John Hood writes for Carolina Journal‘s Daily Journal:

In a rare and praiseworthy occurrence of evidence-based policymaking, the North Carolina General Assembly decided several years ago to end the state’s pay supplements for graduate degrees. Lawmakers decided instead to reform the teacher-salary schedule so that pay rose with gains in teaching effectiveness, which occur disproportionately in the early years of a teaching career, while also offering bonuses for exceptional performance.

In addition, an increasing number of North Carolina school districts are pursuing the flexibility to adopt new compensation systems that pay teachers more for assuming advanced teaching roles. We may also see greater differentiation as teachers get paid more based on hard-to-staff subjects and hard-to-staff schools, although political resistance to such common-sense practices — which are common in other professions — remains significant.

As North Carolina and other states continue to iterate and innovate, some promising teacher-pay reforms will pay off. Others may prove ineffective or even counterproductive. Policymakers should always be willing to subject their ideas to evaluation in real-world settings, which are inherently more complex than the models they use to craft legislation.

Does that principle sound reasonable? If you think so, keep in mind that you are obligated to apply the principle consistently. If you pounce on every adverse finding to savage an education policy you dislike, yet insist that North Carolina restore pay supplements for graduate degrees because “it just makes common sense,” you are being grossly inconsistent.

But what about that narrow finding about students benefitting from teachers with advanced math or science degrees? Couldn’t North Carolina reinstate pay bumps for those special cases?

In theory, yes. In practice, it’s neither necessary nor workable. It’s unnecessary because if obtaining such a degree will improve teacher performance, we can capture the effect of that by rewarding the performance itself — measured however you like, by value-added test scores or principal evaluation or student surveys or some combination — rather than the acquisition of the degree.

Moreover, the distinction will never stick. When a few state lawmakers filed a bill this year to restore the pay bump, they extended it to all academic subjects. The North Carolina Association of Educators then welcomed the bill only as a first step to restoring the supplement for all graduate degrees, including those in education (which represent a large majority of the degrees at issue).

Restoring pay bumps for graduate degrees would be a triumph of special-interest pressure over sound policy, of image over substance, of hope over experience. North Carolina shouldn’t backslide. It should move forward.

Read more here.