If Wisconsin lawmakers ever get around to seriously pondering changes in K-12 education, they should ask UW-Madison professor Allan Odden about research linking teacher bonuses to student performance.
“Democrats, Republicans, big-city schools and small rural schools all want to change teacher pay structures,” says Odden, co-director of the UW’s Consortium for Policy Research in Education. “The real challenge is getting viable ideas and plans on the table.”
Across the country, school districts have had mixed success with merit-pay programs, lately dubbed “performance pay” to broaden political appeal.
In January, Houston expanded its school-based bonus system to target individual teachers, who can receive $3,000 bonuses if students meet performance expectations. Last year, Denver began a $25 million plan that pays more to teachers who earn advanced degrees, take tough assignments and meet student-achievement goals. And California lawmakers last year proposed a constitutional amendment linking teacher pay to student performance.
But, as with many other educational reforms, Wisconsin has been slow to embrace merit pay. This, says Odden, may be because educational leaders here are “a little bit squeamish about testing and uncertain about strong state accountability measures.”