Making an IMPACT
Teacher evaluations are particularly contentious of late, as educators in New York and Hawaii can testify, which is why it’s worth remembering what can happen when they’re done right. Sam Dillon provided a heartening reminder in his New York Times feature on merit pay last weekend, highlighting D.C.’s pioneering IMPACTplus system. Critics of these initiatives point to studies finding that padding star teachers’ paychecks doesn’t boost student achievement; the best educators were working hard to begin with, and a few extra dollars won’t squeeze more from them. Dillon’s interviews with DCPS teachers who received bonuses, however—which can be as high as $25,000—reveal the potential of meaningful performance-based pay to bring about systemic change. In a profession with brutal turnover, getting talented young professionals into classrooms may be less important than keeping them there. D.C. is creating a competitive marketplace for top teachers in the region, and making a strong case to keep them in the capital. But no merit-pay system is possible without a credible (and rigorous) approach to teacher evaluation, which is why getting that right is of such paramount importance right now.
“In Washington, Large Rewards in Teacher Pay,” by Sam Dillon, New York Times, December 31, 2011.
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