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Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 10:36am

Race to the Top Means Merit Pay for Teachers

Teachers in 26 Georgia school districts soon will be paid based on how well their students do on standardized tests.

The merit-pay plan is part of the $400 million Race to the Top federal grant awarded last summer to Georgia and applies next year to the 26 participating districts. The state’s application for the grant indicates the merit-pay system will be made available statewide within five years.

“There’s a whole lot that goes on in a classroom besides standardized tests,” said Tim Callahan, a spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. “A good teacher is many more things than just a standardized test score, so we think that may be a little out of perspective from the get-go.”

Callahan’s organization and other teacher groups have questions about the proposed system, like:

  • How will it measure teachers in foreign-language, music and other classes where there’s no CRCT test?
  • How will it be paid for?
  • And how did the state decide half of a teacher’s evaluation would be tied to test scores?

Under the plan, 50 percent of a teacher’s assessment will be tied to student achievement. Ten percent will be tied to reducing the student achievement gap, and the rest will be principal observations and other assessments that have not been developed yet.

Much remains undecided about the specifics of the teacher evaluations and other components of the state’s plan that will now be implemented. Callahan hopes classroom educators will have a big say in developing those details.

“Actual educator, classroom teacher input has been rather minimal to this point, and that’s a little scary,” he said. “It isn’t sort of a nail in the coffin, but it does raise eyebrows.

“What I’d like to see from here on in is more teacher input, more involvement, and perhaps we will [get more input] as it gets rolled out into individual school systems,” Callahan said.

He said student performance is important in grading teachers, but evaluations should also include peer assessments and more in-depth principal observations.