Teachers: can’t live with em, can’t live without ‘em

Amidst lots of recent drama about teacher evaluations (e.g. New York’s
Commissioner of Education has withheld
funds
to nearly a dozen school districts (including more than 30
high need schools in New York City
) that didn’t complete their teacher
evaluation agreements with the local teacher unions, TFA founder Wendy Kopp and
NEA president Dennis Van Roekel joining hands in a USA
Today essay

(an
essay that has befuddled Diane
Ravitch
), the Connecticut Education Association releasing a
teacher evaluation reform package
, New York state’s largest teacher union
unveiling a 95-page Teacher
Evaluation and Development Handbook
, and news
from New Jersey
that teacher tenure may be ended in the Garden State this
year) came a wonderful report by Sam Dillon in the New York Times: In
Washington Large Rewards In Teacher Pay
.

Dillon explains how D.C.’s much watched Impact
Plus
teacher evaluation system (introduced by Michelle Rhee in 2009, but as
a collaboration with the Washington Teachers Union) is working. “We want to
make great teachers rich,” the district’s chief of human capital, Jason Kamras,
tells Dillon. 

And, in fact, Dillon offers some brief profiles of teachers – rated
“highly effective” by the new rubric – who are getting double-digit percentage
pay increases and five-figure annual bonuses. “Lots of teachers leave the
profession,” says one of these teachers, who received a 38 percent pay increase
in one year, “but this has kept me invested to stay… I know they value me.”

As Dillon writes,

Many districts have tried over the last decade to experiment
with performance pay systems but have frequently been thwarted by powerful
teachers’ unions that negotiated the traditional pay structures. Those that
have implemented merit pay have generally offered bonuses of a few thousand
dollars, often as an incentive to work in hard-to-staff schools or to work
extra hours to improve students’ scores. Several respected studies have found
that such payments have scant effect on student achievement; since most good
teachers already work hard, before and after class, there are limits to how
much more can be coaxed out of them with financial incentives.
But Washington
is the leader among a handful of large cities that are seeking a more
fundamental overhaul of teacher pay. Alongside the aggressive new evaluation
system that has made the city famous for firing poor-performing teachers — more
than 400 over the past two years — is a bonus-and-raise structure aimed at
luring talented people to the profession and persuading the most effective to
stick with it.

These are significant changes in creating a teacher corps that will
begin to make difference. Congratulations to Washington.

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