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Lawmakers Hear Advice on Merit Pay, Teacher Evaluations

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 21 Aug 2012 04:54pm | comments
Andy Baxter talks to lawmakers

An education expert is telling Mississippi lawmakers to make sure teachers can be accurately evaluated before changing how they are paid. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the evaluation and pay of teachers could be a top priority for the upcoming legislative session.

Some Mississippi law makers are considering a merit based pay system for teachers, where their salary is tied to an evaluation system rather than increased over time.

The House Education and Appropriations committees met in Jackson yesterday to hear from education experts about what that evaluation system should look like.

Andy Baxter with the Southern Regional Education Board cautioned lawmakers to make sure a solid evaluation program in place before changing how teachers are paid.

"There is a desire to get to compensation reform. but there is a sense about putting the cart before the horse in the sense that if you don't feel like you can reliably distinguish your top and bottom performers, than compensation is premature," Baxter said.

The Mississippi Department of Education says they are already moving toward a state wide teacher evaluation system.

Dr.Daphne Buckley with the MDE says starting this year, ten Mississippi schools will use a new teacher evaluation system called M-Star which grades teachers on a four point scale in five distinct teaching areas.

"I can't say that we are doing everything but we have a lot of the components that they presented today, we are piloting those components," Buckley said.

M-Star is expected to go state wide in 2014.

Still, there is concern among teacher groups that the evaluation system won't account for the academic differences between students and unfairly punish teachers in low performing schools with lots of disadvantaged students.

House Education Committee chair John Moore of Brandon says he is in favor of a merit pay system only if it is used to determine pay increases for teachers.

"I would rather us establish a positive type of evaluation system. So if a teacher is excelling she is receiving a bonus and it is not actually being used to jeopardize their job," Moore said.

Moore thinks the academic differences between students can be equalized if teachers are evaluated on the student's growth at the end of the year regardless of where the student started the year.

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Andy Baxter talks to lawmakers


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