Pittsburgh City Schools may soon finalize their second huge grant. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is granting the system $40 million over 6 and half years to improve the cities public schools. In 1988 the district received an unprecedented $12.5 million from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The results of that experiment were largely a failure with no lasting improvements. So what’s different this time?
Unlike the Casey grant – which focused on after school programs and other ancillary projects – the Empowering Effective Teachers Plan contains a merit based pay provision– a reform that ensures schools are committed to high-quality teachers. We’ve consistently advocated for teacher merit pay, but the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and other teacher unions have historically opposed any type of performance pay and a host of other education reforms that could weaken their influence over politicians.
Teachers would be judged on how well students progress, student test scores and observations of a teacher’s work. The reforms could have lasting effects on students achievement- weeding out the poorly performing teachers- however there is always the danger of a faux merit pay system where all teachers receive a bonus discounting the incentive system merit pay strives to implement.
The question is, if teachers do approve the conditions for the grant will the union water down the provisions, and if they do will the Gates Foundation continue their funding?