Paying teachers based on their performance has caught on nationwide in the last year. And it's due in large part to President Obama's $4.3 billion "Race to the Top" education initiative that rewards states with large grants if they comply with its parameters--one of which is rewarding excellence in the classroom with more teacher pay. The idea has garnered both support and disdain from teachers, administrators and politicians alike.
In Tennessee--a state that won a half-billion-dollar Race to the Top Grant--strides have been made to implement a pay for performance system in its public schools. The state recently passed a law that bases 35 percent of teachers' evaluations and pay on test scores.
"We need to be able to incentivize teachers," said Tim Webb, Tennessee's commissioner of education. "We need to be able to pay those teachers based on their performance, so that we can recruit the best and brightest."
Some teachers in Nashville, the state's capital, see "pay for performance" as an inaccurate measuring stick and a mechanism that could cause division between colleagues. Moreover, they argue that teachers would be driven to only teach to meet the standards of a test, which is not beneficial to students as instruction would focuses solely on test preparation and test-taking skills.
Research from Matt Springer of Vanderbilt University reveals that the "pay for performance" incentive doesn't necessarily create results. Over the course of three years Springer analyzed the test scores of students whose teachers were offered a $15,000 bonus and those whose teachers had not. The findings of this groundbreaking study showed that test scores remained the same among both sets of students.
Still, as states are in dire need of money for education reform, many will continue to amend their education standards in order to receive a chunk of the "Race to the Top" money.
"We need to move to a system that says, if you work harder, if you do better, if you try to improve your craft and your students perform better, you get paid more." --Tim Webb, Tennessee commissioner of education
"I think they're doing tremendous damage by promoting this. It would terribly corrupt American education." --Richard Rothstein, Economic Policy Institute
"Their (students) lives are so chaotic and so disruptive, I would hate to think that this day that they take the test might have been the day that mom didn't come home or dad went to jail." --Viki Dooley, Nashville Public School teacher
1. What is education reform?
2. What is standardized testing?
3. When you hear the phrase "pay for performance," what does that mean to you?
1. Do you think it's wise to seek change in schools by using money for teachers as leverage? Why or why not?
2. What are some ways you think education reform could be improved in the United States?
3. Do you believe you would receive a better education if your teacher were offered a bonus? Why or why not?
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