The State Board of Education on Friday approved controversial major revisions of the state’s minimum salary schedule for teachers that sharply reduces the value of experience and advanced degrees, reports Rick Locker. The board approved the changes sought by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration on a 6-3 vote despite opposition by teachers who packed the meeting room. They said the new plan could freeze their salaries at their 11th year in the profession. The plan proposed by State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman tops out at year 11, while the current plan tops out at year 21.
The current salary schedule lists the minimum annual salaries for teachers for each year of experience through 21 years and for each of five levels of college degrees they hold. The new minimum schedule lists only four pay levels based on years of experience up through the 11th year, and only two levels of college degrees — bachelor’s and any level of advanced degree.
The state’s 135 local school boards are free under the law to pay their teachers more, as all but three rural districts do. But about half the districts pay within 10 percent of the state-required minimums.
The board approved the plan at the urging of Huffman’s Department of Education despite requests to delay a vote by the Tennessee Education Association and the vice chairman of the state legislature’s House Education Committee, Republican Rep. John Forgety of Athens, the former superintendent of his county school district.
Arlington Middle School teacher Barbara Gray, vice president of TEA, told the board that teachers have “serious concern” about the plan. “These changes could seriously damage teaching careers and increase the inequity between the rich and the poor school systems,” she said. “The overall effect of the changes proposed is a substantial lowering of state requirements for teacher salaries.
“While no teacher will see a cut in their current salary, they may also never see another raise, resulting in drastically decreased lifetime earnings.”
Huffman lashed out at critics of the plan and media reports that it advanced under the radar with little public notice or discussion. A
“Tennessee law forbids any district from cutting an individual teachers salary,” Huffman told the board. “Two, there is more state money in the budget for salaries than at any time in Tennessee history. The state has added $130 million in taxpayer money over the last three years to the budget that goes to districts that has to be spent on compensation.
“Three, the proposed minimum salary schedule does not tell districts how to pay teachers. It gives almost complete autonomy to local districts to decide how to pay teachers. So anyone who says that this pay system does this over, that is just not accurate. Local districts are going to develop their own systems on how this gets implemented.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State lawmakers are speaking out against a proposal by the state Department of Education they believe would eventually hurt teacher salaries in Tennessee.
Democratic leaders held a press conference on Thursday to oppose the measure that seeks to change the minimum teacher salary schedule.
They note the proposal would reduce steps in salary increases from 21 to four and eliminate incentives for doctorate degrees and post-master’s training.
House Minority Leader Crag Fitzhugh said the proposal could deter individuals looking to teach in Tennessee.
“I don’t know that we can get career teachers anymore,” said the Ripley Democrat.
Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is scheduled to present the proposal to the State Board of Education on Friday.
Hyffman said in an email that it’s against the law for any Tennessee school district to cut a teacher’s salary, and that Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has added more than $130 million in state money for teacher salaries over the past three years.
State officials say the proposed schedule provides school districts with more latitude to create compensation plans that meet their local needs.
“We will continue to look for ways to increase teacher pay, decrease state mandates and increase local control of school decisions,” Huffman said.
And here’s an excerpt from Rick Locker’s report:
The current schedule lists minimum pay levels for teachers statewide for each year of teaching up to year 21 and for five different levels of degrees attained. The 135 school districts are free to pay above the minimums. Clay, Hancock and Pickett counties pay at the minimum; 20 districts pay within 2 percent of the minimum and about half pay within 10 percent.
But all districts use the schedule’s basic framework of 21 annual step increases and five different levels of education: bachelor’s degree, master’s, master’s plus at least 30 hours of additional college credit, education specialist and doctoral degrees.
The Huffman plan would compress the schedule to four steps — $30,876 base for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree, get base plus $570 in year two, base plus $3,190 in year six and base plus $6,585 in year 11. Teachers with any level of advanced degree would start at a base $34,291, get base plus $7,030 raise in year six and base plus $10,890 in year 11.
Under the current schedule, minimum teacher pay tops out at 21 years (they may still receive pay raises locally but they’re not mandated by the state). The Huffman plan would top out at 11 years.
— Note: News release below.
