Lawmakers Encouraged to Embrace…

SALT LAKE — (January 7, 2009) — As Utah lawmakers work to enact reforms to public education – specifically, teacher compensation – they should be wary of simple solutions.

In The Myth of the Silver Bullet: A Comprehensive Approach to Teacher incentive Pay,  a policy recommendation released today by the Sutherland Institute, policy analyst Derek Monson proposes a comprehensive approach that touches on each stage of a teacher’s career as the best strategy for improving teacher quality.  With this as their basis, the Institute encourages lawmakers to aspire to a performance-based system rather than simply performance-based pay.

Such a comprehensive approach would include a new state teacher certification that recognizes subject mastery and practical pedagogical training, not an “appropriate” college major, as measures of competency.  This approach would also include a single salary schedule for all state-certified teachers that: 1) ends collective bargaining, 2) offers a competitive starting salary and benefits, 3) boosts earning potential, and 4) increases pay solely through performance measurement.  To view a “snapshot” comparing Sutherland’s incentive-pay proposal and the current method of paying teachers, click here.

Performance measurement would reclaim the optimal, local decision-making partnership: parents, teachers, and principals.  Annual performance evaluations can produce this renaissance, which in turn would lead to higher-performing public schools.  These performance reviews would make teachers accountable to principals, and both teachers and principals accountable to involved parents.  Such evaluations give each a significant voice in a child’s education, and focus the efforts of all on academic success.

Other policies, including additional pay for those in “hard-to-staff” schools and high-cost areas, additional compensation for teacher-group performance, and new standards for termination hearings and tenure can complement these broader policies.  Taken together, these proposals create the framework for a performance-based system.  The proposals also will help reduce teacher shortages and improve professional reputation.  Most importantly, they will improve the quality of teaching being offered to children and families served by Utah’s public schools