If the president is war-weary from doing endless battle over health care, he might consider ramping up his push for merit pay to score some easy points with commentators. Performance pay is controversial in the education field and wildly unpopular with teachers unions, but among the commentariat, favor for the practice is building steam.
- Everyone Believes in Paying for Quality, argues Matt Yglesias at Think Progress. "Veteran teachers get paid more than brand new teachers on the theory that a more experienced instructor is a better instructor. The principle that it makes sense to pay extra for quality isn't seriously in dispute. The problem is that diplomas and time served turn out to be bad proxies for quality: "Recent research, however, suggests that such paper qualifications have little predictive power in identifying effective teachers. The reform proposal, ultimately, isn't all that radical."
- Tenure Is Outdated, agrees Jonah Goldberg at The Los Angeles Times. "Tenure's defenders point to horror stories from half a century ago, as if getting rid of tenure would automatically subject teachers to political witch hunts and sexual discrimination. We now have civil rights laws and other employee protections." Goldberg says good teachers would likely make more money, "if the dead weight were cleared away and rigid, seniority-based formulas were replaced with merit pay."
- But Beware of Discouraging Cooperation, says Dana Goldstein at The American Prospect. She warns that merit pay, if implemented, must avoid fostering competition among teachers. "Forty years of psychological research demonstrates that when someone is faced with a complex, creative task -- like teaching -- money is an ineffective motivational tool, and may even delay progress." She believes that teachers should be compensated more fairly early in their careers, because "The positive impact comes not because teachers are competing with another for merit pay rewards, but because they are working alongside more competent colleagues, who are improving their skills."