Bonuses for ‘good’ professors

  • Texas A&M University has established a reward program that recognizes teaching excellence wish cash awards.
  • Many people believe this is a good way of paying a profession that is famous for not getting paid enough
  • People in opposition attribute many factors to new system being flawed and unfair

The head of the Texas A&M University system wants to reward teaching excellence as seen by the students.

Chancellor Mike McKinney is giving out $1.1 million in Student Led Awards for Teaching Excellence, ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 to the top 18 percent of participating teachers.

Students will fill out a 16 question evaluation at the end of each semester in order to determine which professors will receive the awards.

Since this is just the pilot year of the program, only three A&M campuses are participating. Roughly 20 percent of the faculty put their names in the program.

McKinney believes this provides a valuable opportunity to pay people who deserve to be paid more.

"We recognize the people who do research but we don't recognize the people who teach and it is my intent to get some more money to the teachers," McKinney said. "We recognize that students are perfectly capable of telling you who the best teachers are and basically that the idea was to reward the teachers and have it done based on students evaluations."

McKinney said he grew up in a family of educators and he saw firsthand how much teachers get paid, or as he put it, don't get paid.

"I've recognized what they can do for the well-being of the world and I've recognized that their pay doesn't correspond to their contributions," McKinney said.

Despite McKinney's support, he has received some opposition.

"Part of the problem is that you have what I like to call philosophers who think that all good ideas have to come from multiple places and that's not so," McKinney said. "There are a number of (professors) who just don't think students are capable of being a good judge of who are good teachers."

Mark Womack, a sophomore history major at A&M and the co-chair of Academic Affairs in the Student Senate, helped write the question evaluation.

"We really see it as an opportunity," Womack said. "At the end of the day we feel there is a lot of need to reward teachers."

Womack also addressed the criticism that students evaluate teachers easier based on how easy they give out grades.

"I hear students talk about how much a student loves this professor despite the fact that he doesn't just hand out A's," Womack said. "The object for the award is not to be given but to be earned by the teachers."

Yet, some believe the program does not work.

Clint Magill, a professor of plant pathology and the Faculty Senate speaker at A&M, believes the awards may have more to do with popularity rather than teaching excellence.

"What seems obvious to me is that since some people learn in different ways, some of my students think I am great and a lot of them think I am awful and that's probably the way it should be," Magill said.

Another point brought up is that these awards might cause teachers to alter their teaching behavior.

Gary Meyer, associate dean of the College of Communication, said that was the first thought that came to his mind when hearing about these evaluations.

"You don't want to encourage a culture that is based on specific rewards like that so that teachers engage in certain practices that are directed towards some external incentive," Meyer said. "Ideally what (evaluations) do is give instructors valuable information that helps them do their job better."

This semester SLATE will expand to all nine A&M campuses and McKinney has asked the Texas Legislature for another $12 million just to keep the program going.