Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Linking Teachers and Student Test Scores Gains Some Momentum

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Linking Teachers and Student Test Scores Gains Some Momentum

Article excerpt

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 compensation."

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. …

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