Teacher pay is back in the news, with a good roundup of
opinion on the New York Times' Room
for Debate page
. We hear the usual comparisons between teachers and other
workers — and some unusual ones (teachers vs. bartenders?).

problem seems to be how we allocate resources, not how much money is available.

All the contributors miss a point that hits principals and superintendents the
hardest, however: If a good teacher walks out the door to work in another
district, or another profession entirely, because his manager doesn't have the
flexibility to pay him more (and potentially pay a less-effective colleague
less in order to balance the staff budget), something is screwed up about
teacher pay. Given how much money we spend on K-12 education in America, and
how quickly budgets have grown compared to modest enrollment growth, the
problem seems to be how we allocate resources, not how much money is available.

Note that this is not about building bigger and better state- or district-wide
formulas as some education reformers prefer. Value-added models are great tools
for principals to evaluate their teachers, but...

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.

Amidst lots of recent drama about teacher evaluations (e.g. New York’s
Commissioner of Education has withheld
to nearly a dozen school districts (including more than 30
high need schools in New York City
) that didn’t complete their teacher
evaluation agreements with the local teacher unions, TFA founder Wendy Kopp and
NEA president Dennis Van Roekel joining hands in a USA
Today essay

essay that has befuddled Diane
), the Connecticut Education Association releasing a
teacher evaluation reform package
, New York state’s largest teacher union
unveiling a 95-page Teacher
Evaluation and Development Handbook

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) has the highest number of teachers with certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (139) of any Ohio district, but the way these teachers are distributed across the??district threatens to undermine CPS' mission to improve learning for all students.??

The Enquirer recently posted numbers illustrating the inequitable spread of Board certified teachers. Unsurprisingly, they are more likely to be located in buildings that are higher performing, and children in?? schools rated "D" or "F" are less likely to come into contact with such "highly qualified" teachers.

The discrepancy between "A/A+" schools and "F" schools is stark, with 213 students per one board certified teachers in the highest achieving CPS schools, and 1,097, or five times as many students per one such teacher in the most struggling CPS schools.

Student/teacher ratios for National Board certified instructors in Cincinnati Public Schools??(broken down by academic rating)

Source: Ohio Department of Education and Cincinnati Enquirer article

Whether National Board certification improves a teacher's classroom effectiveness is up for debate, as is the relationship between a school's academic status and the number of "highly qualified" teachers...

Which of the five states competing to be America's next Education Reform Idol did the most to collective bargaining and benefits during the 2011 legislative session? Consider our analysis below, and attend our event Thursday morning (8:30-10:00AM) to see key players in all five states defend their records in front of a panel of ed-reform celebrity judges?Jeanne Allen, Richard Lee Colvin, and Bruno Manno. And click here to cast your vote for Education Reform Idol.


This year, Florida required public employees to start contributing to their retirement plans. Workers are only asked to kick in 3 percent, but it's a start. (This was enough to spur a lawsuit nonetheless.) The state also increased the retirement age and applied other technical fixes to reduce its liabilities. Overall, the plan is expected to save the state nearly a billion dollars. Collective bargaining was not on the table in 2011, and likely won't be anytime soon. The right to bargain is?enshrined in the Sunshine State's constitution. (That being said, Florida's constitution also frames the state as right-to-work. For teachers, this means that they cannot be required to...

Teacher-residency programs, which couple
graduate-education coursework with K-12 classroom-teaching experience, have a
certain cachet these days. But do they work? While such programs have for many
years demonstrated higher retention rates among their graduates, this paper
digs into the details of the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR) to see whether
quality is there, too. The upshot: yes, but it takes a while. Using fourth- and
eighth-grade state achievement data, the researchers determined that BTR
graduates are significantly less effective in math during their first couple of
years than are other new teachers (both alternatively certified and
traditionally trained). This pattern held for each of BTR’s seven cohorts. On
the ELA front, BTR teachers performed comparably to other new teachers in their
first couple years. By the fourth and fifth years, however, BTR teachers surpassed
other veteran teachers (of similar or greater experience levels) in both
subjects. What’s more, BTR teachers were more likely to stay with the
profession: The five-year retention rate for program alumni was 24 percentage
points higher than the district average for those hired in 2004-05 and 2006-07.
Looking at input measures...

