And on Wednesdays, we focus on the workplace, which for nearly four million Americans is in the classroom. A teacher who does a great job could mean as much to some students as an extra year of schooling. A new study says the link between teacher quality and student performance is so critical, schools have to experiment with ways to encourage better teaching. As NPR's Larry Abramson reports, the incentive of choice appears to be money.

LARRY ABRAMSON: For a long time, school systems have paid more to teachers with advanced degrees or lots of experience. But education researcher Dan Goldhaber of the University of Washington says there's still no reason to believe that approach will boost student achievement.

Dr. DAN GOLDHABER (Education Research, University of Washington): Seems like the best way to figure out the quality of a teacher is based on her or his performance in the classroom. And if you want to reward that characteristic, then you have to look at somehow linking pay to their performance.

ABRAMSON: Pay for performance schemes are enjoying a bit of a renaissance these days, as schools try to raise test scores to comply with tougher federal standards. But Goldhaber's research shows that many of these efforts are shots in the dark because there's not enough hard data to prove which teachers are able to boost student test scores.

Until that information is available, teachers unions remain dubious about the merits of merit pay. They fear that teachers who work with disadvantaged children will be penalized if their scores lag. But unions are gradually dropping that resistance. They want to be sure they have input on the growing number of pay incentives that are cropping up.

Larry Abramson, NPR News, Washington.

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