Raising the Grade: Pay for Performance

Thursday, July 15th 2004, 11:23 am
By: News On 6

Most folks can remember a teacher who made a big difference in their education. Some can also recall a teacher who wasn't so good. With the push for highly qualified teachers in every classroom, some are wondering how do we weed out the bad apples. This week's "Raising the Grade" examines a system that would pay for good teaching.

Getting kids through Algebra Two is one of Bob Buck's major goals this summer. Sometimes its tough. When temperatures rise, young minds tend to wander. So, he jokes as he lectures and tries to connect with his students one on one.

Whether he succeeds or fails, Buck will take home the same paycheck. It's a system some think should be changed.

Professor Ron Moomaw, an economics professor at Oklahoma State University, says, "Teachers make a big difference but its hard to identify which teachers do so."

He thinks borrowing a few rules from the world of economics can get a better return on our investment in education. "One of the things that economists believe is that incentives matter. If you provide incentives for certain types of behavior then you'll get more of it," Moomaw says. He argues, "Right now, there are no incentives."

"Teachers are paid according to their level of education and years of experience and not their effectiveness." Moomaw goes on to say, "You are not motivating you're not identifying people you're not retaining the people who do better jobs."

The idea is simple. Reward good teaching, and you'll attract and keep good teachers, not to mention raise student acheivement. But it's a plan many teachers don't like.

Teacher Bob Buck says there's two sides to the plan. "Obviously the upside is people will strive to reach those levels but the problem is how do you measure that."

Some states, like North Carolina, measure a teacher's peformance by students' improvement on test scores.

Bob Buck says that's unfair to teachers with challenging assignments.

During the year, he teaches alternative students who are often behind in school and have other problems that have nothing to do with Algebra.

Buck continued, "The student who needs extra help the one that the gap is there. They don't understand this concept because they didn't get the previous concept. Any teacher who has that situation in going to be at a disadvantage."

Moomaw says, "It could not just reward teachers with easier assignments. That's why it has to be a more complex formula than just increase in test scores."

Not only is it complex, but it's expensive. North Carolina spent 138 million dollars last year to pay for performance. And Denver is considering raising property taxes for its program.

Professor Moomaw admits, "It's not an easy thing to implement pay for performance but it has potentially great benefits."

Buck says the best way to weed out the bad teachers is the old-fashioned way. Sit in the classroom and evaluate, thoroughly and often.