Should teacher pay base be based, at least in part, on student achievement?┬áThe 42nd annual PDK/Gallup poll on education (PDF) provides a snapshot of public attitudes toward education. From the reformer’s point of view, the glass is half-full.

On the glass-is-half-empty side, we have this: over half of the people surveyed support keeping failing schools open, rather than turning them into charter schools or simply closing them and sending students to better-performing schools. A majority would instead “provide comprehensive outside support.” In other words, let’s try, try again.

On the other hand, respondents were open to some elements of performance pay. They chose, by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, the idea that teachers get paid “on the basis of his or her work” over paying them “on a standard-scale basis.” For the most part, the latter option is what we have now.

By the same margin, respondents said teacher pay should be either “somewhat closely tied” or “very closely tied” to student achievement.

We recognize and applaud pay for performance in trivial segments of the economy, such as professional sports. Given the importance of education, we–legislators, parents, education researchers–should make an effort to include measures of student performance in teacher pay. The science of how to do so is still relatively new, so we shouldn’t base teacher pay entirely on test scores. But some part of teacher pay ought to be based on how well they help students learn (“value-added” in the jargon) over the course of a school year.