Perdue says teachers back performance pay proposal

ATLANTA --- Quoting results of a survey completed by 20,000 Georgia teachers in December, Gov. Sonny Perdue said Monday that teachers overwhelmingly support his proposal for performance pay and that the leaders of education organizations should pay attention to their members.

"The leaders, I don't think, sometimes don't want to listen to what their members are saying," he said.

The governor met briefly with reporters in his office after three bills were introduced, all aimed at strengthening student performance through promotion of teachers according to their effectiveness. One, Senate Bill 386, sets the mechanism for basing pay raises on the improvement in student scores in addition to assessments from fellow teachers and the principal on classroom instruction. A second bill makes it unlawful to tamper with students' standardized tests that the teachers will be evaluated on, and the third strips the pension from any teacher guilty of test cheating.

Perdue's spokesman released the results of the survey conducted by The Parthenon Group which was distributed to every school system with the request that it be handed to each teacher. More than 20,000 returned responses, 15,300 from teachers and the rest from administrators.

While just half said that effective teachers are recognized and rewarded, 83 percent said evaluations were consistent and objective in their own districts. However, 63 percent said that ineffective teachers were not consistently removed from classroom jobs.

Just 47 percent said that "increases in salary should be driven by teacher effectiveness." On the other hand, 73 percent said that "teachers who distinguish themselves as effective should have career-advancement opportunities."

One aim of the pay proposal is to improve student performance by rewarding the educators who influence it the most. Under the proposal, teachers judged the most effective could earn as much as high school football coaches, according to Perdue.

Today, a teacher after 10 years earns about $48,000 compared with as much as $66,000 under his proposal, according to the state's application for the federal grant program Race to the Top.

Securing a share in the Race to the Top funds, an estimated $462 million, is a secondary goal of the performance-pay proposal, Perdue said.

Jeff Hubbard, the president of the Georgia Association of Educators, criticized the survey as not useful because 100 percent of teachers did not respond because it was sent at a busy time as classes were wrapping up for the semester. He expressed concerns with the pay plan, and with taking the pension of someone in a test-tampering case.

"It's way too far to go with that," he said, noting that some instances where test integrity is compromised could be as simple as one student taking out a textbook during an exam.

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