Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Are merit pay and career ladders in Louisiana's future?

While the federal government presses ahead with plans to judge teacher performance based on student test scores, a Louisiana commission is looking at ways to impose an unpopular merit pay scheme on teachers in the state.

Houma Courier reporter Daniel McBride is on top of this story, reporting that the state's Blue Ribbon Commission is considering a pay plan with different categories, including career ladders, merit pay and the traditional lane-and-step pay scale.

Most teachers object to tying teacher salaries to student test scores for obvious and valid reasons. As McBride's article points out, factors beyond a teacher's control play a part in student test scores. And as professional educators like to note, a single high-stakes test does not necessarily reflect a student's achievement.

Teachers may be more willing to experiment with career ladders, which reward them for taking on additional responsibilities: "The career ladder approach would advance teachers from classroom to mentor to master designations. Each level would include new administrative duties and increased pay."

It's all a non-starter unless teachers are involved in the process, however. As LFT President Steve Monaghan tells McBride, "You cannot expect the teachers to trust the process again if they’re not included in the development. These kind of programs look very much like they’ve been designed by the top, for the top.”

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