Broad new teacher plan lacks performance-based pay

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 12:20pm

Director of Schools Jesse Register and Mayor Karl Dean unveiled a plan on Tuesday they say will transform the way Metro public schools recruit, develop and retain teachers.

But the plan is absent one major component: There’s no proposal to award the district’s highest performing teachers with greater compensation.

Almost exactly one year ago, Register, Dean and other educators hosted a daylong summit where “performance-based pay” — the concept of linking teacher salaries to their performance and student achievement — owned the day. In the following months, Register and Dean created a panel, which included input from the local teachers’ union, to discuss that very topic.

A new plan unveiled Tuesday dubbed ASSET, inspired by a new report on teacher effectiveness, calls for a two-phase approach to attract and retain “the country’s most talented teachers,” but the district won’t be using a revamped pay structure to lure in better teachers.

Register said addressing the district’s pay structure remains a priority, calling it “something to consider down the road.” But he said the timeline has changed following the approval of the state’s Race to the Top bid, which created a new teacher evaluation system based on student achievement.

“It’s not that we are not going to do that,” Register said of a revamped teacher pay plan. “We’ve just changed our timeline. We think we’ll be working on looking at differentiated pay models this year and going into the next year. We’ll be pilot testing the new state evaluation system this year in Tennessee. I want to see about the possibility of Metro Nashville actually being the pilot site to test that new evaluation system.”

Buy-in from the teachers’ union, historically skeptical of performance-based pay plans, seems precarious at best.

Erick Huth, president of the Metro Nashville Education Association, the union, derides performance-based pay as “paying teachers for test scores.” He said it’s a “political issue, not an education issue,” adding that there’s “no studies to date that indicate that money is a motivator for increasing student test scores.”

Huth said Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development is in the process of conducting a study to determine the effectiveness of performance-based pay for middle school math teachers.

As for the first phase of Metro’s new plan, to be implemented immediately, the idea is to increase professional development and leadership training opportunities for Metro teachers and principals. Since his arrival, Register has installed more than 300 teaching coaches in schools to help reach this end.

“It’s a very comprehensive approach to the development of teachers,” Register said of ASSET. “We want to support good teachers and support professional development all the way from the time they’re in college until the time they’re inducted into the school system.” 

The first phase is centered on three recommendations: redefining and evaluating the professional development and training of teachers; improving teacher instruction to improve effectiveness; and creating a Career Development Institute to establish leadership tracks for effective veteran teachers.

With the creation of the Career Development Institute, Metro officials say they will provide teachers with the opportunity to take on greater roles and responsibilities, which would include additional compensation.  

A second phase of ASSET designed to improve the preparation, recruitment and induction of talented educators, is to be rolled out gradually over time. Metro officials say the plan with the second phase is to build on the state’s new teacher evaluation system. 

1 Comment on this post:

By: govskeptic on 8/13/10 at 9:30

I thought the connection between the pay and test performance was a part of what Tenn had presented to the Feds as a plum for the extra government funds? Wouldn't changing that now be a problem over these extra funds?