Date of Award

Winter 2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Walter L. Burt

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Reeves

Third Advisor

Dr. James Morse


Merit pay, performance-based, revised school code, teacher, compensation, policy evasion, Michigan school districts


In 2010, Public Act 205 was passed and signed into law, revising Michigan School Code section 1250. This revision required compensation for teachers to be based on job performance and job accomplishments. Compensation based on performance or merit is a significant departure from existing practice wherein teachers are paid a step scale salary based on years of service and educational qualifications. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to investigate the lived experience of nine superintendents as it relates to the implementation of section 1250 of PA 205 in their respective districts. Participants were divided into three categories based on their responsiveness or lack of responsiveness to this legislative mandate, with the overall intent of uncovering the how and why these superintendents responded to the school code revision.

Overall, the superintendents in the study supported the concept of merit pay as an improvement over the current salary and step schedule. Moreover, they supported merit pay ideologically, as it would increase teacher accountability; however, substantial policy evasion occurred, with most superintendents not implementing merit pay. Reasons included concern over the conflict elimination of the salary and step schedule would cause with the teacher bargaining group, the lack of external sanctions for noncompliance, and limited stakeholder support. Those that did implement merit pay did so when certain contextual conditions were in place. These conditions included a “policy champion” at the ISD level who guided the superintendents towards compliance, collaboration with teachers in the local districts when creating the merit pay models, and the development of local and unique merit pay programs. The study is concluded with several recommendations for policymakers and school superintendents who wish to implement merit pay programs in the future.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access