Maybe in the holiday rush you missed this intriguing school reform news. Teachers in Newark, N.J., recently approved a new contract. What's so momentous about that? The contract includes merit pay based on a teacher's classroom performance, including student academic growth.

Newark teachers could earn bonuses of up to $12,500 for being rated as highly effective, working in a school that has struggled to attract top teachers or teaching hard-to-staff subjects.

The new contract vaults Newark to the front of a national crusade to boost student achievement by retaining and rewarding the best teachers.

The Newark vote wasn't a squeaker: Almost 62 percent of Newark's nearly 4,700 union teachers supported the plan. Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grosso called the vote "a step in the right direction for the teaching profession," the Star-Ledger reported.

Merit pay is a prime way to recognize the best-performing teachers and keep them in the classroom, where they boost student achievement. Newark's teachers apparently get that.

More than 300 school districts across the country have joined federal efforts to promote merit pay. They have reaped $1.2 billion in federal money. It's time for more school districts to sign on. Every principal should welcome the chance to pay his or her superstar teachers for superior performance.