News release from state comptroller’s office:
Four Tennessee school districts have joined a small but growing group of districts nationwide that are experimenting with alternative ways to pay teachers, a new report released today by the Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) highlights.
Alternative salary plans base teacher pay increases on positive performance ratings rather than on years of service and graduate degrees earned, which are the basis for traditional salary plan increases. Alternative salary plans allow effective teachers to earn higher salaries more quickly than they would under traditional plans. The report, titled Trends in Teacher Compensation: Focus on Alternative Salary Schedules, details how the alternative plans work, what characteristics they share and how they differ from the more common performance bonuses.
The four Tennessee districts – Johnson County, Lexington City, Putnam County, and Trousdale County – that implemented their alternative salary plans in the 2011-2012 school year are scheduled to be joined by three more districts next fall: Haywood, Lincoln and Polk County schools.
Research suggests that the factors used to set traditional teacher salary schedules – years of service and graduate degrees – have limited value as indicators of teacher effectiveness. Tennessee law requires the adoption a state minimum salary schedule for teachers based on experience and training. However, the law was revised as part of the 2010 First to the Top legislation to allow local districts to develop alternative schedules, subject to state approval.
Alternative salary plans allow districts to recognize more effective teachers based on performance measures such as classroom evaluations and increases in students’ test scores. They are generally considered a more financially sustainable way to reward high-performing teachers than paying performance bonuses on top of traditional salary increases. The new plans restructure the salary schedule, eliminating automatic increases for all teachers to redirect more pay to the more effective teachers.
The report found that most alternative salary plans, including those in Tennessee, also feature individual or group bonuses for specific objectives such as meeting student achievement targets, teaching high-needs subjects or in high-needs schools, performing leadership duties or completing professional development goals. The report includes descriptions of the alternative plans in use in Tennessee and selected other districts and states.
Interest in alternative salary plans has been spurred by federal grants, like Teacher Incentive Fund and Race to the Top, and by private funders. In 2010, Tennessee received grants totaling $72 million over five years from the Teacher Incentive Fund and in 2012, the state received another $5.5 million grant. The state has also directed some $12 million of its Race to the Top Grant for a special fund to support districts that want to design and implement alternative salary schedules.
Officials in the districts using the new pay plans indicate that the new plans are more complex to administer and budget and require adequate data systems. Because alternative pay plans are based on teacher performance, the fairness, accuracy and reliability of teacher evaluations can receive additional scrutiny. Districts adopting these pay plans see them as a better way to target resources to recruit and retain the most effective teachers.
OREA is an agency within the Comptroller’s Office that is charged with providing accurate and objective policy research and analysis for the Tennessee General Assembly and the public.
To view the full report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/OREA/
News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment awarding a Memphis teacher back pay and damages after the board failed to comply with the Teacher Tenure Act when it dismissed her.
Saundra Thompson, a tenured teacher in the Memphis City Schools, was terminated by the school board in April 2007 for failing to return to work after taking extended sick time. The board did not provide written charges or an opportunity for a hearing prior to the termination.
Ms. Thompson filed suit alleging violation of the Tenure Act and right to due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United State Constitution. She was granted summary judgment and awarded reinstatement, back pay, damages and legal fees of $325,419. On appeal by the school board, the Court of Appeals remanded the case after it determined a factual dispute existed as to whether Ms. Thompson requested more sick leave prior to her termination, or whether she forfeited her tenure by making no such request.
The Supreme Court, in its holding today, reverses the Court of Appeals decision and affirms the trial court’s summary judgment, determining that, although a tenured teacher’s failure to return from sick leave may constitute cause for termination, there is no statute authorizing a board of education to deem it a constructive resignation or a forfeiture of tenure. The Court notes that by dismissing Ms. Thompson without providing her with written charges or an opportunity for a hearing, the defendant board of education violated her rights under the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act and her constitutional right to due process of law.
To read the Saundra Thompson v. Memphis City Schools Board of Education opinion, authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, visit the opinions sections of TNCourts.gov.
Tennessee spends tens of millions of dollars on professional development for its 63,000 public school teachers but has little idea if it makes a difference or even exactly what it costs, according to the Commercial Appeal. The state budgeted $148.2 million of its $500 million in Race to the Top funds for teacher training, $2,352 per teacher over four years. Researchers say there is not enough data to show the effect on student learning or to even evaluate the content, according to a legislative brief from the state Offices of Research and Education Accountability in the Comptroller’s office.
