The issue meshes with giving principals the power to fire weak teachers, a Rhee reform I applauded in last week's column. Teams don't work nearly as well if everyone is not doing his or her share. Teams with all players pulling hard are also more likely to attract more committed people, happy to escape schools where co-workers make fun of strivers.
Rhee's move last week to impose some of her plans in spite of union opposition might increase the likelihood that the whole package will go forward, including bonuses that contradict the team concept. Some charter leaders say be careful with those individual rewards. Don Shalvey, co-founder of the Aspire charter school network, said, "I can't see any other way than going with the team." Steve Barr, founder of the Green Dot Public Schools network, said the only individual incentives in his schools are "if you are not doing well, you will be removed."
Charter educators understand the lure of more money for great teachers. But if there are to be individual bonuses, they want them combined with group incentives. Everyone on the team -- librarians, special education coaches, social workers -- should reap some rewards, since they all contribute to raising the achievement of impoverished children often two or three years below grade level. Prince George's County schools are planning bonuses of up to $10,000 based in part on schoolwide and individual teacher performance.
"The answer is ultimately a combination of collective and individual awards," said James Verrilli, co-founder of the North Star Academy Charter School of Newark. Michael Milkie, superintendent of the Noble Network, said incentive pay at his schools is 10 percent of salary and divided equally into individual (punctuality, dependability, parent contact) and team (school test score growth) components.
Dave Levin, co-founder of the KIPP school network, said, "Given the interconnectivity of teaching kids, the best incentives are school incentives which the school itself can then decide how to allocate." His fellow KIPP co-founder, Mike Feinberg, quoted Rudyard Kipling: "The strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack."