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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Utah Legislature: Testing teachers — Should teachers receive pay based on student test scores?

Check out Utah's resolution.

-Patricia


By Amy K. Stewart | Deseret News
Monday, Feb. 8, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY — Whether teachers should earn their paychecks based on student test scores, popularity or their college degree and years of experience is drawing heated debate between lawmakers and educators.

Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, is proposing a resolution that recommends guidelines for teacher performance pay plans.

"I want to ensure a quality teacher in every classroom," she said.

Currently teachers are paid based on academic degrees, certification and years in the profession. Poulson, a former English teacher, says while experience should be rewarded, performance is also important.

The House Education Committee unanimously approved the resolution, which will now go to the House for debate. HJR3 includes promoting student achievement and making sure the merit pay plan is adequately funded.

Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said it's important to "identify and reward people who are going above and beyond."

Midway Elementary School in Wasatch School District is one of several schools statewide selected by the State Office of Education for a pilot program to develop a teacher performance pay plan.


Utah Legislature: Testing teachers — Should teachers receive pay based on student test scores?

By Amy K. Stewart

Deseret News
Published: Monday, Feb. 8, 2010 10:23 p.m. MST
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SALT LAKE CITY — Whether teachers should earn their paychecks based on student test scores, popularity or their college degree and years of experience is drawing heated debate between lawmakers and educators.

Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, is proposing a resolution that recommends guidelines for teacher performance pay plans.

"I want to ensure a quality teacher in every classroom," she said.

Currently teachers are paid based on academic degrees, certification and years in the profession. Poulson, a former English teacher, says while experience should be rewarded, performance is also important.

The House Education Committee unanimously approved the resolution, which will now go to the House for debate. HJR3 includes promoting student achievement and making sure the merit pay plan is adequately funded.

Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said it's important to "identify and reward people who are going above and beyond."

Midway Elementary School in Wasatch School District is one of several schools statewide selected by the State Office of Education for a pilot program to develop a teacher performance pay plan.
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"We're excited about the potential it has for allowing teachers an opportunity to earn additional money for doing things really, really well," said Wasatch Superintendent Terry Shoemaker.

At Midway Elementary, teachers are working extra hours after school this year to create the school's plan. They each get a $2,000 stipend appropriated by the Legislature last year.

Midway's pay proposal takes into account three aspects of teaching: 40 percent based on student achievement and could include state or federally required end-of-year exam scores; 40 percent based on teacher development such as attending conferences and seminars; and 20 percent based on parent surveys.

"Our whole goal is to improve student learning," said Principal Shawn Kelly.

The pilot performance pay plans are set to be completed in June. The schools will implement them next school year. After the two-year pilot, state education officials aim to eventually create a statewide proposal.

Meanwhile, many educators point out the flaws of merit pay, saying judging a teacher based on student test scores is a poor evaluation method. Some children suffer from test anxiety, while others are simply good guessers. Teachers at schools with students in lower economic demographics and less parental support, or students whose second language is English, are at a disadvantage.

"Kids' test scores is not a valid indicator of how effective a teacher is. There are so many variables," said Patti Bateman, a first-grade teacher at Wellsville Elementary School in Cache County.

Some teachers worry they will be judged on parent or student evaluations, but others say that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Cindy Norton, who teaches third grade at Bonneville Elementary School in Salt Lake City, believes educators could benefit from both student and parent input.

"Students can tell when a teacher really cares about them and so can the parent," she said. "Parents are huge barometers of quality teachers.

"I think a good teacher promotes enthusiasm in their classroom, and that's a big indicator of performance," Norton said. "When students are engaged and excited about school, you know they are really learning."

Bateman adamantly opposes the idea of parent evaluations.

"I don't think anyone who hasn't spent substantial time in the classroom has the right to judge what goes on in the classroom," she said. "Teaching is not an easy job. No one has a clue (about) the effort and time that it takes to be an effective teacher."

Bateman has earned endorsements in reading and English as a Second Language, which has moved her higher on the pay scale. "I am a better teacher because of that education," she said.

Poulson says her resolution "sends a message to teachers that we respect their service and appreciate their input, along with parents, and all others invested in public education, as we all work toward improving instruction in our schools."

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