Factors that affect teacher quality aren't necessarily high academic degrees or many years of teacher experience, according to a report released by the Utah Foundation.

Ironically, says Utah Foundation director Stephen Kroes, those factors are exactly what Utah uses to measure pay for teachers.

What does make a difference in teacher quality is up to five years' experience; how well the teacher understands the subject matter; how the teacher did on the subject tests in college; and at what institution they received their higher education. Well-designed teacher development is also a factor, according to the foundation report.

Kroes, who listened to the presentation on performance-based compensation plans during Thursday morning's legislative education committee interim meeting, says he thinks the one-time funding is a "healthy experiment."

"With teacher quality ranking so high on the list of voters' concerns, it's good to see state policymakers paying so much attention to the issue this year, with new programs for differential pay and an experiment in merit pay," Kroes said.

Utahns ranked education second in big issues, below energy concerns — including gas prices — in a survey that was taken in January for the foundation's Utah Priorities Project.

The foundation is now issuing reports based on that survey.

Utahns cite top education issues as teacher quality, funding, how students are prepared for college or careers, class size and teacher pay, according to the foundation's report.

Utah Foundation is a 60-year-old nonprofit organization based in Salt Lake City. Its goal is to provide research on issues to educate voters and candidates alike. The mission is to increase quality of life in Utah.

For more information, go to www.utahfoundation.org.

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