by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
That’s an important question because teacher quality is a key ingredient of student achievement. A more important question is: How?
The conventional response is to raise teacher pay. Unfortunately, teacher pay in North Carolina and most everywhere else is tied to seniority or collective bargaining contracts — not to the actual value the teacher creates in the classroom.
One solution is to do away with the teacher salary schedule and empower principals or school districts to set pay levels. After all, who is more qualified to assess the strengths and value of a teacher than those who know them best and work most closely with them?
What would happen if such a system was tried?
That’s the question Professor Barbara Biasi of Yale University asked in recent article on the subject. Biasi studied the effects of a reform that gave school districts in Wisconsin full autonomy to redesign teacher pay with a system of flexible compensation. Biasi found that flexible pay had significant beneficial impacts. It raised the salaries of high-quality teachers, increased teacher quality and effort and improved student achievement.
It’s a proposal that benefits, teachers, students, and schools. Yet another reason why teachers should join the rest of the professional world and have their salaries linked to the value of their work – and not merely to their years of experience.