There's a... merit badge ... to be given to a Democratic presidential candidate who endorses the concept of merit pay before an audience of teachers, as Sen. Barack Obama did today in Philadelphia.

The Philly Inquirer puts it this way:

It was a measure of Democrat Obama's rock-star appeal that he did not draw any hisses with the pronouncement, and even got scattered applause. Obama's endorsement of merit pay for teachers was the first note deviating from the promise-anything tenor of visits by several presidential candidates to the union this week.



That's fair, to a point. But the devil will be in the lessons plans.

The teachers unions know that merit pay is a very popular idea among non-teachers, and so it makes sense that the union would embrace the concept rhetorically. Eduwonks will want to know how Obama will base his pay-for-performance schema -- whether tests will determine a level of merit (he says no) or whether some other standard will be used. Will that standard be objective? (complaints received, grade point averages) or subjective (reports from students, reports from other teachers, reports from parents?) Will there be teeth to Obama's merit pay proposal, or will it be a populist adornment to an otherwise traditionally liberal education policy program?

BTW: Obama got great coverage when he criticized automakers while giving an economic speech in Detroit. We'll see if the press picks up on this, too.

Update: guess what's missing from this NEA official wrap-up?

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.