In today’s information age, myths and half-truths can be passed off as accurate information and disseminated to a broad unsuspecting audience. Purveyors of these myths and half-truths demonstrate a common willingness to spread rumors and hearsay and create fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Opponents of SB 893 have engaged in just such tactics. Fortunately, a thorough examination of SB 893 discredits the myths and half-truths and reveals the true intent of the legislation. The information below will clarify any confusion you might have concerning SB 893.
HALF-TRUTH: SB 893 allows students’ STAAR test scores for individual teachers to be used in evaluating that teacher and to determine the future employment and compensation of that teacher.
FULL-TRUTH: SB 893 gives school districts maximum flexibility in measuring student growth and specifies that a calculation of student growth MUST include MORE than the STAAR test scores.
HALF-TRUTH: The Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences claims that: “Value Added Model (VAM) estimates of teacher effectiveness (based on student test scores) should not be used to make operational decisions because such estimates are far too unstable to be considered fair or reliable.”
FULL-TRUTH: SB 893 charges districts to develop a method for determining student growth that MUST include MORE THAN student test scores and must be based on items such as student learning objectives, portfolios, and district tests.
MYTH: SB 893 takes away local control of teacher evaluation and pay by requiring school districts to use the state evaluation process or a similar process that contains all the elements of the state system. Current law does not allow the commissioner to dictate that school districts use standardized tests for teacher evaluation. SB 893 would allow the commissioner to dictate that requirement.
FULL-TRUTH: SB 893, as passed by the Senate, ensures that districts retain the option of developing their own appraisal systems with the elements of the state system and ensures that the commissioner does not have rulemaking authority over teacher compensation.
HALF-TRUTH: SB 893 eliminates the State Minimum Salary Schedule (Current Range: $27,540 – $44,620), and replaces that salary step schedule with a flat minimum pay guarantee of only $27,540 for all teachers (based on a standard ten-month contract).
FULL-TRUTH: SB 893 removes the minimum teacher salary schedule from statute but maintains the previous salary floor of $2,754 per month. This amount is not the salary teachers will be paid per month, but was retained as a protection to ensure that no teacher receives less than the minimum. SB 893 empowers teachers to be compensated for their hard work and dedication to the education system.
Currently, state funding allocated to districts is not based on the number of teachers or the years on the salary schedule. The amount of funding provided to each school for teacher salaries is not impacted by the passage of SB 893. In fact, for most districts, the only function of the Minimum Salary Schedule is to determine the state’s contribution to the Texas Retirement System. According to Dawn Fisher, associate commissioner of TEA, “The state does not reimburse any portion of teacher’s salaries. SB 893 does nothing to change that.”
The current state budget I supported on the Senate floor appropriates $55 billion to public education for the 2016-17 biennium. This amount is an increase of 6.6 percent or $3.4 billion from last session. State funding for education is increased by $1.5 billion over what is needed to fully fund education under current law. This increase includes $1.2 billion related to an increase in the basic allotment to districts of roughly $100 per child. These numbers reflect a good starting point to ensure that education is provided the funding necessary to educate our state’s children and support our teachers.
MYTH: We credit the authors’ good intentions, but their legislation lends itself to an ideological attack on the practice of paying teachers more based on experience. FACT: Research has demonstrated that teacher effectiveness improves with experience.
FULL-TRUTH: The new law proposed in S.B. 893 actually gives the district the flexibility to reward high performing teachers, teachers with exemplary experience, and teachers who demonstrate effectiveness. Instead of being locked into a specific step, teachers will be rewarded for exemplary performance. A recent study by researchers at Vanderbilt University, the University of Missouri, and Rand Corporation, found that school districts received better test results and better teacher retention when merit pay programs were in place. SB 893 authorizes a free market merit system and allows the district the flexibility to determine the manner in which the system will be administered. Thus, the free market system of being rewarded for outstanding performance allows teachers to be compensated based on performance measures that are grounded in the valid, reliable research and not just student performance.
MYTH: Opponents supports teacher evaluation systems that are developed locally in full collaboration with teachers and that link teacher appraisal to meaningful professional support and development.
FULL-TRUTH: If opponents are against SB 893, they are against local control and against evaluation systems that are developed locally in full collaboration with teachers and that link teacher appraisal to meaningful professional support and development. SB 893 charges each district to develop the evaluation system in full collaboration with teachers and to link teacher appraisal to meaningful professional support and development!
MYTH: Opponents support differentiated pay systems for teachers if they are developed locally in full collaboration with teachers and are based on clear, objective criteria like high-needs certifications, hard- to-staff positions, positions that require extra work or duties, etc.
FULL-TRUTH: If opponents are against SB 893, they are against local control. SB 893 charges each school district to develop a pay system for teachers that is developed locally and in full collaboration with teachers and that is based on clear, objective criteria.