Charleston district should bolster efforts to get teacher merit pay under way
The Charleston County School District’s new plan to boost Burke and North Charleston high schools out of the “persistently failing” category includes basing teacher pay on classroom performance. That’s a good idea that should be extended throughout the district.
Unfortunately, though, while the district has a merit-pay system in place for administrators, it’s still playing catchup in developing a wider, effective merit-pay plan for teachers.
But these aren’t uncharted waters. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is a proponent of performance-based teacher pay, and several federal grant competitions have required it. Already in this state, 60 schools use such a pay system.
As our Diette Courrege recently reported, indications are that schools using merit pay are outperforming similar schools that aren’t.
The district has plenty of places to look for guidance.
The fact that the plan isn’t yet fully formed is a puzzlement. The purpose of tying pay to performance is to recognize the importance of the teacher’s role, to reward teachers who do their jobs well and to identify those teachers who are less successful and help them improve.
Why, then, start the process on administrators? The school board and its administration should be prepared to show more leadership in an area that teachers nationally have resisted.
Four local schools included in the Charleston Promise Neighborhood, a non-profit program aimed at improving education and breaking the cycle of poverty, are trying pay for performance. So are Stall and St. Johns high schools, as called for by federal grants they are receiving due to their impaired status.
And last week, during a hearing in Columbia on the state’s seven “persistently failing” schools, the district agreed to base teacher compensation at Burke and North Charleston high schools on classroom performance.
So why are local administrators dragging their feet about merit pay for teachers elsewhere?
Nationally, 20,000 educators have managed to work under the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), which involves pay for performance.
Ms. Courrege talked with Principal Jeff Beckwith of Dorchester County District 4’s Williams Memorial Elementary School in St. George, which has been a TAP school for two years. He said teachers are observed four to six times a year. Their evaluations are based on those observations, the school’s overall growth and students’ growth.
Teachers feel more stress, but instruction is better and teachers tend to be better prepared.
Why not advance this practical solution in Charleston?
Why not in the Berkeley and Dorchester 2 districts, too?