Marietta schools eye merit pay plan
by Lindsay Field
September 06, 2013 12:26 AM | 3211 views | 7 7 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Teachers in Marietta City Schools could be earning their paychecks based on student achievement and performance, not the years of experience or the number of degrees they have.

The plan, starting in the 2015-16 school year, would make Marietta one of two school districts in the state to take up the new model.

The Marietta City School Board, during its work session today, will learn details of the plan for the first time. The board approved last August a $90,000 contract, funded by federal Race to the Top grant money, with Education Resource Strategies, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, to analyze how the district is using its money.

Marietta City Schools, along with Fulton County Schools, are the only two districts in Georgia that received this grant money for the redesigned compensation plan and will be the first to implement the new salary structure.

Right now, educators are paid based on the years they have taught and the number of degrees and certifications they hold. A specific salary schedule is outlined annually for each of these categories.

According to the 2013-14 schedule, the starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $38,500; master’s degree, $43,150; specialist, $48,300; and doctorate, $53,300.

After the second year of teaching, salaries increase from the base figure between $600 and $2,200 each year depending on the degree. The most an educator can be paid is $87,549, and that is for a teacher who has a doctorate degree and has worked for the system for 30 years.

But the new method of calculating a teacher’s salary would also take into account student achievement and performance on tests, and include data from the state’s newly developed and more in-depth teacher and leader evaluation programs, which are set to be implemented next school year.

“Compensation redesign is something that’s very long overdue in our profession,” said Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck. “The structure has become outdated, I believe, especially in light of the revenue streams for public education, whether it’s state or federal.”

Using money the school system already receives, the Massachusetts nonprofit has restructured how all teachers, administrators and central office personnel will be paid.

“We know that the most critical aspect is having a highly effective teacher in a classroom, therefore getting back to the concept of finding a compensation structure that will reward and recognize, attract and retain and leverage the talents of the best teachers that Marietta can provide for students is important,” Lembeck said.

Implementation of the redesign will be done in two phases that could take up to three years, or by the start of the 2015-16 school year.

“Right now we have a framework of what a compensation structure could be for Marietta City Schools,” she said. “If the board is comfortable with it or has suggestions, the first thing I would ask for is that we be allowed to share it (with Marietta teachers).”

Lembeck said she wants to make sure everyone impacted by the change understands all aspects of the new structure before they launch it.

“We have worked very, very hard with ERS (Education Resource Strategies) over a significant period of time and I feel comfortable in bringing this forward to the board on Friday,” she said.

School board members support concept

A majority of the school board members said Thursday they support the district restructuring how it pays teachers and that they are looking forward to ERS’s presentation.

“Compensation redesign can be a way to reward exceptional teachers while leveraging their talent and experience to improve instruction,” board member Irene Berens said in an email. “As always with a new concept, details and evaluations will be important.”

Like Lembeck, board member Stuart Fleming said this change is long overdue.

“I’m a tremendous supporter of variable compensation based on performance,” he said in an email. “Great teachers and high achievers know there is much to gain for our students with this modern approach that the business community has used for generations.”

Board Chair Randy Weiner and member Jill Mutimer, who are both seeking their third terms on the board in November, said this has been a change they’ve been talking about for years.

Weiner said the conversation started in 2008.

“It’s to provide a balanced and sustainable compensation structure to attract, retain and leverage the highly effective teaching force leading to greater student achievement,” he said.

Mutimer said a redesign has been on her radar since she was first elected to the board in 2005 and that she’s interested in finding out how ERS will be laying out the plan.

“We wanted to make sure we were looking at the right way to do it,” she said. “It’s a complicated subject and it’s taken some time to develop.”

The newest board member, Brett Bittner, declined to say whether he supported the redesign because he’d like to see the full presentation first.

Board member Tony Fasola agrees.

“Subject to an equitable and fair plan, I would generally be in favor of a system of this type,” he said in an email. “But of course, as they say, the devil is in the details and I will be interested to see those details.”

The Friday meeting, which includes a training session for board members, is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. and according to the board schedule, the compensation redesign presentation should start at 2:10 p.m.

A copy of the agenda can be found online at marietta-city.org.

Comments
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Pro Middle Class
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September 17, 2013
Wake up people. This is all about money and lots of it. The goal behind this process isn’t to reward or punish teachers. The goal is to create a system that produces negative results regardless of the teacher’s efforts. The “haves” of this nation want it all. School systems bring in billions of dollars and the “haves” want their share. Do the words academies and charter schools ring a bell? This is the start of an agenda that provides educations for the wealthiest of our citizens and throws the “have not’s” to the wolves. Big business will take your tax dollars and spend it for their needs and profit with no concern for anyone but their personal bank accounts.
Marietta Parent
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September 07, 2013
You would think the Atlanta cheating scandal would give these people a clue. Ultimately if you are looking at Merit pay it is always tied to test scores. And if your paycheck was tied to test scores you can not tell me you would not be tempted to cheat.

