CCSD still rewarding mediocrity

Last week the Clark County School District's board of trustees voted to extend the teacher contract by one year. The contract continues to pay teachers based on longevity and their number of degrees - rather than on the quality of teaching delivered.

During the 08-09 school year, earning a Master's degree netted a teacher an additional $5,655 a year. Unfortunately, earning a Master's degree does not improve the teacher's quality, and that means millions of dollars wasted.

Eric Hanushek, of Stanford University, and Steven Rivkin, writing in the 2006 edition of the Handbook on the Economics of Education, cite the "most ... remarkable ... finding" from numerous studies "that a master's degree has no systematic relationship to teacher quality as measured by student outcomes" (page 11 of the article, "Teacher Quality"). Advanced degrees are not likely to increase the quality of the teaching and, more importantly, there is no evidence that they increase student achievement.

Teachers in Clark County also received an additional $1,465 for each additional year worked. But teacher quality does not improve after the first few years. Essentially, longevity pay ends up rewarding mediocrity, as teachers receive little to no reward for the effectiveness of their teaching.

A merit-pay system based on value-added assessment (testing to see the gains an individual student makes from year to year) would be a far better system. Teachers would be rewarded based on the effectiveness of their teaching, providing a strong incentive for improving their teaching skills. High-quality teachers would receive top tier pay while poor teachers would be shown the door.

Dr. Matthew Ladner, a policy fellow with the Nevada Policy Research Institute and vice president for research at Arizona's Goldwater Institute, recently highlighted several methods that could result in high-quality teachers earning more than $100,000 a year for their efforts.

Perhaps the board of trustees hasn't kept up with the research on teacher pay and teacher quality. Or perhaps they simply don't care. Either way, teacher pay in Nevada continues to reward mediocrity.

In this way, Nevada school boards - crying poverty all the while - waste millions of dollars that could be used more productively elsewhere.

Even worse, however, is the needless waste, for hundreds of thousands of Nevada youth, of what these students could potentially achieve.

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