Michelle Rhee's Devious Plan To Increase DC Teacher Salaries

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 2 2012 12:47 PM

Michelle Rhee's Devious Plan To Increase DC Teacher Salaries

Here's an angle of the school reform debate you don't hear enough about: "During her first six years of teaching in this city’s struggling schools, Tiffany Johnson got a series of small raises that brought her annual salary to $63,000, from about $50,000. This year, her seventh, Ms. Johnson earns $87,000."

The reason she's getting such a big bump is that Johnson is one of the beneficiaries of the IMPACT evaluation system that was implemented by controversial former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. I sometimes hear the logic of the system described in somewhat insulting terms as a kind of incentive bonus, like lots of teachers are too lazy but will suddenly spring into action to do a good job if they're offered a pay bump in exchange. The reality is just that if you pay people more, they're more likely to keep working in the same job. By targeting the pay bumps at the most effective teachers rather than spreading them across the whole system you can deliver much larger raises to the most valuable teachers, and ensure that attrition doesn't bleed the system of its best people.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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