Teachers' bonuses: Should parental engagement be a factor?

School districts in Idaho experiment with plans to link educators' pay to how well teachers get their students' parents involved

Teachers in 29 Idaho school districts are going to be working harder to involve parents in their children's education, motivated by bonus incentives.
(Image credit: moodboard/Corbis)

Idaho is implementing sweeping education reforms requiring schools to give teachers performance bonuses. And about a third of the state's school districts will be letting a new group of evaluators have a say in designating those rewards: Parents. Here, a brief guide to Idaho's innovative new merit-pay system:

Parents will pick who gets bonuses?

Not exactly. But 29 school districts have decided to make parental involvement a factor. In the Challis district in the central Idaho countryside, for example, teachers will have to make contact with each child's parents at least twice every three months to remain eligible for bonuses. In the nearby farming town of Gooding, some teachers will get 25 percent of their bonus pay if they get enough parents to attend three meetings over the course of the academic year. "We're a really little town in the middle of nowhere," Challis Superintendent Colby Gull tells the Associated Press. "Parents are pretty involved in what's going on. But we wanted to get them more involved in the academic side of the school."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

What other factors will be considered?

So far, 105 school districts and charter schools have written their own merit-pay plans using a variety of benchmarks, including student attendance, graduation rates, and writing assessments. Fifty districts and charter schools chose not to write their own plans, and instead will comply with the state's plan, which pegs bonuses to standardized test scores. But teachers across Idaho will have to meet the state's goals, so test scores will be the one factor everyone will be judged on.

Is it really necessary to put parents into the mix?

As a parent, says Jeanne Sager at The Stir, I must say, this is "just bizarre." It's not the teachers' fault "if some parents don't take an involved role in their kids' education," so why penalize them if mom and dad can't be bothered to attend parent-teacher conferences? Get used to it, says RiShawn Biddle at Dropout Nation. "Accepting families as lead decision-makers in education" is critical to addressing America's education crisis. Parents aren't "nuisances and enemies" — they're a necessary part of any successful school.

Sources: Associated Press, The Stir, Dropout Nation

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.