It’s not a novel idea – paying teachers for how well they teach – but it has taken a long time to catch on in the public school system. Prince William County is the latest to adopt the move.

Prince William Public Schools got a grant of $11.1 million from the Department of Education to do a pay-for-performance program in its 30 poorest schools. The idea is that teachers get bonuses for achieving good results with their students.

Teachers could get $1,000 to $4,500, and administrators could get $7,000.  The bonuses would start in the 2012-2013 school year.

Teacher performance won’t be measured individually. Instead, the school as a whole will be evaluated. It basically works like this: Participating schools that have 50 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced lunch will have to attain yearly progress goals. After that, the schools will be evaluated on some other criteria, such as student behavior, ranked, and then awarded bonuses, which the schools will hand out to teachers.

To read more about this, go here.

We have seen school systems around the country struggling to raise student performance in schools. Pay-for-performance programs have been tried elsewhere and have failed. And not all educators in Prince William think this program is a good idea.

One thing that everybody seems to agree upon, however, is that something must be done in schools nationwide to improve them. Washington, D.C., took the tact of firing many teachers who weren’t up to snuff. The recent movie, “Waiting for Superman,” highlighted some of the pressure students face to get into the best schools our country has to offer. More is expected of teachers and their salaries barely increase, if at all.

The good thing about the pay-for-performance program is that it’s based on bonuses, not salary. So teachers will not be penalized. Instead, those teachers who help a school achieve its goals will receive something extra, above and beyond their ordinary paycheck.

Because of the grant, Prince William isn’t having to throw any of its money into the pay-for-performance pot, so that makes this program an overall win, whether it ends up being effective or not. Now all that’s left is to wait and see if cash can lead to higher quality learning in the classroom.