NEPC Review: Paying the Best Teachers More to Teach More Students (Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University, February 2015)
Critics of typical “single-salary” pay scales for teachers argue they under-compensate great teachers and over-compensate inept teachers. As a result, many pay-for-performance plans have been tried, with mixed results. This report proposes yet another variable compensation plan: paying the top quartile of teachers in a district a bonus for accepting up to three additional students into their existing classes. Without evidence, the report posits that having more students work with more effective teachers would offset any potential sacrifice in student learning. It projects significant district savings because larger classes would allow substantial reductions in faculty. The report does not address the well-documented problem of identifying high-performing teachers; it misrepresents the known effect of class size on student learning; and it ignores what is known about teacher pay, attitudes and job satisfaction. Projected outcomes are based on average class sizes, which obscure the potential impact on thousands of teachers and students in already overcrowded classrooms. Moreover, its proposed bonuses obscure the fact that teacher salaries overall are too low to recruit and retain sufficient numbers of talented faculty, especially in high-needs schools, and would likely remain so even under this more-work-for-more-pay model. Rather than a practical response to known issues with single-salary pay scales, the proposal seems primarily a scheme to reduce the teaching force. The report is superficial and misleading, and its proposal has no value as a nationwide model.