Top Education Officials Spar Over Teacher Reform, Student Success

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According to a recent Gallup poll, 72 percent of public school parents believe teachers should be paid based on the quality of their work. Twenty-eight percent say should be paid by the current scale.

Rhee explained why she thinks financial incentives are key to ensuring the nation's students have access to the best teachers. "We will be able to pay the most effective teachers in the district almost twice as much as they used to be paid ... It's incredibly important to recognize and reward the people who are doing heroic work in our classrooms every single day, just as important as it is to ensure that for those who are not performing, we're swiftly moving them out of the classroom."

But why is it so difficult to fire bad teachers? Last year in New York, for example, out of roughly 80,000 teachers, two-thirds of whom are tenured, only 32 tenured teachers were fired -- and of those 32, only seven were terminated for poor classroom performance.

"First, the states that actually have lots of teachers in teacher unions tend to be the states that have done the best in terms of academic success in this country," Weingarten explained. "And the states that don't tend to be the worst. The issue is not a teacher union contract or a teacher union management contract. What we have to do with these contracts is we have to make them solution-driven."

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