Ideas with merit

Dallas education administrators are learning a valuable lesson: teachers are reluctant to work in tough classrooms, even if you pay them $6,000 extra. This year, the city tried to lure its best teachers into hard-to-staff schools by offering them $6,000 annual bonuses as "combat pay." Sixty-five educators appear to have switched to the struggling schools--which is not a despairingly low number, but it's not a high one, either. According to researcher Eric Hanushek, combat pay will only entice large numbers of teachers in Texas to switch schools if bonuses are at least 45 percent of their base pay, or about $20,000. Furthermore, other factors--school climate, student behavior, etc.--are simply more important to them than the bottom line. Still, Dallas has done some things right. In a particularly smart move, it offered extra cash not only to transferring teachers, but also to successful educators currently on staff at the neediest schools. Next, the city should work to improve the climate and behavior inside those schools (perhaps by offering big bonuses to principals who do just that). And the lesson for districts nationwide is clear: when contemplating teacher bonuses, think big.

"DISD bonus plan draws few teachers to struggling schools," by Kent Fischer, Dallas Morning News, December 16, 2007