The use of student test scores in teacher evaluations has been
controversial in some places, but a number of school districts are
going ahead with the idea.
The issue of judging or paying teachers based on student test
scores has stirred up high-profile controversies in Los Angeles and
Washington, D.C. But school districts across the United States are
collaborating with unions and moving ahead with such plans - often
as part of a broader set of changes to professionalize the career.
Baltimore is in the spotlight Thursday as teachers vote on a new
contract that would radically alter the traditional salary
structure. It would pay teachers based on their level of
accomplishment and responsibility, as well as their students'
achievement gains - rather than their seniority or academic degrees.
"Lead teachers," one per Baltimore school, could earn $100,000 a
year. The schools could also set up working conditions that vary
from the standard contract, such as longer workdays, if 80 percent
of teachers in the school agree to it.
From Tampa, Fla., to New Haven, Conn., recent contracts are
incorporating merit pay while giving teachers other incentives to
stay, particularly in schools serving the most disadvantaged kids.
Merit pay "should be just one part of the picture," says Emily
Cohen, district policy director for the National Council on Teacher
Quality, a policy and advocacy group in Washington. "The point is to
recognize effective teachers, to create a path where really top
teachers can stay in the classroom ... and they don't have to become
a principal to receive higher pay."
Baltimore stands out because the contract doesn't just offer a
bonus to teachers, she says: "It totally rethinks teacher
Baltimore's plan is not dependent on private grants, Ms. Cohen
says, which sets it apart from neighboring Washington, where some
outside money may now be in jeopardy because funders pinned their
hopes on outgoing school Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
Ms. Rhee's push for merit pay and other changes generated huge
opposition from the teachers union, although she's been hailed by
many education reform advocates nationwide.
Rhee announced Wednesday that she would step down at the end of
the month, which has been expected since Mayor Adrian Fenty, who
appointed her, lost a primary election to Vincent Gray. Mr. Gray,
who is expected to win the upcoming mayoral race, said that school
reform would continue to move forward and that Rhee's senior
leadership team would stay in place. …