Teachers Taking High Test Scores to Bank for Bonuses

October 22, 2008 at 1:45 pm Leave a comment

teacher.jpgAcross the USA, a small but growing number of school districts are experimenting with teacher-pay packages that front-load higher salaries and offer bonuses — sometimes tens of thousands of dollars’ worth — if student test scores improve or if teachers work in hard-to-staff schools.

At least eight states are moving away from a traditional pay model, which increases salaries based on seniority and advanced degrees. Many of the pay packages are funded by private foundations. In dozens of districts, test scores already have earned teachers more money. A few examples:

• In Chicago, teachers at a handful of schools can earn up to $8,000 in annual bonuses for improved scores, while mentor teachers and “lead teachers” can earn an extra $7,000 or $15,000, respectively.

• In Nashville, middle-school math teachers can earn up to $15,000 based on student performance.

Do such plans work? A research center launched at Vanderbilt University to study performance pay has found mostly promising, if limited, results.

A proposed realignment of pay in Washington, D.C., public schools could prove the most sweeping of all. Teachers with as few as six years of experience could earn well over $100,000 — more than twice the national average.

The pending contract is still in negotiation. The sticking point is that D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee wants teachers to give up traditional tenure and seniority protections. She also would require all teachers who want the big raises to work under probationary status for a year.

“I get e-mails every day from teachers who are like, ‘I know I’m a great teacher. I have no problem going through the probationary period. I’m good.’ I’ve had some people say, ‘Take tenure away, period. I don’t care. I can produce the results.’ ”

Says George Parker, president of the Washington Teachers Union: “A lot of our younger teachers say, ‘Bring it on.’ ” Older teachers, he says, want a sense of due process.

Education reformers of all political stripes have long called for new ways to pay teachers. Both presidential candidates support merit pay, making it likely that the issue will affect teachers nationwide.

“We just need much more experimentation and dynamism on this,” Duke University economist Jacob Vigdor says.

Teachers are sharply divided. A survey in January found 88% support bonuses for those who agree to work in hard-to-staff schools; 35% support them for improved test scores. Many say they don’t trust test scores to accurately reflect their efforts. The American Federation of Teachers supports bonuses for entire staffs if student achievement rises — and for individuals if they get advanced credentials, mentor other teachers or work in challenging schools, says AFT’s Rob Weil. “It’s important for teachers to have a say in how they’ll be compensated.”

Source: USAToday


Entry filed under: Education, Finances. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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