Deborah Kenny, CEO of the successful and innovative Harlem Village Academies charter schools in one of the poorest parts of New York City, summed up the need for change in a Wall Street Journal guest column last week:
“We need to stop treating teachers like industrial-era workers and start treating them like professionals,” she wrote.
Kenny lets her teachers choose their own textbooks and design their own courses. But they are then held accountable for how their students perform. So far, the results are promising, with test scores among the best in the nation for math, science and social studies.
Many teachers mistakenly fear that test scores will be the sole determinant of merit. Under most systems being proposed, gains in test scores would be one of several factors. A teacher might get a bonus, for example, for taking on a leadership role in mentoring beginning teachers.
In Washington, D.C., the most effective teachers are now eligible to earn almost twice what they used to make, thanks to merit pay.