What teachers earn

Published November 1, 2012

In Canada, teachers are generally compensated according to a basic grid. They earn more according to their academic and professional credentials and the number of years they’ve spent in the classroom. A teacher can usually reach the maximum basic salary-currently topping out at around $72,000-by the 10- or 11-year mark.

In rare cases, they can earn extra. In Quebec’s English public school system, teachers who assume extra duties outside the classroom can earn extra pay for value-added services to their schools. So can teachers who work in remote areas of the province.

In Alberta, the publicly funded but privately run Calgary Girls’ School has entered the controversial area of teacher merit pay, offering small bonuses for effective teachers who go the extra mile.

Proponents of merit pay argue that traditional pay structures reward longevity as much as effectiveness, mediocrity as much as excellence. They believe that teachers-like other professionals such as doctors and lawyers-should be rewarded for service above and beyond the strict call of duty. Weaker and unmotivated teachers need incentives to improve or leave the profession.

Critics of teacher merit pay-especially compensation tied to student performance on standardized tests-fear it will turn education toward a business model, as has happened in some districts in the U.S. “Most businesses are mediocre at best and a lot of them fail. So why would we want to follow that model in education?” says Canadian Teachers’ Federation president Paul Taillefer.

Yet studies in the U.S. and the U.K. have reported a positive link between merit pay and improved student performance. One U.S. study found that pay incentives for teachers had more impact on student test scores than smaller classes.
And the merit-pay concept is not designed to turn teachers into profit-driven Gordon Gekkos. At the Calgary Girls’ School, for example, effective teachers can earn $1,000 bonuses but must spend them on further professional development.


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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