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Teacher pay at $100k?

A radical way to boost student achievement in the nation's capital deserves support.

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This fall, public schools across America are experimenting with teacher pay incentives to improve student achievement. The extra dollars, though, mostly amount to lunch money compared to a radical proposal in Washington, D.C. – upwards of $100,000 in salary and bonuses.

With Washington's middle schools the worst performing of the nation's urban districts, the city's warrior-like school chancellor, Michelle Rhee, is calling for a revolution. Other cities should watch closely. Drastic nonlearning calls for drastic measures.

Studies show that a good teacher is the most effective way for a school to boost student academic progress – more than first-class textbooks, more than class size.

Ms. Rhee believes her high-pay offer, to be funded from private foundations, can attract a higher caliber of public school teacher altogether, and weed out underperformers.

To receive the pay – which is more than twice the $47,602 average teacher salary in America – the city's teacher union must give up tenure and seniority work privileges. Tenured teachers would be on probation for one year, with their performance measured by student achievement. That's a game-changer by breaking the decades-long bargain in which taxpayers have financed mediocre pay for teachers in return for relative job security.

The vast majority of public schools have a "single salary" plan that differentiates pay on two criteria: years in the classroom and degrees held. But it turns out that seniority and degrees don't necessarily translate into higher student achievement. Could mediocre pay be producing mediocre teaching?

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