Making Education Pay (for teachers, that is)

In a recent interview with veteran correspondent and founder of Learning Matters John Merrow, Hoover fellow Eric Hanushek laid out his thoughts on education. For the most part, he agrees with the current path being taken by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: improve standards across states and work within the No Child Left Behind framework rather than scrapping it as some have suggested. However, he also has a few suggestions of his own that haven’t been getting as much public emphasis. The most major of these is to pay teachers more. A lot more. Current teacher salaries are a little over $50,000. Hanushek believes that good teachers are worth double that.

Pay effective teachers what they are worth (think six figure salaries).

But this is no cross-the-board salary hike. Hanushek wants to differentiate teachers’ salaries significantly more, breaking them out by effectiveness (presumably as measured by test scores), need (math and science should be emphasized), and willingness to work in tougher school districts. Hanushek also wants to expand this sort of “performance-based funding” system to include schools and school districts as well. Those that do well with the resources at hand get more. Those that do not presumably get shut down. Along these lines, another strategy that could be tried to control for factors that differ across schools is to compare teacher performance between classrooms in the same school. It’s imperfect (and only functions well at the elementary and possibly middle-school level, before classes become too differentiated), but it’s a start.

Good teachers are needed for good schools. To attract and retain the best, more money is needed. To do that at a reasonable cost means dropping the deadweight. For teachers’ unions to continue to oppose performance based pay means a willingness to protect the worst at the expense of the best; the time has come for that to come to an end.

Subscribe to the Stanford Review