That should be the motto of the teachers union. Inability to fire lousy teachers and reward good ones are two of the biggest problems in public education (there are other big problems, of course). Daniel Henninger writes today about a program in Little Rock, Ark., that rewards teachers who produce good results. Needless to say, the union is not pleased. But a study by Gary Ritter shows that the program works:
“The Ritter study also summarized the expansion and refinement of the incentive program since its inception. At Wakefield (and the three newest schools), the bonuses are awarded for the average growth in test scores of each teacher’s class, rather than per-student achievement as at Meadowcliff. At the fall start of Wakefield’s first year in the program, its students tested in the 16th percentile; at year’s end they were in the 29th percentile. Its teachers got $228,300 in bonuses. Meadowcliff’s second-year bonuses totaled $200,926.
“For consistency, the study looked at results on a standardized math test given at Wakefield School the past three years to each student, ending in the fourth and fifth grades. The school’s teachers were covered by the bonus program last year. The students’ math grades improved by a standard measure (called NCE) of 3.5 points, while those in three Little Rock comparison schools declined. That 3.5 point gain equals about one-sixth of the normally cited national average gap in math scores between black students and white students. If compounded for six years, the gap would close.
“It seems to be for the Little Rock teachers’ union. A man versed in the downward slope of many such good intentions warned me last year to watch for the counteroffensive from either Little Rock’s bureaucrats or its teachers’ union. The union has made its move. In last fall’s school-board election, the union ran a slate of candidates and gained control of four of the board’s seven seats. It hopes to capture one more school-board seat this September. By June, however, Little Rock will have five grade schools inside the merit-bonus program. If standardized test scores rise in these three new schools as well, it would take a special brand of community self-destruction to throw out the bonus program at the union’s behest.”