Performance-pay programs in Ohio aren't enough

An article in yesterday's Columbus Dispatch delivered two important reminders regarding teacher performance-pay. First, even in cities that have experimented with it for several years (Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Cincinnati) the results are incredibly difficult to measure. (Recall that even Texas, which has some of the oldest and most comprehensive performance pay plans, has mixed results.)??

Second ??? and most salient on everyone's minds ??? is the fact that performance-pay is very expensive. Districts relying on grant funding from programs like the national Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) or the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) eventually need to use their own funds to supplant grant money. The Dispatch provides an example:

The four Columbus schools that have been trying TAP the longest -- Easthaven and Parkmoor elementary schools, Champion Middle and South High -- are no longer funded by the grant, which means the district is picking up the tab. The grant for the four other schools -- Fifth Avenue and Lindbergh elementary schools, and Clinton and Starling middle schools -- will run out at the start of the next school year???. The district also must cut its budget by millions, a promise made by the school board in its 2008 levy campaign. There's no guarantee that TAP will continue.

With so many Ohio districts facing sizeable budget deficits (not to mention the tidal wave of costs resulting from Gov. Strickland's ???evidence-based??? mandates), maintaining ??? let alone expanding ??? performance-pay programs in Buckeye districts will be a challenge.

This makes Georgia Gov. Perdue's recent proposal to revamp the statewide teacher-salary schedule that much more interesting. Perdue has introduced legislation that would build performance-pay into the existing salary structure. Teachers opting in to the new system would forego salary increases based on advanced degrees; salary bumps would instead be based (in part) on observations and student performance data.

Overhauling the teacher salary system in Ohio would mitigate both challenges to performance-pay programs. Rather than using finite grant money to create layers on top of an outdated and already expensive salary system, refurbishing the entire statewide system would make it easier to measure impacts and would reduce costs. Unfortunately, Ohio teachers unions??would certainly scuttle any reforms resembling what Georgia (a right to work state) has proposed.

-Jamie Davies O'Leary

-Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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