In a speech at Oakton High School here last week, President Reagan touted the Fairfax County, Va., school system’s incentive-based efforts to professionalize teaching and encouraged students to consider entering the field.
“Fairfax County has shown the nation how to upgrade the teaching profession by demonstrating how to attract and retain good teachers,’' Mr. Reagan said.
“Career ladders, performance-based pay, and other initiatives help to keep good teachers in the profession, and everybody benefits--students, parents, and teachers.’'
The Fairfax system is phasing in a controversial career-ladder plan that evaluates teachers on a five-point scale. Those who qualify for advancement will begin receiving additional pay during the 1989-90 school year.
The President praised the district’s superintendent, Robert R. Spillane, for promoting a plan that “rewards excellence in the teaching profession just as we reward excellence in any other profession.’'
“We’ve begun to introduce free-market principles like incentives and accountability to education,’' the President said.
Mr. Reagan said he hoped that such moves would continue to attract more people to teaching. He cited a recent poll that he said showed “a sharp increase among college students who intend to enter the teaching profession.’'
When he asked students in the audience who were planning to become teachers to raise their ands, however, only a few responded.
With anecdotes featuring Sam Houston--the legendary Texas hero who was once a schoolteacher--and Sir Thomas More, the President encouraged others to consider teaching.
He also urged the students to become “the generation that stops supporting drug pushers.’'
Stressing individual initiative and responsibility in problem-solving--"whether the problem is improving education or eliminating drug abuse’'--the President quoted from a current hit song by Michael Jackson called “Man in the Mirror.’'
“No message could be any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, just start with the man in the mirror.’'
A version of this article appeared in the March 30, 1988 edition of Education Week as Reagan Praises Teachers and Incentive Pay