing Task Force

Merit Pay in Chicago Public Schools?

Does the idea of having your salary based on your students’ test scores make you mad?

It should.

  • Chicago Public Schools has already implemented a pilot merit pay program called the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) in 29 schools.

  • The current Chicago Teachers Union administration (Marilyn Stewart and the UPC) supports the program. The current CTU leadership has even sent around a union representative to voice support at the presentations to pitch the program to different schools. Marilyn listed TAP as one her great accomplishments with Arne Duncan at his last Chicago Board of Education meeting.

  • The TAP program links teacher pay to students’ test scores. At first, teacher pay is mainly linked to school scores. As the years go by, more and more of your pay is determined by only your students’ scores.

  • In the merit pay pilot program, you are in competition with your colleagues for a limited pool of money. The worse your students do, the more money another teacher can make.

Let’s not give more power to Chicago Public Schools Administration and the standardized tests.

It’s not too late. CORE is fighting to stop the spread of merit pay and other insidious misuses of standardized tests. If elected, CORE will defend Chicago Teachers Union members from pay linked to test scores in the next contract negotiation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • But I heard the money is only a “bonus” on top of base salary?

    • Chicago Public Schools is using this as a strategy to legitimate merit pay. For example, at the next round of contract negotiations, CPS will likely offer “bonuses” for higher test scores with less base salary increase. How would the union defend our members if each teacher was paid differently based on a secret test? 10,000 grievances? Our basic bargaining power would be gone.

  • What about “value-added” scores?

    • The pilot merit pay program pays based on student score increases. This is quite problematic. In 2008, remember that ISBE had to rescore all the ISATs due to a scoring error. In 2010, Susan Zupan, a CORE member, found in her analysis that some grades increase their scores more than others every year.* This means it is not fair to compare across grade levels. Also, the tests were not designed to be used at a per-class level.

  • Wouldn’t this encourage competition among colleagues and maybe even cheating?

    • Yes. It also discourages cooperation and collegial sharing of methods and materials.

CORE’s Testing Task Force looks into how the misuse of standardized tests interferes with making schools that serve the best interests of our students. The CORE Testing Task Force is open to all who are interested in advocating and acting to create schools that work for kids.

For more information, or to get involved, please visit the CORE website:

*For Susan Zupan’s data go to