In a deft move, governor resurrects merit pay framework at 11th hour

The governor successfully and deftly attached a merit pay framework to another bill passed Tuesday by a House Education subcommittee and then the full  committee, surprising and disappointing representatives of the state’s two largest teacher organizations, both of whom said they were unaware that the amendment was coming and that teachers will be angered over the political maneuvering. Now, the bill goes to the full House next week for what promises to be a spirited debate.

Representatives of the Georgia Association of Educators and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators expressed dismay that the House Education Committee would act on such a complex topic on the 37th day of the 40-day General Assembly session and without teacher input.

But as House Education vice-chair Fran Millar noted, the state had another deadline that forced the rapid action — Georgia’s reapplication for a federal Race to the Top grant in which performance pay is a key component to land the prize. Georgia came in third in the first round, in which only two states, Delaware and Tennessee, won grants. The state has vowed to come out a winner in round 2.

“This is also about $500 million,” said Millar, in a slight overestimation of how much Georgia could get  if it won a Race to the Top grant. “This is one of the criteria to be in the Race to the  Top game. So, if we’re going to be in the game, let’s be in the game.”

With that, the committee gave its blessing to the amendment, but not before state Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) asked, “Are we trying to do an end run on merit pay here?”  (The educators in the hearing room responded “yes.”)

To be clear, the language attached late this afternoon to Senate Bill 521 at the behest of  Gov. Sonny Perdue does not mention merit or performance pay or reference the salary schedule. The governor could not get an outright merit pay bill through the Senate this session, but clearly was determined to offer the feds some proof that Georgia is at least laying the groundwork for a system that pays teachers based on how successful they are with their students.

The Perdue amendment takes a more indirect route, requiring statewide uniform teacher evaluations created and enacted by the state Board of Education by July 1, 2011. That single evaluation tool for teachers can take into consideration several factors, including student progress on standardized tests, peer review and parental input.

In a concession, the House Education Committee softened the language sought by the governor’s office, which wanted the bill to mandate that 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation depend on a measure of student progress as reflected in test scores.

Now, the bill says that the statewide evaluation tool to be developed by the state board and used by every school system may consider student progress in deciding how well a teacher performs. However, the change was a hollow victory because the state board of education could easily reinsert the mandate language. The bill gives the governor-appointed school board free hand in developing the evaluation instrument and terms. This clearly paves the way for merit pay, said Herb Garrett of the Georgia School Superintendents Association.

As PAGE member Margaret Ciccarelli explained, the evaluations that teachers receive influences whether they are deemed unsatisfactory for two or more years, which, in turn, can lead to dismissal or a salary freeze. It is not accurate, she said, to contend that the teacher evaluation is not linked in any meaningful to salary.

While PAGE shared the belief that student performance and teacher evaluations should somehow be linked in the future, Ciccarelli told the House committee,  “Day 37 is not the time to do it.”

She was followed to the podium by Marcus Downs of GAE. He told the committee that Georgia lost out in the first round of Race to the Top not only because it had no merit pay plan in the works, but because it failed to have all education stakeholders at the table, including teachers. “Our input was not sought. We were again not part of the discussion that was just held,” he said.

Downs was particularly upset that the Senate education committee had only this morning taken up Senate Resolution 1290, which said, in part:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA that there is created the Joint Study Committee on Performance Based Salaries for Teachers to be composed of 12 members as follows: three members of the Senate to be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor, three members of the House of Representatives to be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, three local board of education members to be appointed by the Governor, and three teachers, one each to be appointed by the Governor, the Georgia Association of Educators, and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.

Committee members expressed concern about whether there was enough time to tackle such a controversial issue, but in the end most  voted for it. It passed 12 to 2.

House members did pepper Erin Hames, the governor’s policy director, with questions about how this would impact the investment thus far in Class Keys, an evaluation system now being piloted in 1,200 Georgia schools.

Here are points that Hames mades about Class Keys in response to the committee questions:

- The state has spent $600,000 on Class Keys, all federal dollars. It hopes to build on Class Keys rather than discard it in developing a single uniform way of evaluating teachers. (The state would also develop companion tools to assess principals and assistant principals.)

-  The Class Keys evaluation instrument is now in the “validation” phase to see how it is working. One issue is that Class Keys does not now contain a student progress component so that would have to be developed by DOE in rapid fashion to start using it in 2011.