Not to mention that not all classes are built equally. One teacher will likely get all the gifted kids and another all the ADHA, and even another all the ESL. There is no just way to judge a teachers skill by student progress unless all the teachers have the SAME class which is impossible.

Judging Teachers by student progress is not "Merit Pay" it is a popularity contest of who gets the smartest kids and the most involved parents. Or worse yet who can cheat the best, produce the best test scores and NOT GET CAUGHT.

In a perfect world there could be merit pay. But this is not a perfect world.

My Analogy...
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September 06, 2013
Wouldn't you like to be a coach who is paid based on your athletes performance? Me too! Except these "coaches" don't have try outs, they can't cut players from the team, their players switch teams sometimes 6 times a season. Many skip practice at least 3 times a week. Many don't get the sleep or the nutrition they need to ever be successful on the field. Many have parents who never played a sport themselves and never attend and of their games. Hmmm...maybe only SOME coaches will like this system. I'm looking at coaches in East Cobb. Coaches in South Cobb...? I think they'll be looking for anothe league to coach in. Before you tell me a great coach can get a winning season out of any players look again at my analogy: no tryouts or cuts, skip practice, no discipline, no sleep, poor diet, no parental support. No win situation.
btman123
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September 06, 2013
This whole new compensation system is just a new way of saying "we cant afford to pay you the salary we pay you now, so we will base it on something of which you have no control". School districts cant afford to hire and retain teachers now, how on earth are they going to come up with the money to pay teachers more when students achieve. "The devil is in the details" is an understatement. Here we go, the demise of public education. Glad i'm leaving!
Ed2
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September 06, 2013
Why don't we ask the teachers about decisions that impact their salaries? Pay should NOT rest on achievement. Teachers provide a great service that they are restricted from offering. They are not allowed Union representation in GA.; their contracts disallow it. I would never become a teacher...dealing with the lawyers of parents, parents insisting their children are gifted, buying hundreds of dollars of supplies for my class, sickness, and working for administration that sometimes has no experience with children. I don't want someone teaching a test to my kid...let them play outside and get dirty, lets do service learning and promote the love of learning. I think the teachers would appreciate having the opportunity to promote learning and that society would appreciate having a generation who wanted to learn.
Common Core
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September 06, 2013
Who knew the Marietta School District, sitting right in the heart of a very Republican county would be aligning themselves with Education Secretary, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama and not adhering to what Georgia has already decided?

The U.S. DOE took back $9.9 million of Georgia's Race to the Top grant as the state eliminated the performance-based pay plan. Arne Duncan says performance pay for teachers is his department’s “highest priority.” The Obama Administration created the $4.3 billion Race to the Top fund to encourage states to implement performance pay systems and other changes, (data mining, for one). So why would MCS decide to move forward with pay for performance?

When pay raises are based on student test scores, you’re only measuring a narrow piece of the teacher’s work. In addition, such plans can pit employee against employee, especially when there’s a quota for merit increases. What happens to teachers who do not teach tested subjects? How are they rewarded?

Is there adequate funding and is it sustainable?

Is it easily understood and transparent?

Are evaluations subjective or objective?

Have administrative and implementation costs been considered?

Are the sizes of incentives large enough to change behavior?

As a teacher in a pay for performance charter school system, without an explicit agreement, raises are dubious at best.

Research the programs that have been abandoned in New York and California. Look at the studies that have already been done showing null results. Please do your research. This change will absorb vast amounts of management time and resources decreasing performance in tasks that require creativity and innovation. A merit-pay system will require teachers to teach to a Common Core assessment test, (whatever that will be for the state as they have withdrawn for PARCC testing as well) – look what happened with APS and Clayton and other school districts; cheating is a reality.

Testing will define schools. Teachers will find that to get good test scores, they’re going to have to use these Common Core aligned books and adhere to the Common Core. Teachers get merit pay from how their students rank on the test. Teachers will be more focused on THEIR bottom line than what students will actually be receiving: a stellar education.

We should be very wary of any system that creates a climate where students are viewed as part of the pay equation, rather than young people who deserve a high quality education that prepares them for their future.

MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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September 06, 2013
Given the "quality" of today's students, HAZARD pay for teachers might be more appropriate.
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