Changing to Pay-For-Performance Requires Communication Reform

By Nora Carr

Few issues in education ignite more passion than compensation reform, which seeks to tie at least a portion of teacher pay to specific performance measures.

School boards and public school parents generally embrace the notion of paying more to educators who produce greater learning gains or tackle tougher assignments in high-need schools, but classroom teachers are more skeptical -- at least initially.

Elected officials, enticed by similar movements in health care, public utilities, telecommunications, and other industries, are intrigued but want to avoid the merit pay debacles of the 1980s that pitted teachers unions against school district leaders.

At the same time, some scholars and public policy groups caution against pouring more money into pay-for-performance until research shows it works. Others want compensation reform written into the reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Meanwhile, more districts and states are jumping on the pay-for-performance bandwagon, spurred in part by new federal grant funding and groundbreaking work in Denver and other cities. 

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