-  Only 30 percent of Georgia teachers teach classes where there are standardized tests that could be used in their performance evaluations to assess student progress. That means some other measure of student progress would have to be developed for 70 percent of the state’s teachers. Hames was confident that could be done, and would seek the input of teachers to do so.

In noting the objections of GAE and Page, Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley cited a teachers survey done by the governor’s office in November and December and the response to questions on whether teachers should be evaluated on student performance. The governor’s office maintains that eight out of 10 teachers favor it.

“It seems like PAGE and GAE are out of touch with what teachers actually believe…’Teachers should be evaluated both on classroom observation and the degree to which their students have grown academically” — 81 percent,”’ said Brantley in an e-mail.

233 comments Add your comment

Chalkboard Flu

April 20th, 2010
5:15 pm

More bad news for teachers. Had enough yet?

a true politician

April 20th, 2010
5:17 pm

Well, you must admit Perdue is a true politician who knows how to manipulate the system. The teachers’ unions look pretty lame in comparison.

bootney farnsworth

April 20th, 2010
5:22 pm

Sonny has lost all credibility

The General

April 20th, 2010
5:23 pm

What an ass I am. I voted for this moronic governor twice, I am so terribly embarrassed to admit.

bootney farnsworth

April 20th, 2010
5:23 pm

it would be nice if Sonny & co would actually do something to fix the
education system. seems they’ve choosen to do nothing instead.

bootney farnsworth

April 20th, 2010
5:29 pm

one thing Sonny did learn from Roy Barnes is to not honestly deal with education. Roy did, and it cost him re-election. Sonny hid behind every possible parlimentary manuvere he chould to bypass the voters.

Hank Rearden

April 20th, 2010
5:39 pm

The Republican war on education continues!

And why not? After all, an educated electorate would mean the death of the GOP.

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Teacher/Learner

April 20th, 2010
5:55 pm

if you study all of the assessment information put out by the RTTT committee, standardized test scores cannot be the end-all, be-all as they are now. The assessment criteria are very specific about how assessments must be developed…no longer can a once/year, low level standardized test be the one snapshot that counts….beware folks, don’t think this is the same old wolf, in the same old clothing…GA will NOT get the grant without teacher merit pay, but neither will GA be tapped for funding without a major SPECIFIC overhaul in the assessment system presently in place. I may be totally wrong, but there are numerous documents that specify the requisites for possibly receiving this grant…and I think the DOE et al knows that just getting higher test scores on the existing CRCT won’t cut it…we’ve got more in store…are they gonna involve many of us teachers in the process?..BIG HA HA HA HA!!!!

high school teacher

April 20th, 2010
5:55 pm

“The Perdue amendment takes a more indirect route, requiring statewide uniform teacher evaluations created and enacted by the state Board of Education by July 1, 2011.”

Yes, please, because that GTOI thing isn’t a uniform teacher evaluation at all…

catlady

April 20th, 2010
6:00 pm

Of course, we knew it was coming. No surprise there, really. And we will remember our highly paid (bought) representatives that allowed it to be attached.

Jennifer

April 20th, 2010
6:03 pm

Well, Sonny…thanks for nothing! So glad the arts supporters can protest one day and they get their money back. We’ve fought for years and just keep getting beaten down, disrespected, and told by many in the general public that we are worthless, lazy, and stupid. Sonny, you are an absolute JERK!

ScienceTeacher671

April 20th, 2010
6:04 pm

Okay, so the state has already spent heaven knows what to develop Class Keys, not to mention inform teachers about it and train administrators to use it. At least some of the local RESAs have also spent money revising Class Keys to create a simpler and more “user friendly” evaluation instrument.

Now the General Assembly wants to mandate spending scarce state education money to develop yet ANOTHER evaluation instrument?

Give me a break!

Yet another reason to vote against anyone currently serving in state government in any capacity!

high school teacher

April 20th, 2010
6:07 pm

For those interested, you can see what a current evaluation form looks like at this site:

http://www.pioneerresa.org/files/observation.pdf

If teachers receive a “Needs Improvement” on any section of the form, they are placed on a professional development plan. They are then observed again to see if they have improved in the area of improvement.

