To be more precise, the union’s executive board decided not to endorse the school district’s grant application for the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund. The hefty grant, if awarded, would give cash bonuses to stellar teachers (or teachers of high-scoring students) at high-needs schools for the next five years.
Betty Olson-Jones, the union president, argued there were too many strings attached. Although the idea behind the cash rewards was to share good teaching practices, she said, the system would only cause divisions among teachers. She also said it basically amounted to merit pay, which is not part of the contract.
Why am I bringing this up now? Education Week today has an interesting article about performance pay, in its various forms, and it mentions the Teacher Incentive Fund. The story says that more than a half dozen states have launched programs to give teachers financial incentives based on test scores at the classroom or school level. (Sorry, I just realized you have to log in to see the story.)
It also mentions how similar efforts to retain top talent backfired or fizzled in the 1980s.
District spokesman Troy Flint informs me that Oakland didn’t win the grant after all, but that surely won’t mark the end of the differentiated pay debate.