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Teacher pay scale may change
New state plan would begin in 2014
Teacher Performance 5
Otwell Middle School science teacher Doris Dickerson talks to students Thursday about an experiment. - photo by Emily Saunders
Do a good job, get a raise. For many industries that’s a familiar concept, but in Georgia education, it’s uncharted territory.

But if Gov. Sonny Perdue gets his way, that may change by 2014.

Perdue recently proposed the addition of performance-based pay for teachers instead of basing salaries solely on tenure and advanced degrees, and granting raises across the board.

Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Buster Evans it would be difficult to support or oppose the legislation until the details are decided.

“Teachers that are doing an outstanding job need to be rewarded… and I think it would be exciting to do, but there are a lot of details that need to be put in place,” he said.

Dan Kaplan, a math teacher at West Forsyth High, said merit-based pay could be fair. But he needs to be shown the numbers before jumping on board.

“It’s fair as long as everybody across the board is judged the same way,” he said. “Some teachers have lower level kids and some teachers have higher level kids, so [it could work] if they can figure out a formula as to how it can be judged fairly.”

Advanced placement teachers would need to be judged on the same playing field as those who teach basic level classes, said Kaplan.

Progress would also need to be considered. A 70 percent on a test might appear to be an unimpressive score, but for a student who got a 35 on the last test, it’s a substantial improvement.  

Professional Association of Georgia Educators spokesman Tim Callahan said fairly judging teachers could be difficult.

“It would be a great day if we really had the ability to comprehensively, accurately and fairly measure the impact a great teacher has on a student. But we are eons from that date now.”

The salary proposal is part of the federal Race to the Top initiative, which could provide more than $400 million to the state. While Perdue has recruited more than 20 schools districts to participate in the program, Forsyth chose not to based on its current high performance.

However, Evans said he and the board would like to be a part of the discussion to help shape Georgia’s plan, which Perdue outlined recently.

“Our legislation will calculate the effectiveness of teachers based on both quantitative and qualitative measures,” Perdue said in an e-mail sent to Georgia educators. “Compensation will then be based upon a teacher’s overall effectiveness, with 50% [sic] of that being the academic progress of an individual teacher’s students.”

Perdue said the plan would be used for all new teachers beginning in 2014, but those already in the profession would have the option to choose the new plan or stick with the current one.

Evans said there is also a possibility of opting out of the new system if the county doesn’t agree with it, through the system’s IE2 status. IE2 offers flexibility from state mandates in exchange for higher accountability.

“It could be a point of negotiation at that point in time,” said Evans.