More teachers graded for their pay
Move to link educators' raises with student learning gains
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (CNN) -- Traditionally, teachers' raises have been linked to years in the classroom or extra coursework completed. But critics say it's time to change that system, and tie teachers' pay to performance.
Becky Malone has been teaching 16 years and she knows her job. But unlike most teachers, this year Malone left a prestigious suburban school to teach at Clifton Hills, a struggling inner-city school in Tennessee. She's getting a $5,000-a-year bonus for three years to do it.
Malone is one of 12 teachers in Chattanooga who made the move to at-risk schools. But to earn a bonus, these teachers have to make the grade: their students have to make 15 percent above a normal year's progress as measured by state tests.
Malone says few teachers would take this on without extra benefits. "You're going to have to give teachers an incentive. You're asking them to make a change. You're asking them to make a sacrifice."
Chattanooga, Tennessee, Mayor Bob Corker, a former businessman, developed the bonus plan -- financed by a city sales tax -- with the town's CEOs. Not only do teachers earn more, but principals whose schools get good marks are paid an extra $10,000 a year.
"I think pay-for-performance is something whose time has come," Corker said. "What we have done is tried to put in place exactly those same principles that businesses put in place to reward employees for good performance."
Union: Other money issues involved
Clifton Hills Principal Charles Joynes says turnover rates at schools like his can be five times that of suburban schools. "People feel, 'I can go somewhere where it's not as difficult, and I'm going to get paid the same amount, so why not go where it's easier to teach?'"
Joynes says the new bonus attracted three teachers like Malone to his school this year.
But the new pay scale didn't come without opposition. Corker said the local teachers' union balked at first but eventually went along.
Why would a union be against giving some of its members more pay?
"If a system says all we're going to do is give a test, and based on that, determine if you deserve or not deserve pay, I think that is very degrading for me as a professional," explained Dennis Van Roekel, with the National Education Association.
The success of getting such performance-based programs instituted varies around the country.
Earlier this year, the Cincinnati teachers union voted to reject, by an overwhelming margin, the pay-for-performance plan, while in California, a similar plan fell to budget cuts.
But in Kentucky, the legislature approved in April a move to replace the traditional teacher pay scale with one that rewards teachers for demonstrated merit or teaching high-demand subjects, among other things.
Van Roekel said the real problem is that teachers are paid so much less than other professionals to begin with.
"I personally believe that if we don't deal with the overall issue of compensation, there is no performance pay system that will recruit the number of people we need in the next eight years," Van Roekel said.
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