Governor’s bill on merit pay framework clears second hurdle. Now moves to full House

Update: Senate Bill 521 – which now contains an amendment to create student performance-based evaluations of teachers — just passed out of the House Rules Committee seconds ago despite some efforts to stop it and now moves to the full House for debate Tuesday.

The game is afoot.

The Legislature intends to be in  session on Tuesday for Day 39, and they plan to conclude the 40-day session on Thursday. That means the heated debate on SB 521 – ostensibly a bill on dual enrollment funding but now a vehicle for imposing teacher evaluations that consider student progress and meet the federal call  for performance-driven pay — will occur in the last hectic hours of the session.

I have been trading e-mails with the governor’s spokesman Bert Brantley. He described what the governor’s amendment– presented to the House Education Committee yesterday by the governor’s policy director and former teacher Erin Hames –  does in this way:

As Erin explained yesterday, when the merit pay bill died in the Senate, we stripped out the merit pay language and are only moving forward on the piece of the bill that deals with common statewide standard evaluations. As we have throughout this process, we tied this proposal very closely to what teachers themselves told us. The responses to the three survey questions below are driving this discussion on evaluations…

A common, statewide teacher evaluation system will help ensure that teachers across school districts have clear expectations regarding performance and are evaluated in the same way – 81 percent

Teachers should be evaluated based on both observation (planning and instruction) and the degree to which they’ve helped students grow academically – 80 percent

Teachers should have a voice in evaluations through participation in teacher peer reviews – 79 percent

In an earlier blog I wrote, I included GAE’s account of the House Education Committee hearing that I covered yesterday. PAGE has just posted its account: Here it is:

End Run on Merit Pay?

Posted April 21, 2010 3:30 pm

In an unanticipated twist of events, Senate Education Chair Dan Weber (R-Dunwoody) introduced a substitute version of his dual enrollment bill, SB 521, in the House Education Committee. In a move that surprised legislators and education advocates, today’s version of SB 521 included language added by Governor Perdue’s office which would mandate that the state board of education development a statewide teacher evaluation instrument and that at least “50% of the calculation for the evaluation instrument shall be based on student growth.”

This new language generated heated discussion among committee members who wondered why such an important concept was added to a bill with only three legislative days remaining in the 2010 session. Legislators questioned how “student growth” could be accurately ascertained without a fully functional Student Information System (SIS). Employees from the GA Department of Education explained to committee members that a larger hurdle for the implementation of the Governor’s plan is the accurate measure of “student growth.” CRCT’S and other standardized tests are not designed to measure teacher effectiveness, and such standardized tests are administered in a minority of classrooms.  One legislator, Rep. Brian Thomas (D-Lilburn) predicted that the language proposed by Governor Perdue’s office today would lay the framework for easy implementation of merit pay in the near future.

Ultimately, House Education Committee members voted to amend SB 521’s language regarding teacher evaluation and deleted the mandate that student growth comprise half of a teacher’s annual evaluation. However, the committee voted to pass the bill containing language directing the State Board of Education (which is appointed by the Governor), to act in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement to establish a statewide common evaluation instrument for educators.

PAGE representatives spoke before the House Education Committee and explained that the committee’s language deleting the 50% mandate improved SB 521, but that the concept of awarding pay or evaluating educators based on student performance is problematic because of the logistical challenges of fairly implementing such a program. PAGE agreed that student growth is imperative and that a study of educator evaluation is necessary; PAGE suggested that policy makers include educators, in a meaningful way, in the study of improving the evaluation process.

SB 521, which currently contains the measure mandating creation of a statewide evaluation instrument, is vulnerable in its current state and should not be passed.

147 comments Add your comment


April 21st, 2010
10:42 am

And the end result will be new senators who might actually listen to people when the current ones get voted out. How can they have a panel on RTTP with 50 people on it but only 1-2 teachers? What questionaires did they send out that said teachers want merit based pay? When was it sent, what were the questions, and who was it sent to? Merit based pay is a joke. How can compare teachers when there is such a wide variety of students and classes and so many students moving around. It’s like punishing a dentist in Monroe who gets a new patient that has tons of cavities who just moved from Valdosta. How is that fair?