Additionally, teachers have an annual evaluation form – I will see if I can find one online.

high school teacher

April 20th, 2010
6:08 pm

Maureen, can you check the filter? I posted a link to the current georgia teacher observation instrument.

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Johnny Too Good

April 20th, 2010
6:11 pm

why do the teachers get all the blame?

Maureen Downey

April 20th, 2010
6:16 pm

ScienceTeacher, Some points out of today’s hearing:
The state spent $600,000 on Class Keys, all federal dollars
The governor would like to see the statewide instrument be Class Keys, which is now in use in 1,200 schools under a DOE pilot. The instrument is now in “validation” phase to see how it is working.
However, Class Keys does not have a student progress component as it now stands so that would have to be developed by DOE in rapid fashion.
Right now, only 30 percent of Georgia teachers teach classes where there are standardized tests that could be used in their evaluations. That means some other measure of student progress would have to be developed for 70 percent of the state’s teachers.

Proud Black Man

April 20th, 2010
6:24 pm

Serves yall right. You people voted in this member of the white right so don’t act surprised that hes pulling the rug out from under your feet.

Mark "Crimson Crier" Ingram

April 20th, 2010
6:28 pm

Sonny’s stooping to the tactics regularly used by the democrats on every bill they force through congress (i.e. the >2500 page Healthcare boondoggle for example).

Sid

April 20th, 2010
6:30 pm

These aren’t real teacher’s unions… Real teacher’s unions would actually fight for teacher being led to the slaughter, year after year. oh, but lets be thankful we get a paycut and more work…i work hard for my students but i’m tired of being abused.

poorrichard

April 20th, 2010
6:31 pm

bite me sonny

Jennifer

April 20th, 2010
6:36 pm

Not happy about the parental input. I am a dedicated teacher who works hard. My kids learn a lot and excel academically. I regularly have previous years’ students come to me and tell me how well my math class prepared them for the challenges of the next several years.

I expect my students to work at least as hard as I do. I hold them to high standards and don’t allow work to be turned in that is haphazard and not the child’s best effort. I have a few parents who don’t like this and get upset when I’m “too hard” on their child. 9 times out of 10, the child is being lazy, not attempting the work, not paying attention in class, and I’m holding their feet to the fire on it. These parents would be the first in line wanting to “rate” me. Most of the time, these parents are also doing next to nothing to be involved with their child’s education. They don’t ask about homework, don’t look to see that it’s done, and don’t even know the name of their child’s teacher. I’ve even had some of these who can’t tell you, off of the top of their head, what grade their child is in.

I have many parents who also appreciate what I am doing. But, as with all things, we usually only hear from the people who are upset. (This is true in other fields besides teaching, and it is human nature!)

Maureen, thank you so much for reporting this. I see nothing about this anywhere else on AJC.

Also, it is very discouraging to see that the arts supporters can protest one day and get their funding restored. We’ve been fighting for years for support for education to no avail. Nothing against the arts, but it’s just discouraging.

I am one sad and discouraged teacher.

dogmom

April 20th, 2010
6:36 pm

My district utilizes the Class Keys as its evaluation tool for classroom teachers. It’s almost as bad as the 1-2-3 report card grading system in grades K-3. Who wants to put all their time and energy into teaching when the best rating you can achieve is “proficient?” And probably a pay cut to go along with that, as well! I dearly love what I do, but after seven years in Georgia, it’s time to move on.

Educator2

April 20th, 2010
6:36 pm

Teacher protest at the state capital anyone???

Maureen Downey

April 20th, 2010
6:44 pm

Educator2 and Jennifer, I reported this hearing today pretty straight as there was no AJC news reporter there and this was our story of record.
So, I left out some of the informal conversations that I had after the House Education Committee voted. After talking to both PAGE and GAE reps, I would suspect that the groups will be urging teachers to act on this and do so very quickly since time is running out.
On the lack of teacher involvement, I think the state felt that it had to act now to get something on the books to show the feds that Georgia was serious about performance pay and was planning for it in the future. The downside of what happened today is that teachers – who already felt left out of the discussion and whose lack of full buy-in was noted by Race to the Top reviewers in round 1 — are going to be even more alienated now.
On one hand, today’s actions improved one aspect of Georgia’s application for the grant, but may have damaged another.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

April 20th, 2010
6:48 pm

One more thing: After reading my blog account of today’s House Education meeting, the governor’s spokesman Bert Brantley sent me a note that I will share here:

