Obama: ‘It’s Time To Start Rewarding Good Teachers, Stop Making Excuses For Bad Ones’

Our guest blogger is Robin Chait, Associate Director for Teacher Quality at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Today, President Barack Obama outlined his education agenda in a speech to the U. S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. It’s a comprehensive agenda for reform that, if implemented, would have a profound impact upon the U.S. educational system and student achievement in this country. Obama clearly understands that America’s long-term prosperity depends upon a strong educational system.  He called for dramatic changes to improve the quality of education received by most students — we don’t have time for incremental reforms that lead to modest improvements. In particular, his focus on “recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers” is essential, because we know from research that teachers are the most important school related factor affecting student learning.  Obama’s strategies acknowledge that the ways we recruit, prepare, and compensate teachers are outmoded and put high poverty schools at a disadvantage. He talked about rewarding good teachers with more money for improved student achievement, while giving all teachers the support they need to be successful. He also insisted that teachers who are unable to improve after being given support be removed.

As the Center for American Progress has noted, these strategies are critical to attracting and retaining more talented teachers:

Retention incentives might include increases in pay, such as performance pay, and in responsibility, such as career ladders that provide teachers with additional responsibilities as they become more effective. And efforts to improve or replace ineffective teachers can take multiple forms — from teacher-led initiatives such as peer review, to rigorous evaluation systems that identify teachers who need additional support, to heightened standards for tenure or changes in tenure systems.

And while improving our educational system won’t likely help the immediate economic crisis, it is a critical investment in long term economic growth. As The Wonk Room has pointed out in the past, “since the 1970s, the U.S. educational system has rested on its laurels, and we are losing ground” to the rest of the world.


Obama’s education plan represents an important investment in both stronger schools and long term economic growth. And he understands that quality teaching is key to both.