Teaching is worse in FL

April 21st, 2010
10:49 am

Continuing on…I don’t presume to speak for anyone else, but here goes. For those who are for merit pay, let me boil down my concerns:

1. We will have little or no input.
2. The funding will never be guaranteed.
3. When money is injected into what should be an altruistic vocation,
we will begin to be corrupted.
4. Teachers will leave in droves-especially special ed teachers like me
5. We will be come like waiters and waitresses, working for tips.
6. The spirit of cooperation will disappear as people refuse to share resources since we will be in DIRECT competition.

Teaching is worse in FL

April 21st, 2010
10:53 am

We teachers continue to believe that the rest of the world sees things in the light of “fair” and “unfair”. Now the real world is breaking down the door with some of their ugly reality and we are fighting it.

I hate the corruption that comes with money. If we are forced to choose between what makes more money and what is best for all kids, I fear the choices are mutually exclusive.


April 21st, 2010
10:54 am

@Maureen, thank you for the updates…


April 21st, 2010
10:59 am

Some of my MANY questions are:
* Were teachers who were surveyed for merit pay directly asked if they would support standardized test scores being used as part of teacher evaluations?

* Will ALL of the public school teachers in GA be asked these same questions?

* How can standardized test scores be used as part of teacher evaluations when ALL teachers are not in classrooms responsible for children being prepared to take these assessments?

* Who and how will formative assessments be developed?


April 21st, 2010
11:02 am

Enter your comments here


April 21st, 2010
11:05 am

I just sent an email to Arne Duncan- I told him about how Sonny left teachers out again and provided a link to the AJC. It may not do any good–But at least maybe someone will tell him.


April 21st, 2010
11:07 am

Arne Duncan’s email address is (if correct)

Teaching is worse in FL

April 21st, 2010
11:09 am

Thanks d2. Also, we have a local Fellow working directly with Arne. He is based in Marietta and he is very much against merit pay. He has Arne’s ear, and I will forward this link to him as well.


April 21st, 2010
11:13 am

It is so good to have a this blog–thank you Teaching in worse in Fl.


April 21st, 2010
11:17 am

Merit pay for ALL is a great idea. From the lowest wage earners all the way to the governors office. As long as we can agree that we can control ALL factors that impact the outcomes of ALL our jobs then I think merit pay for ALL is a great idea. Only the hardest working people will get what they rightly deserve. The janitor gets the bump in pay provided he gets no less than 90% out of a 100% scale on effectiveness. Sam goes for the governors office. He has to get at least a 90% pass rate on any public referendums or he doesn’t get his pay bump. I think that’s a fair system for everyone. I don’t want to hear from you naysayers that the governor can’t be held to that high standard since he can’t control ALL the factors involved with his job. You people just be quiet wih all that truth stuff.


April 21st, 2010
11:18 am

Lots of spelling errors this morning. Need coffee…..

Y oh Y

April 21st, 2010
11:24 am

TEACHERS kicker out Roy Barnes and brought in this bunch, in November it may be time to kick out the current group.

Let me get this straight...

April 21st, 2010
11:33 am

If 13% of the teachers in Georgia were surveyed, and 80% of that 13% stated that pay should be tied to performance, we have approximately 10% of the teaching population in favor of merit pay. It would stand to mean, then that 90% of teachers oppose merit pay. If Sonny and Co can skew numbers so can I.

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April 21st, 2010
11:48 am

who in the GA legislature and on the GA RTTT committee do teachers need to email ASAP? If anyone has direct links to the GA RTTT committee, please post here. Also, I suggest we need to email our local congress men and women, list where we teach, and say EXPLICITLY that we were NOT part of a survey and list our comments related to pay-for performance.

Happy Teacher

April 21st, 2010
12:09 pm

Let me – That is very faulty math you have provided there.

