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$10M in limbo over teacher pay based on merit
State is working to implement new salary schedule by 2014-15
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Georgia could lose out on $9.9 million in Race to the Top grant money if it doesn’t implement merit-based pay for teachers by September 2015.

State leaders are now working on a compromise that would assure the federal government that merit-based pay will be implemented, even though it may happen after the grant timeline.

A letter from the federal government, addressed to Gov. Nathan Deal, noted the state’s proposed amendments to the original plan have been accepted, notably delaying the implementation of tests that will measure student growth and then be used as a way to evaluate teachers. This involves the addition of Student Learning Objective tests in classrooms that are not already tested with an End of Course Test or Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.
Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said the delay is “good news” for the school districts as they continue to work on the new evaluation system.

“No widespread and effective teacher/leader evaluation system in history has ever done what Georgia is attempting with teacher and leader keys (effectiveness systems),” he said. “Particularly, the additional year to refine and improve the measure of student growth in untested subjects (Student Learning Objectives) is critical.

There is no immediate impact to local school systems.

“This will push our legislature because they set the salary schedule,” said Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer. “I don’t know if the realization is there, but this is going to go right to the legislature.

Susan Andrews, deputy superintendent of the state’s Race to the Top implementation program, said the original plan was to implement merit-pay in four years.

“One of the components of the plan was to tie the teacher salary schedule to student performance,” she said. “This would require legislative action. We do not anticipate, in the current economy and with a newly developed evaluation system, to be able to develop and get legislative approval of a new salary schedule prior to the end of the grant timeline.”

Both Deal’s office and state school superintendent John Barge said they’re working on a plan to have the funds reinstated, but Barge said it’s more important to make sure the merit-pay system works before moving forward.
“We will continue to work with federal officials to develop a plan regarding this issue,” he said. “But it is critical that we establish an accurate measurement tool for educator performance before we ever consider linking it to merit bonuses for Georgia’s teachers.”

The end of the Race to the Top grant period for Georgia is September 2014. Barge said the state plans to unroll the evaluation system statewide in 2014-15, and remains ahead of schedule for that deadline.

“This is a 10-year process we are condensing into four, and I applaud Dr. Barge and Gov. Deal for their common-sense request,” Schofield said.

Dyer agreed, saying that it’s not that the state hasn’t been working on implementing the plan, but that the original scope of work was too large. “The delay ... will prevent us from making a critical mistake with merit pay just to meet the demands of the grant,” she said.

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