Friday, November 2, 2012

LDOE Proposing Radical Changes in Teacher Salary Schedules

If you thought that the Governor and John White were through messing with teachers for a while, you were wrong. A recent briefing session for local personnel directors by the State Department of Education on implementation of Act 1 salary mandates proposed radical changes in teacher salary schedules for all parishes. The examples provided by the DOE to local systems are just suggestions. No particular salary schedule is mandated by Act 1. But Act 1does mandate that the teacher salaries in all school systems must be revised to include a performance component based on the new Act 54 evaluation system (COMPASS).  According to the law, all such revised schedules must be adopted by local school boards by January 1, 2013. That means that in less than two months, school systems that are faced with ever tightening budgets will be expected to totally overhaul all teacher salary schedules to go into effect next school year. And since in almost all cases there is no new money, school systems will be expected to "rob Peter to pay Paul".

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 do you think will happen to morale when some teachers who are able to game the system receive huge raises while all others have their salaries frozen to pay for those raises? For example, in order for one teacher to get a “merit” raise of $5,000 may require that 10 teachers sacrifice step increases of $500 each.

What can teachers do if they object to these drastic changes in salary based on an untested evaluation system? Here are my suggestions:

The law does not mandate how much teachers' salaries should depend on the new evaluation system. Teachers can recommend that the merit increases be kept minimal ( I don't know, maybe $100) until the evaluation system proves itself to be valid. There should not be great emphasis on the merit raises until we know that the instrument upon which it is based is valid and reliable.

What actions should concerned teachers take?

By all means, teachers should communicate with their local superintendent, if they want to stop this merit system from drastically altering salaries. Teachers should also appeal to their school board members who will make the final decision on any revision in the salary schedule for each parish. School board members are now prohibited by law from hiring and firing teachers but it is still their responsibility to approve salary schedules.

I suggest teachers talk to their school board members now before a decision is made that will have a profound effect on their careers. Better yet, the local teacher association/union should adopt a recommendation based on what most teachers want and present it to the local Board. I am sure that LAE and LFT will have model schedules for teachers and school boards to consider.


OTE admin said...

"Merit" pay will never work. "Merit" doesn't exist anyway, and even if it did, principals would make sure their favorites got the raises while those they don't like wouldn't.

Reformers haven't a clue how school districts operate and how political the workplace is. They haven't a clue as to how much power a principal has over a teacher's career, and how a principal is not held to any kind of accountability standard. The least competent people are put in as administrators, yet they are supposed to determine who is "meritorious"? Oh, please.

Anonymous said...

These reformers are clueless and have never been in the classroom. All of this change is for their own good, not to improve Louisiana education. They are hoping that this new system shows failure, so that they can replace public schools with charter schools. As usual, it's not about the educators nor the students, it's about Louisiana's "Dirty" politics and money!

Anonymous said...

Just DUMB! Who is VAM'ing his salary? No one! He's probably making $80,000 or 6 figures. Those are figures teachers will never see. We bring work home daily and work till after midnight on week days and weekends. Teachers work too hard. I am single and have to live pay check to pay check. He better rethink that!

Anonymous said...

My question.....If I teach in a school that is considered "at risk" and I score in the "highly effective" range do I get a salary increase comparable to Jon White's salary? If this, is the case, then "Show me The Money" because I was just evaluated with the COMPASS instrument and scored in the "highly effective" range. I want that money so I can put it in my school's general fund where it that my precious "poverty stricken" children can have a chance in this world.....How much do the "powers that be" care about the children in public education? Are they willing to put the money they are receiving in a schools general fund, so that the children can benefit from intensive programming......I think not!!!

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