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Paying teachers for performance raises concerns

POSTED: December 2, 2011 1:00 a.m.

The article "Hall changes grading scale" in Tuesday's Times reported on only one of two important issues discussed at the Hall County School Board meeting on Monday evening. The information about the change in the student grading scale approved by the board was thorough and accurate.

The item not reported on was the issue of teacher evaluations and performance pay. At the meeting, I was surprised at the different approaches taken by the board regarding these issues.

The new grading scale will perhaps give students an advantage once it is implemented. The new teacher evaluation program, which will be piloted by 190 Hall County teachers beginning in January, probably will not be beneficial to the moral of the teachers or improve teaching in Hall County schools.

One of the drawbacks of the new evaluation system that was discussed is the limited performance indicators that characterize the evaluation. The board is certainly inconsistent in expanding evaluation standards for students while limiting those of teachers.

The new student grading system expands performance indicators for students, providing three levels; level one for regular courses, level two for honors and "excel" courses, and level three for IB and AP courses.

The teacher evaluation system that will be piloted includes two performance indicators for poor performance, and one which indicates the teacher is deficient and one indicating satisfactory performance. There is also a pay-for-performance standard that teachers may choose to try and qualify for.

Based on experiencing four or five of these types of performance pay plans during my 35 years of teaching high school chemistry and physics, this part of the plan will not work. I found that merit pay and performance pay plans were consistently counterproductive and damaging to teacher moral.

Will teachers assigned to teach "regular" courses find it more challenging to meet performance pay criteria? Will teachers assigned to teach IB and AP courses, with students who are highly motivated and identified as academically the best students in a school, find it easy to achieve those performance pay criteria?

Will all the teachers at the Da Vinci Academy Charter School receive performance pay because they teach at a school identified as for students who are "passionate about art, science and/or technology?" If those teachers do not receive performance pay, should they be transferred to a different school?

I have been attending Hall County school board meetings for more than 18 months, so I am familiar with the problem solving strategies used by the board members. Even so, I was dismayed by the different approaches the board pursued when looking at the evaluation system applied to students, and the one that will be piloted by 10 percent of the teachers in the spring.

Frank Lock
Gainesville



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