Here is a letter I sent to the Des Moines Register this morning after read this letter to the editor.
Students, teachers, and administrative leaders suffer from a problem
of what economists call "The Principal-Agent Problem." Simply put, the
agents of the school, teachers-principals, teachers-students, have different
For example, Juan might take a math class because he wants to become an
engineer. Sophie might take the same math class because it fulfills a
graduation requirement. Thus, Juan might get an "A" while Sophie earns a
"C". Both students have different incentives and thus different outcomes in
the class. A similar principal-agent problem might be when a teacher
presents material because she thinks high school should be for college
preparation. Another teacher might believe that his class is for career
education. Thus, schools, parents, and school leaders fail to prepare
students because of misaligned objectives.
Basing teacher pay on student achievement is simply a misaligned incentive
to base teacher pay.