Maureen, I’d like to remind you about this question in the teacher survey. It seems like PAGE and GAE are out of touch with what teachers actually believe…

“Teachers should be evaluated both on classroom observation and the degree to which their students have grown academically” — 81 percent agreed

make it better

April 20th, 2010
6:52 pm

Are teachers satisfied with this system that rewards lousy teachers the very same as the hardest working ,most talented teachers or do teachers not trust the system to make any improvements? It has to get better. Public support for public schools is at an all time low. Teachers- please push for more authority and autonomy as part of the deal. My concern is that you will be given the responsibility for performance but not the authority to get the job done (discipline, choice of materials, etc…) Merit pay is coming- Obama wants it, Purdue wants it, Sharpton wants it, Newt Gingrich wants it. I can’t remember when an idea was so universally supported. Real Teachers better jump in quickly with good suggestions rather than a big fat NO.

Teacher/Learner

April 20th, 2010
7:02 pm

@Muareen – 2 weeks ago, I emailed the DOE regarding lack of teacher input in RTTT AND issues related to assessment and RTTT – was told SPECIFICALLY that my emails were forwarded to Stephen Pruitt, the director of the Office of Standards and Accountability who would “likely” be in touch with me…no, I was not so stupid as to think it would happen…

ProTeacher

April 20th, 2010
7:03 pm

Who cares who wants it? Who do they need to do it? It is called resistance. I see it from a different perspective.

A special educator

April 20th, 2010
7:06 pm

I understand the merit pay and all. However, what about special educators? If a student makes a 5 percent gain; it is still considered a gain.

Will special education teachers get cuts in pay because their students make small gains in academic performance?

@Make it better

April 20th, 2010
7:07 pm

It is clear that they do not want ANY teacher suggestions. Have you been keeping up with this RTTT process?

catlady

April 20th, 2010
7:08 pm

Ms. Downey, did they give you a breakdown of cost on developing Class Keys? Like how much was personnel cost, not just printing and disseminating? I am betting more than one high priced (not to mention secretarial staff) person wrote the darned thing! And, since it was brought up, what does “federal money” have to do with it? As the governor has said (paraphrased), “We ALL pay taxes that the federal government is giving out.” Therefore, I would posit that it was GA taxpayer money that went into the development of this. (No free ride.) Follow the money. That $800,000 seems bogus. And it was not “free money.”

Secondly, talk to a statistician and see what she/he thinks about the validity of combining the answers to two questions on a poll that did not even begin to capture teacher sentiment accurately!

And, as for your observation on the need to have the evaluation in line for RTTT, I would think that any evaluator with a single brain cell would see through this! After all, the evaluators are not Georgia voters, right?

If this obfustication were not so sad, it would be funny.

Jennifer

April 20th, 2010
7:12 pm

@ Make it better — in short, no, we don’t trust the system. We’ve been a victim of it way too often. I don’t trust that they’ll get an evaluation tool right. I don’t trust they’ll get merit pay right.

@ Bert Brantley– 1) Who took that survey? I didn’t, and I don’t know of any teacher who did. 2). Where’s the question on relating any of this to merit pay? Until a teacher can control every aspect of their students’ lives, I don’t believe it is fair to base a teacher’s pay on these factors.

Dick

April 20th, 2010
7:15 pm

Perdue—why do’t yoou and Obama go on an over seas trip and forget the way back. You are Georgia’s Nacny Pelosi and that is bad, bad, bad

Anti Politicians

April 20th, 2010
7:18 pm

I thought the 12 member committee was suppose to be able to do something. You ahve 3 senators, hand picked, 3 reprsaentatives ahnd picked, 3 admininstrators hand picked by Sonny and 3 teachers hand picked by Sonny. Sure sounds like Pelosi, Reed and Obama politics to me.

Veteran teacher, 2

April 20th, 2010
7:19 pm

Revolution begins November 2, 2010. Everyone needs to vote. If this is such a great idea, there would be no need to do a last minute parlimentary trick to get it passed. We need to vote them ALL out. The government works for us. It is time we sent them that message again.

catlady

April 20th, 2010
7:25 pm

BTw, Ms. Downey, did we find out who the outlier that gave Georgia such a high RTTT score is?

