Home / Blog / Article


January 24 2011

30 Ideas for 30 Days: Day 13

Nicole Kurokawa Neily

It’s National School Choice Week - and in honor of the occasion, I’d like to spotlight some education reforms that Congress should consider.

Suggestion #13: Encourage merit pay for teachers.

The market imposes accountability on the private sector – do a good job, and make more money; do a bad job, and make less money, or lose your job.

Alas, this principle isn’t upheld in public education – so teachers who aren’t good (or in some cases, are outright terrible) are kept around and given pay increases, while those who do well often wither in the system or give up altogether. If you can do a bad job and get a pay increase, the incentives to work hard diminish pretty rapidly. And let’s be honest, who’s going to suffer the most from bad teachers? The kids in the system.

In order to combat this problem, we need to encourage merit pay for teachers – so we can attract and retain the best teachers out there.

In his Race to the Top program, President Obama endorsed the idea, stating “It's time to start rewarding good teachers, stop making excuses for bad ones. If a teacher is given a chance or two chances or three chances but still does not improve, there's no excuse for that person to continue teaching.”

A comprehensively designed evaluation system that used a variety of measures – including standardized tests scores to examine progress over the course of a school year, student and parent feedback, peer review, and classroom observation – can provide a well-rounded assessment of a teacher’s performance. Over time, these criteria can be refined and adjusted to account for the needs of different districts.

It’s time to make risk commensurate with reward, to weed out low-achieving teachers who have been allowed to skate by for too long. For too long, the fact that it’s “difficult” to assess teachers’ effectiveness has been used as a reason to not do so at all – and for the sake of our children, that mindset needs to end.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
Follow us