One of the biggest issues is that more than half of the money — $80 million — is managed by local districts for their own training programs.
“It’s very difficult to determine what is going to professional development and other programs,” said Rebecca Wright, a legislative research analyst who wrote the 14-page report.
“These are local-level issues. Unless you get it at the local level, you aren’t going to find a lot of information,” she said.
The report offers no recommendations. It is the second briefing this year from OREA on professional development for teachers. The first described laws and policies and how the training was structured before Race to the Top.
Ten new names were added Wednesday to the growing list of people indicted in a long-running scheme in which authorities say Mid-South teachers hired others to take their certification tests, reports The Commercial Appeal. The indictments bring to 14 the number of teachers or test-takers accused of participating in a scam dating to 1995 in which former Memphis City Schools employee Clarence Mumford charged teachers and aspiring teachers thousands of dollars to hire stand-ins to take their required tests.
Federal authorities say the scam, which was uncovered in 2010, involved more than 50 teachers and test-takers from Memphis City Schools, Shelby County Schools and other school systems in West Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.
Those indicted Wednesday on fraud by mail, wire or identification documents include three people from Memphis – Jacklyn McKinnie, 44; Jeryl Shaw, 39; and Steve Holmes, whose age was not available.
The hired test-takers typically showed proctors falsified drivers’ licenses with their photos, but with the name and other identifying information of the teacher on the license.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee education officials say teacher evaluations should be based more heavily upon how students score on tests in the subjects and grades that they teach, and less upon test scores for the entire school.
That’s according to a Tennessee Department of Education report released to lawmakers. The recommendations address a major concern among educators who said they were being evaluated based on the performance of students that they did not even teach.
Those evaluation standards were first enacted as part of Tennessee’s federal Race to the Top application in 2010. Tennessee was one of the first two states selected for the grants.
Last month, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, released its own study that said about two-thirds of the state’s teachers should be allowed to opt for a smaller portion of their evaluations to be based on student testing data.
Fifty percent of teachers’ evaluations are based on student testing data, but only about one-third teach subjects where growth scores are collected. The SCORE report recommended that teachers in subjects or grades without specific testing data be allowed to reduce that component to 25 percent of their evaluation.
News release from SCORE:
(Nashville) — The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) today released a report, Supporting Effective Instruction in Tennessee, regarding Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system. The report follows a five-month listening and feedback process SCORE led on the evaluation system to identify what is working well, gather input on challenges and concerns, and report back with a range of recommendations to the Tennessee Department of Education and State Board of Education.
“SCORE’s role in this process has been to listen,” SCORE President and CEO Jamie Woodson said. “It is our hope that this report and its recommendations will build on key successes of the new teacher evaluation system and support improvements moving forward, while always keeping the focus on what it takes to improve student achievement in our state.”
Research shows that effective teaching is the most important school-based factor in improving student achievement. Tennessee is now completing the first year of implementing a new teacher evaluation system, designed to identify and support effective teaching.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill to close public access to teacher evaluation records is headed for the governor’s signature.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Richard Montgomery of Sevierville passed the House on a 93-0 vote on Thursday without debate.
The Senate previously passed the bill on a 27-0 vote, meaning it now heads for Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk. Haslam has said he supports the measure to keep the evaluations confidential, even though it would deny parents the ability to find out whether their children are being instructed by poorly-performing teachers.
Under recent changes to state law, half of a teacher’s assessment must derive from testing data, while the rest comes from classroom observations. The new system has been heavily criticized by educators.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would allow teachers to qualify for tenure if they “meet expectations” on their evaluations is likely dead this session.
The measure sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jimmy Naifeh of Covington failed 7-5 in the House Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Education Committee.
Under the state’s new teacher evaluation system, teachers can gain tenure only if they score in the top two ratings two consecutive years. A three on the five-point rating scale is “meets expectations.”
The proposal would allow teachers who meet expectations or above in the last two years of the probationary period to receive tenure.
Critics of the new system have included the tenure change in a list of recommended changes to the process.