Obama pushes to reward great teachers

His stimulus package adds $200 million to a fund that supports new teacher compensation systems.

Charles Dharapak/AP
Speech: Good teachers will receive 'more money for improved student achievement,' Obama said last week.

In a major speech on education last week, President Obama echoed a call he'd made many times on the campaign trail: Reward excellent teaching with extra pay.

More pay that's based on how well they do, rather than how long they've been in the classroom, is one path he sees to improving American education. He's also called for boosting the preparation that teachers receive, creating incentives for getting good teachers into hard-to-staff schools and subjects, and finding better ways to remove ineffective teachers.

Teachers should be treated "like the professionals they are while also [being held] more accountable," Mr. Obama said. "Good teachers will be rewarded with more money for improved student achievement, and asked to accept more responsibilities for lifting up their schools."

Since 2006, the US Department of Education has given out nearly $200 million in Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grants, which support teacher compensation systems that tie pay in part to student achievement gains.

About 150 more school districts will now be able to try out such systems because of increased funding for TIF, the administration says. The recent stimulus legislation gives an additional $200 million to the program, bringing the total funding to $400 million over the next two years.

In addition, the stimulus has a $5 billion "Race to the Top" fund – money for which schools and states can compete by pushing several reforms, including innovative programs for teacher pay.

Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are both careful to urge that such plans not be imposed on teachers, but designed in collaboration with them – a model that already exists in places such as Denver and Minnesota.

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