RALEIGH – The local teacher association and other assorted interest groups are up in arms about a proposed performance-pay plan for educators in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. They also have doubts about a bill in the state legislature that would authorize CMS to move forward with the plan.
I don’t. While I agree with JLF policy analyst Terry Stoops that CMS officials didn’t do a good job designing and marketing their plan, their goal is a good one. School districts ought to be offering higher compensation to teachers who add more value to classroom learning than their peers do.
The inability or unwillingness to distinguish and reward teachers on the basis of performance should be considered one of the main flaws of the current public school system – and is one of the reasons why simply increasing education spending doesn’t necessarily lead to increased student performance.
Relying on across-the-board pay raises means raising the pay of good teachers, mediocre teachers, and poor teachers alike. Conditioning pay raises on factors such as longevity and graduate degrees completed, factors that do not exhibit any consistent relationship to student achievement, also means raising the pay of good teachers, mediocre teachers, and poor teachers alike.
If you don’t couple across-the-board adjustments with larger supplements for your highest performers, based on actual value-added measurement of student achievement, you are not going to improve the quality of your professional workforce over time. And if you resist the whole idea that North Carolina teachers run the gamut from good to mediocre to poor, you should not be allowed anywhere near the power to set teacher compensation in the first place.
Rep. Ruth Samuelson of Charlotte, the House majority whip, has filed enabling legislation to allow CMS to pursue its performance-pay plan. As Stoops explained in this week’s edition of his Education Update e-letter, the bill doesn’t specify any particular structure or measurement device, so its passage would still allow CMS to get its act together and present a plan that will make sense to most parents and many teachers.
And now, because this is an educational topic, here are your reading assignments:
• A 2008 paper by Terry Stoops that explores the general topic of performance pay in North Carolina schools, with a particular emphasis on the Mission Possible plan already implemented in Guilford County.
• Stoops’ follow-up column arguing that teacher effectiveness can be objectively and fairly measured.
• A Greensboro News & Record piece discussing value-added assessment, Mission Possible, and North Carolina’s obligations under its Race to the Top grant.
• Carolina Journal coverage of performance-pay controversies in Greensboro and Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
• A CJ column on merit pay by Andy Taylor, political science chairman at North Carolina State University.
• And a CJ column of mine on recent survey research suggesting that pluralities of poll respondents favor performance pay and the abolition of teacher tenure.
Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation.