Getting teacher pay right means designing a system that recruits and retains top-quality teachers, according to a new report from The Heritage Foundation, “A Better Way to Pay: Five Rules for Reforming Teacher Compensation.”

“Creating a teacher compensation system that rewards the best teachers in a fiscally responsible manner is a broadly shared goal,” according to study author Jason Richwine, Ph.D., Heritage Foundation Senior Policy Analyst in Domestic Policy Studies. “To that end, policymakers should avoid across-the-board pay increases, focusing instead on performance pay by easing restrictions on entering the teaching profession, and basing tenure decisions on performance in the classroom.” Those factors matter because average public-school teachers already receive above-market compensation. Richwine recommends five rules for effective teacher compensation reform:

  1. Avoid across-the-board pay increases;
  2. Pay teachers for their performance, not their resumes;
  3. Be more discriminating about awarding teacher tenure;
  4. Transition teachers away from traditional pensions and toward 401(k)-style retirement plans; and
  5. Remember there are no silver bullets—teaching is a significant, but not the sole, factor affecting student achievement.