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Discussing Teacher Pay Reforms

Panelists reflect on a groundbreaking new report that considers the possibilities for performance-based teacher compensation.

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The Center for American Progress held an event on Monday to discuss a new report that shows that improving teacher quality through new workforce policies could be the best opportunity for dramatically improving the educational achievement of America’s students.

The report, “Teacher Pay Reforms: The Political Implications of Recent Research,” proposes reforms that would pay teachers based on the quality of their work and the schools and subjects in which they choose to work. The four panelists discussed the report’s findings and recommendations, and weighed in on analyses and recommendations.

The panel included Alice Johnson Cain, Senior Education Aide for Rep. George Miller (D-CA); Dan Goldhaber, Research Associate Professor at Evans School of Public Affairs; Bill Raabe, Director of Collective Bargaining and Member Advocacy at the National Education Association; and Rachel B. Tompkins, President of Rural and Community Trust.

Dan Goldhaber, author of Teacher Pay Reforms, argued that compensation, if properly adjusted, is a tool that can be used to both increase teacher quality and ensure that schools are properly staffed. The single-salary model used by most school systems, in his opinion, is inadequate in this regard because it does not recognize the labor market reality that some teachers, based on their college quality and training, will have more competing opportunities outside of teaching than others.

Goldhaber explained that his research found that teachers are responsive to monetary incentives, but that these reforms are most effective when implemented at the state level.

Yet Bill Raabe was hesitant to agree with the report’s conclusions, saying that the report is a “good start on the discussion of teacher payscales,” but “there needs to be more experimentation” before drawing conclusions.

Rachel B. Tompkins also voiced hesitation. “Pay for performance doesn’t deal with the problems in rural places,” she said, and added that the practice of paying teachers less in rural areas because the cost of living is lower is a disincentive to teaching in rural schools.

Alice Johnson praised Teacher Pay Reform as a “great report,” and noted that Rep. Miller is eager to work on issues of teacher distribution when he becomes Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee in January.

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