Teaching is worse in FL

April 21st, 2010
12:11 pm

Here is the body of what I have sent my delegation-if we are too wordy, they won’t bother to read it.

I urge you in the strongest language I can muster to vote AGAINST any provisions or language that supports merit pay for teachers.

While I certainly would appreciate making more money, I believe the cost to morale will be devastating. I could go into depth about the cons of supporting such an idea, but I doubt you would read it.

I can tell you that the majority of teachers I know are against it, even in such a high achieving area as ______ County.

Teaching is worse in FL

April 21st, 2010
12:12 pm

To find your delegation members:


April 21st, 2010
12:12 pm

Happy Teacher, “Let me” is parodying the governor’s math….maybe we should change names? ;-)

Happy Teacher

April 21st, 2010
12:18 pm

clueless – I get that, but it also perpetuates this myth that a survey with 15% of a population responding is fraudulent, a common tactic here. One that is frankly unproductive, and does not reflect well on a profession that values education above all else.

Maureen – Since it seems like it will be dog-fight just to get an evaluation tool passed, what would you say is the prognosis for actual merit pay? It seems like this is a gesture for the RTTT people, more than an actual merit pay policy? Am i incorrect?

John Q

April 21st, 2010
12:28 pm

Ok just emailed my representatives in Senate District 37 and House 36 in opposition to the mandate added the SB 521.
Have you?

Ed Johnson

April 21st, 2010
12:50 pm

Thank you, d2, for reminding me to also send this to Duncan…

Open memo via E-mail

To: House and Senate Education Committees, State of Georgia
From: Ed Johnson, Advocate for Quality in Public Education (AfQPE)
CC: Atlanta Board of Education
Date: April 20, 2010
Subject: The Jewish Ethicist on “Performance related Pay” (also, Merit Pay)

The following pages give The Jewish Ethicist’s perspective on performance related pay based on the Babylonian Talmud (talmūd “instruction, learning”, from a root lmd “teach, study”). The perspective is wonderfully amazing! Amazing because it tells of a wisdom about merit pay pitfalls more than two thousand years old! Yet, today, here in the 21-th century, our federal government’s “Race to the Top competition,” and the many states that would engage it, evidences the wisdom has been greatly lost, nationwide.

So please understand that merit pay and other extreme extrinsic motivators are known, even in ancient times, to incite turning moral behavior away from “true north.”

Is that what any Georgia Senator or Legislator really wishes to be responsible for doing to Georgia school administrators, teachers and, by extension, children?

Isn’t it enough to recognize that the “Race to the Top competition” has already incited turning away from “true north” on the hope of winning money to the exclusion of other states? Does one honestly believe Georgia school administrators and teachers will, in general, behave any differently [than you]? That they will, singularly and severally, always keep to “true north” and not devise ways of winning merit pay money to the exclusion of their colleagues winning the money?

That our federal government has committed to creating loser states should trouble anyone, greatly. Take a moment to think about that: our federal government intends to create loser states through an arbitrary competition for an arbitrarily constructed scare resource.

Thus, any Georgia Senator’s or Legislator’s eagerness to follow suit by intending to create loser school administrators and loser teachers and loser children through merit pay should deeply distress Georgia voters.

Jewish World Review
Perform, Then Pay
By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir | Q. I’m thinking of giving my workers an incentive by paying them according to their output. Are there any Jewish lessons for this question?

A. Paying workers according to output can be an effective way of increasing effort and can also have positive ethical consequences, as those workers who are more productive are able to benefit personally from their contribution. But it also has many ethical pitfalls. Among them:

· Workers’ output may suffer for reasons beyond their control;
· Workers may end up favoring their own output over the output of colleagues, thus creating destructive intra-organizational competition;
· Workers may end up favoring output over quality, leading to declines in product quality;
· Workers may end up favoring output today over output tomorrow, and scrimp on maintenance etc. in order to reap bonuses in the short run.

