Making an IMPACT

clown fish in anemone photo

Like clown fish and anemone, teacher evals
and merit pay need each other.
Photo by Rob

Teacher evaluations are particularly contentious of late, as
educators in New York and Hawaii can testify
, which is why it’s worth
remembering what can happen when they’re done right. Sam Dillon provided a
heartening reminder in his New York Times
feature on merit pay last weekend, highlighting D.C.’s pioneering IMPACTplus
system. Critics of these initiatives point to studies finding that padding star
teachers’ paychecks doesn’t
boost student achievement
; the best educators were working hard to begin
with, and a few extra dollars won’t squeeze more from them. Dillon’s interviews
with DCPS teachers who received bonuses, however—which can be as high as
$25,000—reveal the potential of meaningful performance-based pay to bring about
systemic change. In a profession with brutal turnover, getting talented young
professionals into classrooms may be less important than keeping them there. D.C.
is creating
a competitive marketplace
for top teachers in the region, and making a
strong case to keep them in the capital. But no merit-pay system is possible
without a credible (and rigorous) approach to teacher evaluation, which is why
getting that right is of such
paramount importance right now.

Washington, Large Rewards in Teacher Pay
,” by Sam Dillon, New York Times, December 31, 2011.

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