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Performance-Pay Innovation

Until recently, performance pay essentially meant offering teachers more money based largely on their students' standardized test scores.  But if the recent contract in New York City is ratified by union members, this would change. Teachers chosen by principals from a list prepared by committees of union and Education Department representatives will get anywhere from $7,500 to $20,000 more a year, depending on their designation of either "model" or "master" teacher ("Teachers Question Pay-for-Performance Element in Proposed Contract," The New York Times, May 3).

To receive the bonuses, teachers who are selected must work up to four additional hours a month and up to three more days in the summer. They would also have to open their classrooms to observations by other teachers.  Master teachers would have to swap schools for one year with other master teachers. This model expands on ones already in existence in 78 schools.

Unlike past bonus-pay programs, which were tainted by favoritism and ultracompetitiveness, the present program is promising because it minimizes or eliminates both factors: Teachers are not unilaterally chosen by the principal, and colleagueship is maintained because not all outstanding teachers want the additional responsibility. Moreover, the program offers teachers an incentive to stay in the classroom - rather than become administrators- to increase their income.  

I don't think we can continue along the same path paying all teachers the same.  As in any profession, some are better than others.  The challenge is to identify who these teachers are in a fair and transparent manner. If this is done properly, I support the change.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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