NCTQ at the Movies: Bad Teacher

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After a winter with a series of important documentaries about American education, it shouldn't surprise us too much to discover Americans may be a tad burned out on the real life drama of our nation's schools. Enter Bad Teacher, the Cameron Diaz / Justin Timberlake comedy which premieres today about a hard-living, abusive junior high school teacher who spends most of her time in school courting a wealthy sub. While we're fairly confident our readership will be busy this weekend with substantially more enlightening fare, and while we haven't seen the film, we did want to take this opportunity to point out a major plot hole just in case.

In the trailer for the film, Cameron Diaz' character does everything she can to raise money for plastic surgery, including trying to score a bonus for her students' high scores on a state standardized test. We must point out that such incentives don't exist in Chicago, where the film is based. In fact, of the 100 largest school districts in the country, according to our Tr3 database,only six offer bonuses on the basis of performance to individual teachers that would be substantial enough to cover the average cost of breast augmentation surgery - around $3800.

In order for performance pay to make a substantial impact on teacher recruitment and retention, the incentives have to be significant enough to make a real impact in teachers' lives. Bad Teacher's unquestioned premise is more anecdotal evidence that the public, inside and out, overestimates the true role of performance pay in schools today.