Purpose and Performance in Teacher Performance Pay
Performance pay for teachers is a hot topic in education policy these days. President Barack Obama supported it during his campaign, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tried it during his tenure as Chicago’s schools chief. Already in practice or discussion in some states and many school districts, teacher performance pay is not a future possibility, it’s here now.
The underlying assumptions of test-based performance pay, the most commonly proposed approach, are troubling. To believe that teachers will try harder if offered a financial incentive is to assume that they aren’t trying hard now, that they know what to do but simply aren’t doing it, and that they are motivated more by money than by their students’ needs. These are unlikely and unsupported conclusions, which teachers find insulting rather than motivating.
But there is an even more fundamental assumption, based on a question too rarely asked: How should...
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