School principals should know who their best teachers are, and those top performers deserve higher pay.
Jeff Charbonneau, honored last week by President Barack Obama at the White House as national teacher of the year, helps show why.
Charbonneau teaches chemistry, physics, engineering and architecture at Zillah High School in Zillah, Wash.
“I fight a stigma,” Charbonneau wrote in his award application. “Students hear the words ‘quantum mechanics’ and instantly think ‘too hard’ and ‘no way.’ It is my job to convince them that they are smart enough, that they can do anything.”
He’s succeeding. About two-thirds of juniors and seniors at the small, rural school are signing up for chemistry and physics. And nearly every student is graduating with some college credit, according to the Associated Press.
Charbonneau can award college credits to his high school students because he attained adjunct faculty status with local universities, and many of his fellow teachers at Zillah now are doing the same. Zillah offers 72 classes that can lead to college credits, and 90 percent of students go on to college, an apprenticeship or the military.
To help build enthusiasm for math and science, Charbonneau runs a statewide robotics competition and created an ecology program that includes hiking trips.
With America needing more young scientists to innovate and compete in the global economy, Charbonneau is helping fill that demand.
Yet he and so many other top educators across the country can’t get higher pay for excellent work. Their contracts don’t link compensation to performance. Instead, they’re paid extra for years of experience and advanced degrees.
That needs to change. President Obama has encouraged merit pay for teachers. So has Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Merit pay will help keep the best teachers in the profession. It also should convince more of our talented young people to pursue teaching as a career.
Critics, including many unions, claim teacher performance can’t be judged fairly. Yet every year, a variety of education groups distinguish and celebrate exceptional work. If they can do it, so can school principals.
Charbonneau and other top teachers deserve a boost for being the best.