Georgia Performance Pay Proposal: Duke Boys Not in Trouble with Law?

Education Week blogger Stephen Sawchuk reports that Georgia may be taking a bold step in reforming teacher compensation:

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue has announced plans to support legislation that would overhaul the statewide teacher-salary schedule and allow teachers to opt into one that determines pay partly on performance-based measures.

States have tried to do statewide performance-pay before, but this example stands out because it sounds as though it would fundamentally restructure how the salary schedule operates. Teachers opting in would no longer get supplements for advanced degrees, which have only weak correlations to student performance. Instead, they would win additional compensation based on observations of teachers and growth of student performance to determine teacher effectiveness and base compensation on those results.

The plan would go into effect in 2013, and current teachers could “opt into” the plan or remain on the current salary schedule. Teachers hired after Jan. 1, 2014, would automatically be enrolled in the system.

The post goes on to explain that the reform effort is being fueled by hopes for a piece of the federal Race to the Top (RTT) grant funding pie. So maybe some good can come from greater federal funding of K-12 education? I don’t know, but if Georgia could follow through on this proposal regardless of how much RTT money they win … that would sure be a promising sign.

Why? Because one of the worst kept, most wasteful secrets in K-12 education is the amount of money spent to reward teachers for “masters bumps” (PDF) — automatic pay increases for earning a masters degree, even though there’s zero connection to helping students learn. Any policy maker or leader who can help shift just that funding, not to mention many of the ineffective seniority raises on the old salary schedule, gets high marks from little Eddie (that’s me).

One thing I didn’t see in the legislative announcement from the governor’s office is a discussion of performance-based pay for principals and other administrators, too. I believe more and more all the time that the accountability needs to effect those who hire and supervise teachers, as well. But even without this idea, it’s a major step forward. Think about it! Georgia would be doing something just and fair, and good for kids. Which means the Duke boys wouldn’t have to be “in trouble with the law.” At least as long as Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane aren’t in charge of the teacher performance pay program.