NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 5, 2006

Denver voters agreed in November to pony up an extra $25 million in property taxes to pay successful teachers more. Denver's plan pegging pay to student learning could boost the salaries of some teachers by 40 percent over a 25-year career. It is the first comprehensive pay reform by a large school district, says USA Today.

The need to attract more talented teachers is clear. A decade of research has established a tight link between teacher quality and student performance. Elementary school students who draw three weak teachers in a row end up significantly behind those who draw three strong ones.

With the pay-for-performance barrier fully breached in Denver, more experiments may emerge:

  • Last month, educators and union officials in Chicago agreed to a pilot program in which top-rated teachers mentor and evaluate their peers.
  • In Massachusetts, Gov. Mitt Romney has proposed spending an extra $179 million through 2007 on reforms that would include $5,000 bonuses to teachers whose competence was proven through student performance.
  • In New York City last fall, schools Chancellor Joel Klein demanded multiple pay innovations, including merit raises, signing bonuses and extra pay for hard-to-staff positions.

There are good reasons to believe pay innovations will prove effective. Denver voters raised their own taxes knowing that an experimental pay program there boosted student performance and ushered in valuable reforms. For them, paying teachers for performance passed the common-sense test, says USA Today.

Source: Editorial, "Big gain on teachers' pay: Denver's teachers will get more money but only for better results," USA Today, January 5, 2006.


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