I found this EdWeek’s blog post “Buying Better Student Achievement” thought provoking. The opinion piece discusses the complexity of teacher compensation. The author mentions Bill Gates’ recent statement that offering a pay bump for a master’s degree is a waste. Is it? Shouldn’t an advanced degree increase a teacher’s knowledge of teaching, learning, and/or subject matter expertise? How could that not positively impact student achievement in the classroom? I agree, perhaps we need additional layers of evaluation. The act of earning a MA degree shouldn’t warrant a pay bump but rather a teacher should be given a pay increase if he/she is able to effectively apply the acquired knowledge/skills in the classroom. And that brings us to the complex issue of merit pay. Sigh.
I agree with the author (and others) who feel that a compensation reform will help to recruit and retain top talent to the teaching profession. Research shows that teachers have the most impact on student achievement. I also love the idea of fellowship programs (the author mentions the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship) which offer incentives and additional support to teachers.
I’ll leave you with a thought from the author, “…accountability does not impart the ability to improve.” It reminds me of one of the main findings from Roland Fryer’s research on performance-based incentives. Incentives work when used to reinforce ‘inputs’, behaviors that students have control of (i.e. attendance). Incentives tied to ‘outputs’ (i.e. state test performance) are less effective primarily because students do not necessarily know what is required or what path to take to reach those end results.