Maureen Downey

April 20th, 2010
7:26 pm

catlady, The reviewers are supposed to remain anonymous and I have not gotten the names of the five who reviewed Georgia. I think the names will come out, but probably not until the process ends.

Educator2

April 20th, 2010
7:27 pm

The survey had low teacher response rates. The survey was misleading in its questioning and intent. The data was manipulated to support Governor Perdue agenda. Therefore, the “survey” is nothing but propaganda. How can GAE and PAGE be out of touch with the teachers when hundreds of teachers have supported their rallies against merit pay? The statements from Perdue and his staff have no creditability.

Teacher Too

April 20th, 2010
7:28 pm

GAE and PAGE are out of touch. Typically the old dogs and the ‘lecture” but not teach teachers are up in arms over this.

I say bring it on.

teacher tired of Governor Spin

April 20th, 2010
7:30 pm

“Teachers should be evaluated both on classroom observation and the degree to which their students have grown academically” — 81 percent agreed”

Mr. Brantley, Please show me where the governor’s survey asked “Should teacher pay be based on a student’s standardized test scores”. The governor’s underhanded survey that danced around the subject and then twisted the results to fit what he wanted was a disgrace. Trying to use statistics in this way is insulting on so many levels. As a matter of fact, I would love for you to post a copy of this survey on this forum for us all to see.

http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2010/apr/15/teachers-grateful-for-veto-of-merit-pay-bill-vow/

Mr. Brantley, please have the governor read this article has Governor Crist vetoed a similiar bill in Florida. I think that is the same state that is in the Race to the Top process. Apparently the governor in Florida is more concerned with helping education than trying to shove a merit pay debacle down the throats of the teachers in his state. Too bad we do not have a governor with a similar back bone in this state.

Kurisu

April 20th, 2010
7:31 pm

Scary. Is there an email for the feds where teachers can tell them we do not approve of Georgia’s plan?

Danielle

April 20th, 2010
7:31 pm

Sonny Perdue needs to go and work for his family business. They sell
chicken products. Surprise!!!!!!!!

Educator2

April 20th, 2010
7:33 pm

@Kurisu, Good idea!

Fericita

April 20th, 2010
7:33 pm

Regarding this statement from Bert Brantley- “Teachers should be evaluated both on classroom observation and the degree to which their students have grown academically” — 81 percent agreed”

So who were these teachers who responded to the survey? I doubt the teachers would agree with that statement if they knew the plan was for student’s growth to be measured entirely by ONE standardized test. The main complaint I hear from my co-workers is that we can’t agree or disagree to a merit pay plan until we actually see the plan and know what it entails. What will the standardized tests be compared to? The previous year’s test? Will it be fair for ESOL and Special Ed teachers? For that matter, will it be fair for AP and gifted teachers, whose students may not show much growth since they are on or above grade level already? To be considered successful, would all of the students in a teacher’s class show growth? Most? Some? How would transient students’ scores factor in?

Teaching in FL is worse

April 20th, 2010
7:34 pm

I’m so angry I can’t see straight. You better believe my representative will hear from me (although I live in one of the most conservative counties in the nation!!!)

No say in anything

April 20th, 2010
7:35 pm

We all knew this would happen. We have nothing but sneaky cheats and liars in both parties so what do you expect? If you have not seen the RTTT application, the base pay is down at about $34,600 if I remember correctly. The vast majority of teachers will experience a huge pay CUT on this plan. Do you really think they are going to set up a system where we can earn bonuses? Puh-leeze!!!!!!!!!!

Parent

April 20th, 2010
7:35 pm

I am thrilled that parental input is now being considered. I have written letters praising teachers to my counties school superintendent. I have also written letters of disgust with teachers who fail to respond to emails, phone calls, request for makeup work when sick etc.. I think both types of input from parents, positive and negative, needs to be heard. Perhaps this is one way to hold teacher’s accountable. If they know parents could influence their chances of receiving a raise or keeping their jobs, they will ALL act more professional.

No say in anything

April 20th, 2010
7:38 pm

@Teacher Tired of government spin….Charlie Crist doesn’t care any more about education than any other politician. Florida teacher unions put huge pressure on him to veto. The main reason for his veto is the fact that he is running for congress. It was just a CYA move on his part. Sonny Boy has nothing to lose so watch out!