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The Future of Teacher Compensation: Déjà Vu or Something New?

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Publication Date: November 2007

Publisher(s): Center for American Progress

Author(s): Joan Baratz-Snowden

Funder(s): Joyce Foundation

Funder(s): Joyce Foundation

Special Collection: The Joyce Foundation

Topic: Education (Education policy and planning)

Type: Report


Pay-for-performance proposals are not new. There is a long, failed history regarding attempts to change the current teacher compensation system. The single salary schedule has had remarkable staying power—it is easy to understand and administer; it is predictable; and teachers believe it is fair and objective. But it has its limitations: it has not produced competitive salaries in the current job market, it does not respond to market forces, and the evidence linking teacher education and experience to improved student performance is weak.

The current push for pay for performance is driven by a number of factors: a paradigm shift in education policy development from process to outcomes; public opinion polls that suggest that the best teachers, however defined, should be rewarded with additional compensation; research that indicates the current compensation system does not necessarily reward the teachers who get the greatest student achievement gains from students; a shortage of teachers in certain teaching fields and in certain geographical areas; an inequitable distribution of the best qualified teachers to the schools that educate large proportions of poor students and/or students of color; and the apparent success of the Denver school system in implementing a radically different pay plan, which was created with the full cooperation and involvement of the local union, the Denver Colorado Teachers Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association.