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Revamping teacher pay no simple task
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Forsyth County News
Paying school teachers based on what they accomplish in the classroom rather than their years of service or level of education?

Great idea. Absolutely. Sure. Or at least maybe. And again, maybe not.

Gov. Sonny Perdue last week proposed an overhauling of the way the state pays its teachers that would begin in 2014. At that point, rather than increases based on years of experience and level of professional training, raises for teachers would be based on their classroom acumen.

At first blush it’s a concept that most in the business world would readily endorse. Additional compensation based on performance is a standard for many professions.

Applying that basic concept to teachers, however, is going to be much more complex, and a multitude of details will have to be analyzed and reviewed first.

At this point, the questions far outnumber the answers.

How, for example, do you allow for the dramatic differences in demographics in communities throughout the state, differences that absolutely play a role in students’ abilities to learn?

How do you judge accomplishment by students in a single year, under one teacher? Though the state’s schools are beleaguered with standardized tests of varying sorts, they are for the most part meant to measure knowledge gained on a cumulative basis through various grades of education.
Do we now add an end-of-year test at every grade level so that teachers can be evaluated?

And how do you account for the fact that education is a cumulative process? Is a middle school teacher punished for being ineffective because students failed to learn to read in elementary school? Is a chemistry teacher at fault for students who failed to learn in math class?

What about those teachers who devote their careers to students with handicaps or learning disabilities? How do you reasonably measure accomplishment for them?

Yes, in a perfect world teacher competency would be considered in setting education pay scales. For too long all teachers have been treated as equals, and an “across-the-board” model punishes those who are exemplary while rewarding those who need to be in other careers.

The flip side of the pay-for-performance concept is that it needs to be easier for schools to rid themselves of bad teachers.

Four years is a short time frame for a total revamping of teacher compensation in Georgia, and the governor making the proposal is leaving office at year’s end.

At this point it is too early to say whether Perdue’s proposal will ever come to fruition. Whether it can pass political muster and gain the support to become reality ultimately will depend on which devils are hiding in the details.