In this week’s column and those following, we will see how some of these considerations are reflected in Talmudic discussions, and suggest how these discussions may inspire ethical compensation systems in today’s work environment.

“Performance related pay” can induce fairer results because workers are paid less when they are less industrious, but it can also result in unfair results because workers are paid less due to circumstances beyond their control. A well-known Talmudic passage relates to this reality:

Porters hired by Rabba bar bar Chanan [accidentally] broke a barrel of wine. He took their coats [as security for the damages due him]. They went before [the magistrate] Rav. Rav said to him, give them back their coats. He said, is this the law? He said, Yes, as it is written (Proverbs 2), “In order that you should go in the way of the good.” He gave them their coats. [Then] they said to him, we are poor, and we worked all day, and we are hungry, and we have nothing. [Rav] said to [Rabba], give them their wages. He said, is this the law?! He said, Yes, as it is written (Proverbs 2:?) “and keep the paths of the righteous.”(1)

The commentators explain that the breakage was a nearly unavoidable accident. While Rabba bar bar Chanan was technically within his rights to demand damages, the judge Rav felt that this outcome was inequitable and demanded that Rabba do the right thing and pay the workers their wages. (Rav’s instructions were not necessarily a formal court judgment.)

In parallel to this Talmudic case, we may say that while there is no formal legal impediment to PRP, we should take into account the ethical difficulty involved in depriving someone of their pay due to circumstances beyond their control.

The second consideration we made is breakdown of teamwork due to internal strife and competition. This problem is also mentioned in the Talmud:

At first, any [Kohen] who wanted to perform the service of removing [the burnt remains from] the altar could do so. If there were many, they would run and ascend the ramp [to the altar]. Whoever preceded his fellow by four paces, won. . . Once it happened that two were even as they ran up the ramp and one pushed the other, and he fell and broke his leg. Once the tribunal saw that this led to danger, they ruled that the selection would only be done by lottery. (2)

Again, this source does not show that there is any legal impediment to internal competition. But it does remind us that whenever we establish a competition to stimulate positive conduct – in this case, to have the candidates demonstrate their enthusiasm for performing the Temple service – it also has the potential to stimulate negative conduct – in this case, one person pushing his rival and causing harm.

Next week we will continue with some other potential ethical drawbacks to PRP.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 83a (2) Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 22a

Dunwoody Mom

April 21st, 2010
12:50 pm

Just an honest question for teachers: How do you think you should be evaluated on the job you are doing?

Teaching is worse in FL

April 21st, 2010
1:03 pm

Dunwoody mom: On the progress my students made in “one year” (really 6 months). And not compared to a completely different group of students that were in the same grade last year.

For several of my students that would mean going from a 3.1 reading level to 3.8 (and I teach 5th grade.)

Vague enough for you?


April 21st, 2010
1:04 pm

The fact that teachers are not paid based on merit is the reason that I am not interested in becoming a teacher. Why would anyone want to enter a profession where superior performance doesn’t result in any rewards?


April 21st, 2010
1:11 pm

Happy Teacher, have you had an advanced stats class? The size of the sample needed for a valid survey varies, but for small samples to be valid either the sample must be very homogeneous and/or the sample must be carefully weighted so that all subgroups are adequately represented. Some counties don’t seem to have gotten the survey, which would make the validity questionable.

Also, the sample used by the governor seems to have been self-selecting to some extent. That could make the survey about as valid as some internet polls…that is, not at all.


April 21st, 2010
1:12 pm

Sorry, homogenous POPULATION, not SAMPLE.


April 21st, 2010
1:13 pm

Happy Teacher: a 15% return on a random survey, mailed out, that has to be mailed back, might be sufficient. HOWEVER, a 15% return on a survey sent by their supervisors to teachers, and TOLD to respond, might be considered a mighty low and representive return rate. If I get a survey in the mail, I am much less likely to respond, but if my boss sends me one to complete on line, I am much more likely to respond because I was told to! Therefore, in this case, a 15% response rate IS inadequate!

