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Lawmakers debate teacher performance pay

By ALANNA DURKIN, Associated Press

LANSING, May 12, 2013 (AP): Michigan teachers' performance in the classroom would play a bigger role in the amount they get in their paychecks under a proposal being debated in the Republican-controlled state House.

The House Education Committee recently took up a bill that would make teacher job performance the primary factor in determining pay. It would render meaningless the number of years on the job and some advanced degrees.

Supporters argue that rewarding teachers who perform better and moving away from a system that rewards seniority will improve teachers and benefit students.

``We want to reward teachers who are good teachers, whose students learn and grow, and that's what our goal is and that's one of the things this bill will accomplish,'' Republican Rep. Pete Lund of Shelby Township, who is sponsoring the legislation, told reporters after the hearing.

But others worry such a policy could lead to competition in schools where cooperation and idea-sharing is essential, and punish teachers working in low-income areas where factors beyond the teacher's control can hinder student growth.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a law linking teacher performance to pay in 2010 as part of a sweeping series of education reforms. But under current law, job performance has to be only one factor in teacher pay, along with the number of years in the classroom and achievement of advanced degrees.

This bill would ensure that teacher performance is the driving factor and that teachers are graded primarily on student growth data. Teachers could get a pay raise for an advanced degree only if it's in the subject they teach. Advanced education degrees would boost pay only for elementary school teachers. The proposed law would only impact teachers hired after it goes into effect.

There are now no statewide teacher evaluation standards, which means school districts—which began grading teachers in the 2011-2012 school year—have had to come up with their own systems.

Because of that, the policy hasn't had the desired effect, according to Education Trust-Midwest, a Michigan-based education policy and advocacy group. It released a report last year that showed nearly all of the teachers in 10 Michigan school districts surveyed were rated ``effective'' or ``highly effective,'' even though the state ranks nearly last on national assessments.

``Unfortunately, without more guidance from the state, school districts will likely continue to perpetuate a patchwork of evaluation systems, some better than others,'' said Amber Arellano, the group's executive director, in an email. ``And schools, parents and teachers will continue to question whether these evaluations will be reliable or comparable across schools or districts.''

The state has taken steps toward establishing a statewide system for evaluating teachers. The Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness, led by the University of Michigan's Deborah Loewenberg Ball, was created in 2011 to come up with a framework to grade teachers and assess student growth. Its recommendations are expected next month.

Lund said strengthening the legislation will provide a structure for the state to put in place for the evaluation system the group recommends.

But Democrats raised concerns that paying teachers for performance could lead to competition among teachers for dwindling education funds when they should be discussing best practices and sharing strategies to make students successful.

``Because we have a limited pool of resources ... some of these teachers are forced to engage in a competitive, sort of cutthroat nature with one another to have access to those additional resources,'' said Democratic Rep. David Knezek of Dearborn Heights. ``I don't think that cultivates the type of environment we want in the classroom.''

Democratic Rep. Winnie Brinks of Grand Rapids said student performance—particularly at schools with children from low-income families—can be impacted by things beyond teacher's control.

``There is a strong connection between poverty and low test scores among students ... and many times there are often multiple barriers to success going on outside of the school hours and outside the control of the teacher,'' she told the committee.

Republican Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, the committee chairwoman, said she believes that rewarding teachers with performance pay is ``definitely the road we need to take here in Michigan.'' She said she wants to vote on the bill before the Legislature takes its summer break in July.

George Parker, a senior fellow with StudentsFirst, a national grassroots movement to reform school systems across country, told the committee that paying teachers for performance takes into account that some teachers outperform others. Many children nationwide, particularly low-income children, are not getting the quality of education they need, he said.

``We have to do the kinds of things that are necessary to change those outcomes.''

Online: House Bill 4625: http://1.usa.gov/13kxzyK


Copyright © 1989 to 2013 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/14/13 20:09:59 -0700.




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