Chicago Tribune highlights TeacherSolutions report

A recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune highlighted the new report from the TLN TeacherSolutions team on professional compensation, ‘Performance-Pay for Teachers: Designing a System That Students Deserve.’ Here’s what the Tribune had to say:

A radical idea from teachers 

There’s a new call to overhaul the way public school teachers get paid, and it’s coming from an unusual source: Teachers.

A teacher’s paycheck is usually determined by how many years she has worked and whether or not she has earned a master’s degree. Her work in the classroom — her performance — doesn’t count for much.

Now 18 master teachers from across the country say that must change. The group, convened by the North Carolina-based Center for Teaching Quality, spent a year studying this issue.

A “carefully crafted performance-pay system has huge potential to transform the teaching profession in ways that can help all students learn more,” says the teachers’ report, which is available at Teacherleaders.org.

A growing body of research and experience tells us what these accomplished teachers know instinctively: Nothing affects student achievement more than teacher quality.

“What we have here is a chance to recast and reshape our profession,” said Anthony Cody, an Oakland, Calif., math and science teacher who was part of the group.

The 18 expert educators gathered in Chicago recently to publicly share their findings.

Here’s what they recommend:

• Create at least three tiers in a base-pay system: novice, professional and expert, based on experience, credentials and performance.

• Supplement the base-pay system with performance rewards available to all teachers, particularly those who take on leadership roles and who show sustained student gains over time.

• Pay more for additional degrees and professional development only if the teacher boosts student achievement. Tossing extra credentials after one’s name does not necessarily make for a better teacher.

• Encourage collaboration among teachers about best teaching practices.

• Offer incentives to lure highly qualified teachers into high-need, low-performing schools — but only if those teachers show results in classrooms.

The traditional pay system for teachers came about more than 50 years ago as a way to address gender and race inequities among teachers. That was a different time, in a different world.

Performance pay isn’t a new idea, but it has become a hot topic in recent years as schools have been expected to meet more specific student achievement goals. Florida and Texas, Minneapolis and Denver, Montgomery County, Md., and a smattering of other school districts around the country have adopted versions of performance pay. Last fall, Chicago was awarded a $27.3 million federal grant to create a program in 40 schools that would reward teacher performance.

The Illinois Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, officially opposes the idea of performance pay. But the union created a working group last summer to discuss how the idea might work to boost student outcomes and support teachers.

“If [teachers] don’t take responsibility, others will and it won’t be done as well,” said IEA Executive Director Jo Anderson, one of the speakers at the Center for Teaching Quality conference. “The single-salary schedule has no tie to accountability. That’s a flaw and a fault we must acknowledge and figure out how to do better.”

The findings of the 18 top-notch teachers who issued the “TeacherSolutions for Teacher Compensation” report underscore that we have a teacher compensation system divorced from student achievement. Illinois spends $20 billion a year on education. We must find smarter, more accountable ways to spend that money. And we need to focus school efforts, including compensation systems, with a single goal in mind: Raising student achievement.

Read more coverage of the TeacherSolutions report about professional compensation at our What Others Are Saying page!