Teaching is worse in FL

April 21st, 2010
1:14 pm

In case people wonder how I have time to post-I’m home with strep.

SonnyFab: Thanks for proving a point-outsiders don’t get it. As an intelligent male who did well in school, I could have made more money in the private section. I DIDN”T become a teacher for the MONEY.

My “merit” is the joy I get from watching my students performance.


April 21st, 2010
1:15 pm

Dunwoody Mom,
Do my lesson plans match the curriculum I am required to teach?
Am I using research based best practices?
Am I differentiating my teaching for the various learners and learning modalities in my classroom?
Are my student active and engaged learners?
Do I communicate my expectations with the parents of the students in my classroom?
If you ask me about a student, can I clearly and concisely state his strengths as a learner, and what weaknesses I am focusing on? (I teach elementary, so this may not be applicable to secondary that sees many more students in a semester.)
Notice how all of these are things that are under my control?

John Q

April 21st, 2010
1:19 pm

Dunwoody Mom- On my 16 minute lunch I would like to briefly respond. I do not believe that most teachers are against a well thought out plan for merit pay. Unfortunately the State of Ga. has no such plan. Only bits and thoughts that have been leaked or assumed as to how their merit pay plan would work. As a teacher, all I want is an opportunity to have input in the development. Either my input or input from a balanced group of concerned citizens that includes respected educators currently in a classroom.
To simply legislate that up to 50% of my job evaluation will come from parents and continue to be subjective based on an administrator that walks thru once maybe twice a year for 30 minutes is not a good thing. The other half of my evaluation being based on student performance on one or more standardized tests is also a bit off center.
As was asked earlier on this blog, if merit pay was in place today, would teachers have any hope of receiving their pay for performance? Which the Governor suggested several months back to be 50% of a teachers salary.
If you want our states kids taught by people with a high school diploma and no marketable job skills, by all means, push on. That is what will happen when you take a away a highly educated individuals ability to make a living. Set-up a bonus structure, sure. But to reverse years of hard earned salary is wrong.

Freedom Education

April 21st, 2010
1:22 pm

I would like to be evaluated by the parents. Parents should have the choice to send their children to any school they choose (public or private). If the parents don’t like the education, they will send their children somewhere else. Teachers will give parents what they want or teachers will be looking for another job. Parents will be responsible for their children’s education, not teachers or government. Competition is the real world.

What We're Forgetting

April 21st, 2010
1:29 pm

SonnyFab–Because we love to teach! I teach because I’m in love with my profession. My wife works in the corporate world and makes a great deal more money than I do, but she doesn’t love her job; I truly love mine. If you go into teaching for anything other than to help children learn and grow then I honestly think you’re foolish. I stated this before: as long as teachers are employees of the state, the money based on merit pay will NEVER be there. The system would be unsustainable and as others have mentioned you would lose many of your better teachers. I will concede this though–although many great teachers may leave the profession, many terrible teachers would be weeded out as well. Evaluate me all you want, but don’t base my pay on it when you know you can’t really afford to pay me.

? Happy Teacher

April 21st, 2010
1:32 pm

You are on here a LOT. When do you find time to reach and teach these stellar students that your proport to have? Seems like they teach themselves.


April 21st, 2010
1:57 pm

Great… and they do this during CRCT week when teachers are too busy to go downtown and protest.

Teaching Used To Be A Noble Profession

April 21st, 2010
2:06 pm

This national movement of merit pay will be the death of educational ethics as we know it. Teachers will be leaving in droves. No one in their right minds will CHOOSE to go into teaching just to be the scapegoat of society. The gap between working class and poor class just narrower. Few of us will see raises. Do doctors and lawyers work on merit pay? What about politicians? What is happening in schools is only a reflection of what is happening in homes and society.

Thank you Sonny. How about next time, you use Vaseline?


April 21st, 2010
2:10 pm

Ladies and Gentleman,

If you are tired of the mess, I suggest you network your way out of education. I spent many years teaching and realized it was time to move on.

