The Sacramento City Unified School District is one of a number of districts in the country participating in a federally-funded program called The Talent Transfer Initiative. This program, which I just learned about, pays selected teachers a $20,000 bonus to transfer to a targeted “high-needs school.”

Though I’ve written about my general concerns about extrinsic motivation and financial rewards, that’s not my primary question. After all, teachers who work at high-needs schools have been able to get their student-loans forgiven (as mine were), but I suspect that isn’t a huge reason why people choose to work there.

And, to tell you the truth, I’m not overly concerned right now about how it will be used in our district. I think our Superintendent will try his best to avoid some of the potential dangers that drove me to write this post. However, I’m not so sure about how it will be applied in other districts (and will be very interested in hearing from others who might know more).

One issue is the criteria used to determine eligible teachers. It appears, and I may be wrong, that it’s primarily focused on test scores. I’m not convinced that test scores are the best way to judge teacher quality. On top of that, if some districts are going to use these test scores as the primary criteria, I wonder if they realize that just because a teacher’s class in an upper middle class school may have high test scores, that does not necessarily mean that the teacher has the skills to work in a high needs school.

Secondly, the bonus does not appear to be available to teachers who presently work in the targeted high needs school and may be equally as talented. If that’s the case, that doesn’t appear to be particularly fair to me. (Even though the website does not mention it, I just learned that there is indeed a bonus for eligible teachers who are presently at the targeted skill, though it is a smaller amount)

These are just sort of rambling thoughts, and I’m primarily interested in hearing reader feedback. Are you in a district using this initiative? How is it going? Do you share my concerns? Am I misrepresenting the program?