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Is Performance Pay Back on the Front Burner?

There must be something in the water: Performance pay, after going through a fallow period following a 2010 study that found few effects on student learning, all of a sudden seems back on policymakers' radar screens.

To be fair, some of the new plans, like this New York one to pay $60,000 over four years to certain math and science teachers, are really gussied-up professional-development and induction programs: New York recipients would helping mentor and train their colleagues.

In the same vein, Nevada's former schools superintendent, Jim Guthrie, has presented a provocative plan to pay 2,000 teachers in the state the eye-popping salary of $200,000, according to Las Vegas Sun reporter Paul Takahashi. Such teachers, as in New York, would be expected to share their teaching practices with colleagues.

This one seems a lot less likely to become actual policy anytime soon, Takahashi reports, because there isn't a good measure for identifying which teachers would be eligible for the huge bonuses and some lawmakers want to invest in other costly programs, such as preschool.

A Michigan legislative panel, on the other hand, took a step May 22 toward making teacher performance the "primary" factor in teacher compensation, and also would base the performance measure "primarily" on student-achievement growth. "Primary" and "primarily" are the key words here, since it means that more than half the evaluation would be based on student achievement, a higher figure than anywhere else in the nation.

The Michigan proposal is interesting for another reason: It would allow districts to factor in advanced degrees only if the degree was earned in the content area, for secondary teachers, and in elementary education, for grade school teachers. This is likely to be opposed by many of the state's teacher colleges (master's degrees are often granted in leadership or curriculum, for instance) but it is somewhat more in line with research on teacher credentials.

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