You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Gov. Nathan Deal all in on merit pay for teachers


Gov. Nathan Deal said he’s ready to ask lawmakers to make a “significant” step toward tying the teachers’ pay to their performance in the classroom, setting up a showdown with educators’ groups who have long opposed the policy.

But it’s unclear how much political capital he’s willing to put on the line for the controversial proposal. Equally unclear is whether lawmakers - all of whom face re-election next year - will be willing to sign on for the battle, knowing full well that they will get blow-back from teachers.

Georgia policymakers have flirted for decades with the of idea of merit pay for teachers, and more than two dozen school districts have received money from the state’s $400 million federal Race to the Top grant that rewards teachers on their performance.

More comprehensive changes have been stalled by critics who question, among other aspects, how teachers will be evaluated and how any pay increases would be funded.

Deal, though, indicated he’s willing to pick a fight with teachers groups. He said he plans to endorse merit pay as part of a broader education overhaul from a reform commission he tapped to recommend changes to the way Georgia divvies up money between 180 school districts.

“We’re not going to go to a fully merit-based pay system, but I do think there is a portion of the teachers’ pay that should go to how good a teacher they are,” Deal said after a recent policy conference. “Now, getting the education community to support that is sometimes difficult.”

The governor’s Education Reform Commission made merit pay one of its top recommendations despite numerous meetings with teachers who didn’t mention it as a priority. It led teachers’ advocates to openly criticize the commission’s work last month, saying the group failed to address more pressing issues such as recruitment and retention of educators.

School districts in Georgia generally pay teachers based on how long they’ve been teaching and degrees they’ve earned. Their salaries rise according to a fixed schedule that specifies minimum pay, though some districts pay above that.

That forces some teachers looking for bigger pay bumps to move into administrative roles, Deal said. Top administrators earn more than most teachers.

The challenge is coming up with a metric that satisfies skeptical educators groups and policymakers. Teachers advocates often question the reliability and rigor of, say, using test scores or other factors to determine a teacher’s salary.

“We want it to be an objective assessment,” said Deal. “Much of it has to, of course, be subjective. We think there’s a way to do it, and we’re going to try to move it along the road. We’re not going to get as far as perhaps some would like for us to go, but we think the first step is significant.”

A recent analysis by the Georgia Association of Educators, one of the state’s largest teacher groups, evaluated merit plans in other states. “There is little research evidence to support the notion that pay-for-performance incentives have a positive impact on student learning,” the report concluded.

Sid Chapman, president of GAE, said the commission Deal put together to give him guidance included no working teachers.

“The entire process has led to increased low morale among teachers and many are voicing to me that they want to retire as soon possible or leave the profession altogether,” he said. “Proposed changes such as those on teacher compensation and eliminating the state salary schedule will make the morale even worse.”

John Palmer, a Cobb County middle school band director and spokesman for the teacher protest group TRAGIC, said, the group opposes merit pay. “We are not opposed to it because we don’t want to be held responsible. We are opposed to it because they don’t have an effective way to determine how we are doing.”

Palmer said there are so many variables that go into good teaching that it would be hard to construct a model to use to decide who gets merit bonuses. Some teachers, like physical education teachers, might not be eligible. Some teachers work in schools that already have top test scores and are less likely to see big gains in the classroom.

“You can’t just put numbers in and put some statistical model together to tell you how a teacher should be paid,” he said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Georgia Politics

How Trump is already shaking up the Georgia governor’s race
How Trump is already shaking up the Georgia governor’s race

President Donald Trump is shaking up the emerging race for Georgia governor, forcing Republicans to gamble on how closely to tie themselves to his presidency – and speeding up plans for Democrats who think they have a tantalizing opportunity to exploit his setbacks. A fight is already under way on the GOP side of the ticket between candidates...
Redistricting gives GOP key to political power in Georgia
Redistricting gives GOP key to political power in Georgia

Once every decade, a peculiar spectacle occupies Georgia’s General Assembly. It’s a time when lawmakers pay little heed to lobbyists, much less constituents. Their focus instead becomes much more primal: protecting themselves, undermining their enemies, and maximizing the strength of their political parties. These internecine struggles...
Both sides see lessons for Georgia’s 6th District from Montana election
Both sides see lessons for Georgia’s 6th District from Montana election

Republicans in Atlanta’s northern suburbs can sleep just a little bit easier after GOP candidate Greg Gianforte avoided electoral disaster here Thursday evening. But the former technology executive’s single-digit victory in this vast state of only 1 million people - which backed Donald Trump for president by more than 20 percentage points...
PolitiFact: ad misstates Ossoff’s Calif. aid: More donors, not dollars
PolitiFact: ad misstates Ossoff’s Calif. aid: More donors, not dollars

Both sides have launched attack ads in the race for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. Recently, Democrats accused Republican Karen Handel of wallowing in administrative bloat. (We rated that Mostly False). Now, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, has an ad that paints Democrat Jon Ossoff as...
Lawsuit seeks paper ballots in Georgia’s 6th District runoff
Lawsuit seeks paper ballots in Georgia’s 6th District runoff

Georgia’s voting infrastructure is too old, unreliable and vulnerable to be used without a forensic review of its operating systems, according to a lawsuit seeking to require voters’ use of paper ballots for next month’s 6th Congressional District runoff election. The suit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, names Georgia Secretary...
More Stories