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Two new merit pay studies draw Weingarten’s praise and censure

Two new studies out today look at what makes performance-based pay plans for teachers successful. The first, written by Harvard education professors Susan Moore Johnson and John P. Papay and published by the Economic Policy Institute, proposes a tiered pay system that rewards teachers for not only improving their own instruction, but also for helping other teachers around them.

The second study was published by the Committee for Economic Development, a policy organization made up of senior corporate officials and heads of universities. It gives less concrete policy recommendations than the EPI paper, but points to Denver’s ProComp program as a model that could be adapted in other states.

AFT president Randi Weingarten weighed in on the reports today, praising Johnson and Papay’s paper for highlighting teacher leadership as a major factor in how districts should decide how to pay their teachers. At the same time, Weingarten called the CED report “the wrong way” to go about making education policy, charging that the committee disregarded teachers’ input in fashioning its recommendations. The full AFT press release is below the jump.

Statement by Randi Weingarten,

President, American Federation of Teachers,

On Two New Reports on Teacher Compensation

Two reports on teacher compensation are being released today: Redesigning Teacher Pay: A System for the Next Generation of Educators, which is volume 2 in the Economic Policy Institute Series on Alternative Teacher Compensation Systems, and Teacher Compensation and Teacher Quality, a report from the Committee for Economic Development. WASHINGTON—Two new reports on teacher compensation put into relief the right and wrong way to create education policy. Redesigning Teacher Pay by Susan Moore Johnson and John P. Papay is a much better effort and takes serious steps toward not just demonstrating what is wrong with current teacher compensation systems but also offering good, solid ideas on how to fix it. Harvard University’s Johnson and Papay provide a simple frame for designing and evaluating performance pay plans for teachers. The authors propose a powerful plan for reforming compensation for the next generation of teachers. The Economic Policy Institute report recognizes and highlights the value of teacher leadership. Johnson and Papay focus particularly on peer assistance, career ladders and other teacher-led initiatives. At the same time, the Committee for Economic Development (CED) report on teacher compensation shows what happens when teachers are not included in the planning and design of new policy. It would be a different and more useful report if CED had included teachers on its committee.

While we do not agree with the CED report as a whole, we applaud both new reports’ recognition of the dire need for teacher supports. Good teachers want to become great teachers, and we at the AFT want to help that happen by striving to improve teacher practice and student learning. There is nothing teachers want more than the tools and conditions they need to succeed. We must have the support in place to provide for the continuous improvement of all teachers, like job-embedded professional development, mentoring and induction programs. Further, compensation incentives to promote good teaching always should be negotiated between teachers and their unions and the school district, who know best what will work in their schools.

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