Performance pay for k-12 teachers is stalling in Florida, mostly because teachers hate the proposed plan. A few states to the left, however, some Arkansas schoolteachers are warming to the merit pay idea. It all started at Meadowcliff Elementary in Little Rock, where principal Karen Carter teamed up with publishing giant Walter Hussman, Jr., to implement a tiered system of performance bonuses for the school's employees. Unlike Florida's plan, where bonuses are limited to a certain percentage of teachers and are small (the top prize is $2,100), the Meadowcliff program rewarded all employees of outstanding schools, from administrators to janitors, with an average bonus of $6,800. Teachers rightly received the most cash, and the best teachers received the fattest checks. The program has since spread to neighboring schools, and Hussman has successfully lobbied the district and other donors to keep it going. The Sunshine State could learn something from the Natural State's example. Whether done at the state level or local level, merit pay on its own isn't worth praising; if you're going to do it, the details matter.
"Bring on the bonus checks," by Ron Matus, St. Petersburg Times, March 18, 2007