The central problem besetting K-12 education in the United
States today is still—as for almost thirty years now—that far too few of our
kids are learning nearly enough for their own or the nation’s good. And the
gains we’ve made, though well worth making, have been meager (and largely
confined to math), are trumped by gains in other countries, and evaporate by
the end of high school.

From where I sit, the basic strategies
aren’t ill-conceived. Rather, they’ve been stumped, stymied, and
constrained by formidable barriers that are more or less built into the
K-12 system as we know it.

This much everybody knows. But unless we want to live out
the classic definition of insanity (“doing the same thing over again with the
expectation that it will produce a different result”), we need to focus
laser-like on the barriers that keep us from making major-league gains. If we
don’t break through (or circumnavigate) these barriers, academic achievement
will remain stagnant.

The barriers I’m talking about are not cultural issues,
parenting issues, demographic issues, or other macro-influences on educational
achievement. Those are all plenty...

father and son walking photo

Talk is fine. But it's now time to walk the walk.
Photo by Gustavo Verissimo

Seven days ago, the National Education Association
(NEA)—long dormant in matters of education reform—began to stir. The nation’s
largest teacher union unveiled a plan to promote teacher effectiveness last
Thursday. Some of the NEA's ideas we’ve heard before (the union has long endorsed
teacher-residency and peer-assistance-and-review programs, for example). But
many are worthy new ideas—new, at least, to the NEA. For prioritizing these,
the union should be commended. (Gadfly readers might find the appeal for a
career ladder for teachers, with differentiated pay and responsibility, to be a
reasonably mainstream idea, but remember who’s doing the talking here.) To be
sure, old-school NEA thought does seep into the reform plan in places: While
it’s a good notion to disallow inexperienced teachers from leading the
classrooms of our neediest students, the back-handed knock at Teach For America

We’d like to extend our congratulations to Jennifer Felbaum,
a teacher at Fordham-sponsored Columbus Collegiate Academy in Columbus.
Jennifer was the recipient of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter School’s
annual teacher of the year award, a
distinction given to just one teacher in Ohio for significant contributions
when it comes to advancing student achievement. Columbus Collegiate Executive
Director Andy Boy said this of Jennifer:

As a founding member of our team, [she]
worked tirelessly to develop curriculum, systems, and procedures that have
contributed to the academic success of our students.  Our students
will excel beyond CCA because of Mrs. Felbaum's efforts. I am
honored to work with her and amazed by her ability to reach the students
we serve."

Jennifer Felbaum is a founding teacher at Columbus
Collegiate Academy, an EPIC gold-gain school.  She is in her fourth year
of teaching sixth grade reading and writing.  During this time, her
students have made outstanding progress. Last year her students grew from 52
percent proficient in fifth grade to 86 percent proficient in sixth grade. They
also achieved three times the normal growth for a sixth...

Are Charter School Unions Worth the Bargain? coverDespite its reputation, the charter field isn’t
a wholly anti-union stronghold. In fact, 12 percent of charter schools now
have bargaining agreements. (Conversion charters are much more likely to be
unionized [44 percent] than startups [9 percent].) In this new CRPE report,
Mitch Price analyzes the union contracts of nine of the nation’s 604 unionized
charters and compares them to their local district contracts. He finds that, on
average, charters’ union contracts are more flexible when it comes to length of
day and year, grievance processes, and layoff criteria—but still far too rigid.
(Using our own Leadership
criteria, Price gives charter contracts a C-plus score, compared
to the C-minus score given to district schools.) While union contracts in the
charter sector are relatively flexible—more tailored to individual school needs
(and thus less likely to stifle the missions of these schools)—Price argues
that we are only seeing their beta versions. It remains to be seen whether
these contracts, when renegotiated, will serve as examples of reasonable...