August 14, 2012

Should Teachers Be Rewarded For Good Student Test Scores?

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Victoria at camp — her work finished.

Victoria at camp — her work finished.

In 2011, students at Tolland, Ellington, Stafford and Somers high performed either at or above state average on the SATs, while the teachers in all four of these districts received pay roughly below the salary of the average Connecticut teacher.

Victoria at camp — her work finished.

Victoria at camp — her work finished.

According to the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, the average maximum salary for a Connecticut teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $66,630, and the average maximum salary for a teacher with a master’s degree is $78,317.

In Tolland, Ellington, Stafford, and Somers, teachers with a bachelor’s receive a maximum salary averaging at $63,905, and teachers with a master’s receive a maximum salary averaging at $75,834.

“I do think our teachers are underpaid, but it’s different in small towns,” said Sandy Fowler, chairwoman of the Stafford Board of Education “a huge portion of our budget does go to education.”

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s education reform bill approved by the General Assembly in May put a heavy emphasis on improving student performance in Connecticut classrooms and making teachers more accountable for those outcomes.

The reform package includes new teacher evaluations that will include teach input.

But the package does not mention teachers being compensated for performance through pay.

“I believe that improved compensation for our best performing teachers is a necessary direction,” said Andy Powell, chairman to the Tolland Board of Education. “The trouble is, how do we describe ‘best performing’? What is the metric to judge? And, how do you take a subjective field and apply quantitative goals? I don’t know the answer.”

Teachers in Tolland, Ellington, Stafford, and Somers, all of which are affiliates of the Connecticut Education Association, work without the ability to receive performance pay—a bonus for above average teaching that several Connecticut public schools award for teaching excellence.

Their contracts also did not provide money for the National Certification Bonus, a program that some teachers elsewhere can benefit from.

Dr. Maynard M. Suffredini Jr., Superintendent of Somers public schools, says that the question regarding teacher performance and pay has been debated in his district for quite some time.

While Suffredini believes that quality teachers should be paid better, he does not believe that performance and pay share a relationship.

“I do not think that pay affects performance, especially in the long run,” Suffredini said.

As for instituting performance pay in Somers public schools, Suffredini says that he would not be in favor of supporting such an action.

“I do not think it (salary) contributes to improved performance,” Suffredini said.

Fowler partially agrees.

“If we raise the pay and couple it with high expectations to be exceptional, I do see it as a way to improve our schools,” Fowler said.

But Fowler still isn’t sure if performance and pay are directly linked.

“It’s a difficult question and there are a lot of different views on that,” Fowler said, “I’m a little hesitant to say there’s a direct correlation.”

Powell also agrees that a correlation between performance and pay is probably a weak one.

“I truly believe that the best educators are not motivated by money,” Powell said. “I believe that they want to be fairly compensated, but they are not doing this to become rich.”

Suffredini and Fowler both agree that the best way to achieve exceptional teaching performance is through high quality professional development programs through for staff, and through teacher evaluation.

“(The programs) can have an impact on staff performance,” Suffredini said “I support these types of programs and any other experience(s) that will help individual teachers grow in their jobs and abilities.”

Fowler believes that staff education is crucial to excellent performance as well, and is additionally excited about Malloy’s plan to establish better teacher evaluation in Connecticut.

“I like the idea,” Fowler said of Malloy’s evaluation plan. “If teacher evaluations are done correctly, they should help teachers be better at their jobs”.

Victoria Powers is a 2012 graduate of Tolland High School.

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