Teacher pay possibly boosted by performance


State legislators in Austin are currently debating a bill that would partially tie teacher pay to student performance.

Savannah Whitmer, Lead Reporter

Two new proposed bills moving through the Austin House would base teacher pay partially on student performance. A new system for evaluating Texas teachers may soon be implemented with the passage of proposed Senate Bill 893 and House Bill 2543, which would end the practice of paying teachers according to years of experience in the classroom.

“There’s a benefit to the idea of rewarding your best teachers,” dean of the College of Education at Sam Houston State University Dr. Stacey Edmunson said to The Courier. “You want to promote the teachers that are doing the very best job. The intent of that is a good thing.”

Senate Bill 893, proposed by Texas Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, was passed in the Senate just weeks ago with the House voting on it in the near future. However, it has been criticized by many legislators and educators.

“I think school districts where traditionally student scoring has been lower on standardized tests, I think it would be a real challenge for those districts to have a good picture of achievement from those tests,” Principal Chris Mayfield said. “So it would be difficult to be fair to teachers.”

The proposed bills are intended to reward teachers for students that achieve high EOC exam scores.

“The bill does address the concerns from the No Child Left Behind waiver,” author of HB 2543 Sen. Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown said to the Houston Chronicle. “This bill really will empower teachers, and I think it really will elevate the teaching profession, but it’s hard when groups have really poisoned the well.”

The proposed salary changes are unpopular among many teachers.

“I don’t like the idea,”

— English teacher Amanda Arriaga said.

“I don’t like the idea,” English teacher Amanda Arriaga said. “I think it would be unfair to teachers and students. It would make the curriculum more test-based, which could lead to unfair practices.”

If the bills are passed, teachers of core classes may be evaluated and paid based on end of course (EOC) exams. Opponents of the bill claim that teacher pay would be lowered unfairly in districts with high failure rates for EOC exams, in schools with a lower economic status, or if students experience test anxiety.

“I cannot support any piece of legislation that includes a student’s performance on a standardized test in teacher evaluations,” State Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe said to The Courier. “This should be a local control issue and needs to be left to our local school districts to decide what is best for them and their educators.”

While the legislation may not affect schools with a traditionally high achievement status or teachers whose subjects are not measured by EOC exams, it poses a concern for less exemplary districts as the bills would also replace the current system of a minimum salary and salary based on experience.

“While the proponents say there’s not a whole lot of justification for having the minimum salary schedule, there’s virtually no justification for getting rid of it,” Association of Texas Professional Educators lobbyist Monty Exter said for Houston Chronicle. “But the part of the bill that’s truly hurtful is tying compensation to testing.”

Despite potential obstacles, some are confident that the bills are an effective way to evaluate teachers.

“Neither the intent nor the effect of this bill would be to lower teachers’ salaries,” State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville said for The Courier. “Rather, this bill will allow school districts to reward the thousands of teachers throughout the state who go above and beyond in their classrooms.”

While the proposed bills are intended to benefit students by assessing teachers, administrators, like some legislators, have doubts as to the fairness of the proposals.

“It’s going to be difficult to measure how that would be fair across the board.”

— Mayfield said

“They’re going to have a big challenge making sure that those teachers really do get more when their students score better and at the same time not penalize other teachers because they don’t have a fair scoring system,” Mayfield said. “I think it’s great because teachers can be rewarded for what they do in the classroom, but it’s going to be difficult to measure how that would be fair across the board.”