Local personnel administrators were presented by DOE officials with two suggested models for revamping teacher salary schedules. Both of these models propose huge ( $10,000+) raises for the small number of teachers that will be rated by COMPASS as highly effective. Click here for the LDOE power point presentation on Act 1 compensation models.
For the teachers getting these huge "suggested merit raises" no weight is given to advanced degrees. What Superintendent White wants is for extra compensation to be based solely on the new evaluation system. If you have been taking graduate courses for years and are on the verge of getting your Masters degree in hopes of getting an improved salary. . . “tough!” say the TFA salary gurus at the State Department. Higher degrees for teachers is passe' even though the DOE wants it for our students. National Board Certification status for teachers is passe'. All that matters now is a "highly effective" rating on VAM. But there are serious holes in this reasoning. Consider the following facts that are apparently being ignored by our DOE.
- Two thirds of all teachers in the state are teaching non-tested subjects or grades. That means that the VAM portion of COMPASS does not apply to approximately 36,000 of the 55,000 public school teachers. In the place of a value added score, such teachers are expected to develop SLTs (student learning targets) in cooperation with their principal. Such teachers could conceivably achieve a highly effective score by achieving their student learning targets and getting a good evaluation from their principal. This means that if school systems adopt the suggested merit pay plans proposed by LDOE, music teachers, foreign language teachers, kindergarten teachers, physical education teachers and many others may be eligible for huge bonuses without having to go through the trauma of getting the very rare highly effective scores on VAM. One of the models suggested to personnel directors would require that a teacher receive three highly effective ratings before getting the merit pay. This may not be so difficult for a teacher setting his/her own SLTs but almost impossible for the VAM teachers. This serious difference in standards could create great tension among school faculties if the local school board chooses to adopt the large merit pay schedules recommended by the DOE.
- The current version of VAM is highly erratic and according to analysis by the creator of the Louisiana VAM, a teacher's VAM score can vary greatly from year to year even if she/he makes no changes in teaching methods. Teachers in Houston, TX who are being paid using performance on VAM jokingly call it “the lottery” indicating how much random factors have to do with teachers getting the merit pay.
- In these times of shrinking school board budgets and escalating mandated costs such as increased contributions to retirement and legacy costs, the only way to fund the merit increases is for non-merit teachers to have their salaries frozen. This includes doing away with salary increases for higher degrees and experience. (Note: the law prohibits reducing a current teacher's salary but such salaries may be frozen almost permanently to pay for the merit raises for relatively few teachers.
What can teachers do if they object to these drastic changes in salary based on an untested evaluation system? Here are my suggestions: