Pay Effective Teachers More Money

Strategy 1.4: Pay teachers substantially more for effectiveness.

StudentsFirst will support compensation plans that reward highly effective teachers.

In almost every other field, professionals are compensated for excellence or for successfully managing more difficult assignments. A demonstrable way to elevate the estimation of the teaching profession is to align compensation with the value of the job. The education of our children is not only honorable, but it is extraordinarily challenging and we demand great things from our teachers. Compensation must be commensurate with our high expectations.

Problematically, in today's classrooms, ineffective teachers are being paid as much as highly effective teachers. This results from the seniority-based lockstep salary schedules that enforce low starting salaries that do not permit raises or other bonuses for excellent performance — regardless of a teacher's seniority. While evidence tells us that even the best rookie teacher will have ample room to develop into a strong master veteran teacher, it also tells us that years of service and additional degrees are not a direct proxy for effectiveness. Yet, these factors remain the primary drivers of salary schedules in today's professional education workplace.

The alternative is to pay teachers based on how well they perform. We must do everything possible to encourage teacher excellence, and implementing fair salary schedules based on performance, not strictly years of service, will allow this type of differentiation. When data confirms a teacher's effectiveness, he or she should be recognized and financially rewarded. A fair schedule will also take into account high-demand subject areas or hard-to-staff assignments and rewards should be significant enough to retain highly effective teachers. Financial rewards can recognize group effort, because evidence demonstrates that collaboration among instructors does benefit student learning, but a large portion of the financial reward should go to individual high performers.

Remarkably, some teacher contracts and state laws around the country explicitly prohibit any kind of differentiated pay based on a teacher's performance. By removing any financial incentive for individual effort or excellence, these prohibitions only encourage mediocrity. Other professions do not actively prohibit their strongest performers from receiving individual financial rewards. A true performance-based pay system will reward teachers on an individual level for individual achievements in advancing student performance and not solely on seniority and additional degrees.