01/07/2011

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Worth is in the eye of the beholder The simplicity of the idea behind the <a title="SAME (So All May Eat) Café " href="http://www.soallmayeat.org/" target="_blank">SAME (So All May Eat) Café</a> in Denver, Colorado, is stunning—patrons pay whatever they want for a made-from-scratch, often organic meal. <a title="SAME (So All May Eat) Café" href="http://www.soallmayeat.org/" target="_self"></a>No one expected the restaurant to last six months, but it is now in its 5th year of operation and serving thousands every year.<br /><br />The café owners, longtime volunteers in soup kitchens and driven by a passion to solve a problem that big government and big money hadn’t, unabashedly took huge risks with their life’s saving to do something they thought they should: feed hungry people in a dignified and respectful environment and get paid what it is worth. Although running a non-profit restaurant is not exactly like funding education, there is a similarity worth noting.<br /><br />The “worth” of a good teacher is a much discussed topic in education. In Uri Friedman’s December 21 blog, he asks <a title="“Is a good teacher worth $400,000?”" href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/opinions/view/opinion/Is-a-Good-Teacher-Worth-400000-6289" target="_self">“Is a good teacher worth $400,000?”</a> and sites the recent <a title="findings " href="http://papers.nber.org/papers/w16606" target="_self">findings </a>of researcher Eric Hanushek of Stanford’s Hoover Institution, whose new book <em>Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America’s Public Schools</em> cuts to the chase about the lack of significant improvements in student achievement, simply stating that the incentives today do not focus on improved student outcomes. Hanushek suggests a performance-based system directly linking funding to success in raising student achievement will work better. Ahhh, the beauty of that conclusion reminds me of Keats, but with a twist: Simplicity is truth, truth simplicity.<br /><br />Is a good teacher worth $400,000? If students are learning what they need to be learning, then yes, paying the going market rate for high performance is logical. Too simple, you say? A couple of café owners might disagree.<br /><br />See what $125,000 a year is getting students in New York City <a title="here" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/05/education/05charter.html?_r=2" target="_self">here.</a><br /><br />Read an interview with University of Missouri-Columbia Professor of Economics Michael Podgursky about merit pay and teachers <a title="here" href="http://www.ednews.org/articles/an-interview-with-michael-podgursky-about-merit-pay-and-teachers.html" target="_self">here</a>.<br />

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