I found a job in the business world, where I am treated very, very well. A few observations:

Teachers are some of the finest, most decent people I’ve ever been around. Of course, about 10% need to be replaced but most companies are like that.

The incompetence of Administration (local school administrators, central office staff, superintendents, GADOE, and the “faux” unions) is stunning. I really cannot believe that the only way you get a leadership position is by getting an advanced degree. It has no bearing on if you can be an effective manager of teacher, support staff, parents and students.

Until people are held accountable on the local and state levels, and the teachers really believe they should be valued and not handed the left-overs, nothing will change.

I know it can be done better, but someone has to care less about politics and more about doing the right thing.

Naming the hypocrites since 1962

April 21st, 2010
2:16 pm

“You are on here a LOT. When do you find time to reach and teach these stellar students that your proport to have? Seems like they teach themselves.”

Not only have I noticed that as well, but I have also been documenting a couple of the “regular” posters who claim to be teachers for the past 2 months and I have come to several conclusions: Either these “teachers” have revolving planning times, they are abusing sick leave, they really aren’t teachers (I hope), or they really are (sorry) teachers who obviously think nothing of blogging during instructional time. :(


April 21st, 2010
2:19 pm

What we’re forgetting
Is this a joke?. So happy that you have a wife who can support you. I don’t have a wife/husband to support me. I actually have to support my family on a teacher’s salary. My LOVE of teaching doesn’t pay the bills. So sad that we would have gotten to the point where we are forced to have our spouse support us to be able to continue in this profession.

? Happy Teacher

April 21st, 2010
2:22 pm

and what do you do, Naming? Your business must afford you a lot of time off, too.


April 21st, 2010
2:22 pm

The $387 million they through at the wealthy last week tipped the GOPs educational hand.

They couldn’t care less.

so who are they?

April 21st, 2010
2:22 pm

So who are the regular teacher posters?

? Happy Teacher

April 21st, 2010
2:25 pm

Naming, I’m sure that your boss would love to know that you spend so much time “documenting”.


April 21st, 2010
2:28 pm

Dunwoody Mom…a pre-test in August and a post-test in May could be a method of gauging performance; unfortunately, though, in most Title 1 schools, student mobility is a huge issue that could be figured into calculations…..

? Happy Teacher

April 21st, 2010
2:31 pm

Who cares? Teachers have lunch and planning. I would rather a teacher take his or her lunch and focus bettering education through networking than posting on Facebook. What a teacher does on his or her lunch is his or her business. When it interferes with student learning, or that teacher is blogging while he or she should be teaching, then it becomes a problem. Naming may want to “document” at what time of day these teachers are on the blog. If it’s approximately the same time every day, then it is probably the teacher’s lunch hour. Teachers get those, you know.

A Different Opinion

April 21st, 2010
2:37 pm

These kind of evaluations are never objective, always subjective. Folks, this will never work… I’ve said before….too many systems, administrators, teachers. I’m assuming all of records will be open, i. e., subject to the Georgia Open Records Law. I see lawsuits acoming if this is passed…..from teachers mad that they didn’t receive any merit pay while someone they might know in another district did…..”I’m gonna sue”……I can hear it now….this kind of bill will create more problems that it will possibly ever solve. I’m all for the best teachers earning more money…..they deserve it, but this is not the solution.


April 21st, 2010
2:38 pm

For all who think merit pay is great. As employees of the state every GHP must give out 300 speeding tickets per month to get their pay or else it will be cut to a lower level. Every local police officer must give out 300 speeding tickets per month. Every sheriff deputy must give out 300 tickets per month. I could go on. If it is based on performance the sky is the limit. Why not? They are state employees. Heck, include lawyers (must get 95% off) and district attornies (get 95% convicted), dentists must have less than 50 cavities per month, doctors must cure every illness within 60 days, etc. HOW STUPID.

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April 21st, 2010
2:48 pm

Steve, don’t forget gyms and the amount of weight that their clients lose…