New Article: Andy Smarick on the Obama Administration and Performance Pay for Teachers

In a new article on the Education Next website, Andy Smarick has analyzed what the Obama administration has said and done about performance pay for teachers and how this relates to the administration’s broader agenda for promoting teacher quality.

On the topic of performance pay, Andy Smarick writes, President Obama and his team “are caught in the narrow channel between two important Democratic constituencies: establishment organizations that are opposed to performance pay and the increasingly prominent education-reform crowd that generally supports it.” But the public record shows how the Obama administration has navigated these shoals, “setting a new course for the federal government’s role in the reform of teacher pay.”

Smarick has two conclusions about the Obama administration’s strategic approach to merit pay:

First, though the administration’s apparent tentativeness on performance pay can be partially explained by its deference to organized labor, a larger factor is its interest in creating a new and comprehensive framework for advancing teacher quality. Second, the administration’s strategy for generating change through a combination of incentives, collaboration, and optional reforms did not initially bear much fruit for performance pay, but it may reap benefits over the long term, both for performance pay and for other teacher-quality issues.

Depending on what happens in the next two year, Smarick writes, “performance pay and the new teacher framework—not turnarounds, a reauthorized ESEA, or another higher profile issue—may be the Obama administration’s most important education legacy.”

Please read “Diplomatic Mission: President Obama’s path to performance pay,” by Andy Smarick, which will appear in the Winter 2011 issue of Ed Next and is now available online.

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