Indiana schools were recently given a B- by Education Week according to the Indianapolis Star.

 The report found that public school teachers nationwide made 88 cents for every dollar earned by workers in the other fields. In Indiana, however, teachers made $1.02 for every dollar earned in the other fields studied.

My wife is a middle school choir director at an Indiana public school.  Her dad teaches choir at another middle school, the same school that her mom works at as the school secretary.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that her sister and brother-in-law also teach 3rd grade and 8th grade, respectively.  I married into a family of teachers.

How much should teachers get paid?  It is a touchy subject.  Here is a problem that I have with the current system: you basically get paid the same regardless of how good you are at your job.   My father-in-law has taught for about 30 years.  He is very good at what he does and receives a fair amount of recognition within his niche field for his expertise.  He puts in a lot of hours above and beyond his “contract” to be excellent at what he does.  Many teachers do this same thing.  However, there are other teachers within the same school system who perform poorly and will go unnamed.  These teachers are showing up to get a paycheck, get job security from the teacher union, and quite frankly suck at teaching.  They are the ones for whom it has been said, “If you can’t do, teach.  If you can’t teach, teach PE.”  Evidently there aren’t enough PE openings.

So how do we remedy this?  Some propose the use of incentives based on student performance.  This certainly appeals to me as someone who works in performance based sales.  However, this structure can lead to cheating…by the teachers (see Freakonomics for an interesting chapter on the topic of cheating teachers). Plus, how do you account for factors that  teacher cannot control like students changing schools?  How do you design an incentive structure that accurately reflects performance along with controls to ensure fairness?