Education Reform, Including Merit Pay, A Priority
by Rep. Brad Wilson
February 22, 2012
Everyone has a story about his or her favorite teacher or principal. It is one who inspired a future career choice or who provided challenging course work and interesting questions that led to greater understanding and even greater abilities.
On the flip side, nearly everyone can also tell a story about the worst teacher or principal they ever experienced as well. It seems easy to single out the best and the worst, but for sometime now, the Legislature has wrestled with the question of how to reward the good teachers and principals while weeding out the bad and come up empty.
Merit or performance pay is the term usually used when we discuss the idea of rewarding the good performers and penalizing the bad. In concept, the plan is simple, identify criteria that people associate with good teachers and principals and when the criteria is met, apply a reward.
However, identifying those criteria has proven to be a challenging task. Previous proposals have met with opposition from various groups and have stalled before ever coming to a vote.
Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, has been working on this issue for the past 10 months and seems to have found a consensus solution to the issue. He has performed over 40 hours of classroom observations and has held more than 50 hours of meetings with educators and parents. He has worked on building consensus within the educator and parent community.
His efforts have culminated in SB64, Public Education Employment Reform. The bill has received the endorsement of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Prosperity 20/20, the State Board of Education, UEA, USBA and the PTA.
The bill has several components, including: annual evaluations for administrators, a conversion to pay for performance for administrators, new employee evaluations standards, disclosure of employee rankings to the public, and employee remediation or termination guidelines.
The basic premise of the bill is to address a school's leadership and then follow that through to the teaching level. Under this bill every administrator would have an annual evaluation which would measure four key criteria: a) leadership skills (based on supervisor, teachers, and parent comment), b) student progress indicators (like annual school grade), c) competence and consistency in completing teacher evaluations, and d) other district criteria.
All future salary increases would be converted to pay for performance until 15 percent of an administrator's direct compensation is tied to their annual performance evaluation.
The bill then addresses teaching by having administrators evaluate and rank teachers annually on a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 being the highest. A public report would be compiled for each school listing the number of teachers who fall within each of the evaluation levels each year.
Teachers who fall in the bottom half of the evaluation scale would not be eligible for annual salary increases (steps and lanes). Additionally, administrators would have 120 days from the notice of poor evaluation to remediate the teacher or make a decision to terminate the teacher. Repeating poor-performance teachers within a three-year time frame could also be terminated.
Obviously, addressing performance pay for administrators and teachers is only the first of many steps toward improving public education. We need to address academic rigor and to continue our efforts to provide resources directly to the classroom.
Parents and students also bear responsibility for ensuring the student comes to the school prepared to learn and be successful. However, I'm very excited about this bill and the potential it has to help us transform our schools from the top down.
This issue has stumped us for many years and my hat if off to Sen. Osmond for digging in and finding a consensus bill that parents, teachers, administrators and the pubic can all endorse.
Brad Wilson represents House District 15 in Davis County. He is writing a series of articles during the annual legislative session chronicling his experiences as a legislator.