The future of teacher pay

An ongoing issue facing public education is teacher pay.  Many researchers, parents, and political leaders from across the left-right spectrum believe teachers are underpaid, but the question usually comes down to: how to raise teacher pay while ensuring that student achievement also rises?

Some advocate simple across-the-board pay increases, while others, such as proponents of the Denver school system’s ProComp plan, believe that pay increase must be tied to test scores and other measures of academic achievement. (TIME recently published this story on ProComp.)

The Center on Reinventing Public Education recently published a report (available here) that examines this issue closely:

There is a growing chorus in education policy for rewarding teachers for things such as raising student achievement, taking on difficult teaching assignments, and having special skills (e.g., a mathematics degree). Advocates of these reforms hope that financial incentives will motivate teachers to focus on performance and draw more talented teachers into the classrooms where they are most needed.

These ideas are not new, but they have a special urgency today as performance-based accountability ups the ante in the push for school improvement and as social scientists remind everyone how important teachers are to student achievement, especially for poor and minority students. At the same time, these ideas raise difficult questions: Where and how could these reforms work? How should pay incentives be structured? How will teachers respond? Despite a profusion of arguments in all directions, little empirical evidence exists about the answers to these and other important questions about redesigning teacher compensation.

This School Finance Redesign Project (SFRP) report briefly summarizes three SFRP teacher compensation studies that begin to help build the evidence base for reform.


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