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The Boston Globe

Opinion

LAWRENCE HARMON

The ladder lesson

In Lawrence, teachers’ raises will be based on merit, not seniority. But how will the union react?

The Lawrence school system is about to launch what state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester calls a “revolutionary’’ compensation plan for teachers. Of course, what passes for revolutionary in a public school system looks like old-fashioned merit pay in most job sectors. Still, the Lawrence plan is so sensible on its face that it might actually inspire major changes in how schools pay teachers across the state.

Teacher salaries normally rise in two ways: First, there are annual percentage increases determined through contract negotiations; second, there are “steps’’ and “lanes’’ by which teachers who reach a certain seniority threshold, or accrue a set number of credits toward a higher degree, receive automatic raises. Principals complain, legitimately, that steps and lanes are useless in recruiting, retaining, and rewarding the best teachers. But teachers’ unions generally resist linking performance and pay, fearful that it will divide and demoralize their membership.

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