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Pennies from heaven? DeKalb teacher discovers merit pay just shows up.

Merit pay in Georgia – based on a teacher evaluation system that remains controversial and dependent on scores from tests that are unproven -- is going to be a contentious issue among Georgia teachers. Below, you can read a note from a DeKalb teacher to understand why.

However, for about 70 percent of teachers whose areas are not covered by state tests, student growth is measured by Student Learning Objectives or SLOs, created for each class. In some districts, teachers administer and grade the very tests used to evaluate them.

If you want a sense of how confusing merit pay is proving, read this note from a DeKalb teacher:

A colleague advised me to check my bank account today. I did.

DeKalb Schools had deposited several hundred dollars in my account.

Yesterday was stipend/merit pay deposit day. Shockingly, DeKalb does not distinguish money being paid out for merit pay, stipends for certain activities or SLO development. (Stipends were given to people for summer workshop attendance and for writing the new Student Learning Objectives. That's right. In some cases, teachers write and score the very tests used to evaluate them.)

As I do nothing to earn a stipend, it would appear by the money that appeared in my account today that I'm one of the "lucky" (an appropriate word in this case) DeKalb teachers receiving merit pay this year.

DeKalb has not published information about merit pay. We are being told teachers would receive explanations during pre-planning.

APS announced its merit pay system in January, and the district even has a specific email contact. DeKalb? Nothing.

We teachers received no email, no letter. Many don’t even know they received money. And some may be wondering why they have the money.

Also, the amounts DeKalb disbursed differ from Atlanta’s. APS provided information stating no teacher will receive less than $1000 in merit pay.

In DeKalb, we are hearing staff members received anything from $500 to $2000. And that includes coaches/PE teachers, as well as non-teaching staff.

And some teachers are fuming, wanting to know why they didn't receive anything and others did.

Did DeKalb really use the teacher-graded and sometimes erroneous SLOs to determine merit? Did DeKalb really use test scores from technologically questionable environments?

Did DeKalb really use dubious evaluations (some teachers weren't evaluated the required number of times; no standardized implementation of number rankings; evaluation information can be changed with no record other than a teacher's hard copy).

Please get a discussion started so teachers can see how other districts have rolled out merit pay.


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.