John Hood writes today about the evidence related to how we pay teachers.

While crafting the state budget last year, the North Carolina General Assembly applied the latest empirical research to the question of how best to improve teacher quality. In response, lawmakers have been roundly excoriated by the usual suspects — which only served to demonstrate that the public-policy acumen of the usual suspects is, uh, suspect.

For decades, North Carolina gave salary supplements to teachers who acquired graduate degrees. Our state wasn’t alone. The practice became increasingly common in the 1980s and 1990s as states created “career ladders” and other pay plans intended to enhance teaching quality and performance.

Perhaps the idea was worth a try. It seemed plausible that teachers with advanced degrees might be more effective than other teachers, either because of the content of their graduate programs (almost always at schools of education) or because the ability to do graduate-level work might correlate with the ability to teach students.

But the idea didn’t pan out. It was a colossal flop, wasting hundreds of millions of tax dollars while doing nothing to enhance student learning.

And yet, progressives and the Big Education continue to support that failed approach, rather than paying for results. Thankfully, the current legislature is not deterred by the entrenched status quo.