Teachers Who Excel Should Be Paid More

The federal government is nudging school districts into pay for performance. It’s about time.

The Teacher Incentive Fund gives grants to districts that set up pay systems that rewards teachers in return for results. The Wichita Eagle runs a wire service story about the program, which mentions that several districts in Ohio will share the first $5.5 million.

The teacher unions object, of course: it seems to be in their DNA. The NEA smells political opportunism in the timing of the grants (and with “bringing home the bacon” an election theme of incumbents everywhere, they may be right on the timing, if wrong on the substance.)

The AFT objects that giving grants based on tests given at one point in time isn’t a good idea. They’re right, but the solution is not to ignore incentive pay–it’s to get an adequate baseline early in the school year, and then test later on. The union also objects that incentive pay doesn’t raise overall pay. True enough–then again, that’s the point: pay for performance, not just for showing up.

The plan gives priority to schools that enroll children from poor families. Good thing. Right now, teachers have an incentive to go where the pay scale is higher–and teachers who do a better job of raising student performance could be financially punished for staying in high-poverty schools.

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