Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Support Grows for Teacher Bonuses - washingtonpost.com

I am not sure how much longer the teacher's unions can hold out on the issue of performance pay.
The Washington Post carries the story on its front page of the print edition, and the news is not good. A movement gaining momentum in Congress and some school systems in the Washington region and beyond would boost pay for exceptional teachers in high-poverty schools, a departure from salary schedules based on seniority and professional degrees that have kept pay in lockstep for decades.

Lawmakers are debating this month whether to authorize federal grants through a revision of the No Child Left Behind law for bonuses of as much as $12,500 a year for outstanding teachers in schools that serve low-income areas....

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said that the teaching workforce is leaking talent and that his proposal would help rejuvenate it. Young teachers watch their friends "go off and get paid for their time and ingenuity" in other fields, Miller said. "In teaching, you go as fast as the slowest person."

Miller's proposal, building on recent federal steps to encourage incentive pay, would provide grants to school systems that choose to pay bonuses to teachers who excel in high-poverty schools, worth up to $10,000 in most cases and $12,500 for specialists in math, science and other hard-to-staff subjects. Decisions on who gets extra pay would be based on student test gains and professional evaluations. Miller's aides said they had no cost estimate for the measure.
When the leading Democrat in the House is pushing performance pay, it is going to be difficult for the NEA and AFT to make a solid case against performance pay. While it could have been argued five years ago that there was no data to suggest that performance pay either improved teacher retention or improved student performance, that may soon no longer be the case.
Performance pay efforts are underway in school systems in Denver and Minnesota, and some local administrators are planning to establish fast tracks for financial rewards for top teachers.
With the improvement in student data and the ability to link students to their teachers in the data, in a few years at worst, we are going to see the impact of performance pay on retention--at least in the short run, and student performance.

Admittedly, the unions do have a fair beef with performance pay being tied to one and only one measurement. However, students and schools are measured on performance on test scores alone as well. While a student's overall grades, both in terms of classwork and standardized tests should be the measure of success for them, and there are certainly other measures of success for a school, teachers unions have yet to make a case for what measurements should be involved in performance pay.

The teachers' uninos are going to have to drop their objection to performance pay. The fact of the matter is that it is real and it is coming. For all their sermons about the noble profession of teaching, every other actor in the education arena is looking to treat, and compensate, teachers as professionals, that is rewarding the truly good ones and incentivizing others to improve, save the unions themselves. The unions are the only education actor worth anything that does not embrace the idea of some sort of performance pay for teachers. The unions are wedded to the notion of collective bargaining, step pay schedules and treating teachers as interchangeable parts, like unskilled, but educated, factory workers.

In fact the unions will need to get out in front of this issue and propose a plan for objectively measuring teacher performance (and yes standardized test scores have to be a part of that measurement scheme--the schools simply cannot cave on that idea). If the unions would make such a gesture, it would be quickly received by policymakers and a reasonable plan can be developed, with all parties involved. Otherwise, a plan will be developed without teacher union input and shoved down their throat--essentially gutting them as a political entity.


loonyhiker said...

I think performance pay would be good if all teachers could be judged uniformly. Unfortunately I feel this would be impossible. Just like our students, teachers have different styles of teaching, and our students have so many different needs. We don't feed all students from the same spoon and unfortunately we are expected to do this according to NCLB. I think now more than ever we are leaving many kids behind.

Anonymous said...

teachers unions have yet to make a case for what measurements should be involved in performance pay

Why should they help a bad idea come to life?