Walters defends teacher incentive-pay plan

During a Legislative Budget hearing, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters told lawmakers that his proposed bonus plan, which provides up to $10,000 in extra pay for top teachers, will be particularly beneficial in retaining promising young teachers, those having a lot of fun would move faster to higher wages than under the current system.

“We have incredible teachers who have been teaching for 30 years,” Walters said. “We also have some incredible teachers who have been teaching for three or four years. I want you to look at some of the state teachers of the year that we’ve had here in the state. Some of them are teachers who have been teaching for less than six, seven years. And if we don’t allow a worthwhile incentive system to reach some of these teachers who are doing great work very early in their careers, those are the people who are dropping out.”

Previous reports have shown that nearly half of teachers leave the profession within the first five years in a classroom.

Walters has proposed spending $150 million on a teacher incentive pay program that would increase the salaries of qualified teachers by $2,500 to $10,000 apiece. The pay increases would be tied to teacher ratings from the existing state teacher and leader effectiveness (TLE) system, as well as the number of professional learning hours a teacher completes.

While teachers of all ages could receive raises under the program, the benefit would be particularly notable for young teachers who are proving to be excellent educators.

According to the state’s current minimum salary scale, a sixth-year teacher earns $39,273. But if that teacher gets a top rating, under Walter’s plan, that educator would get $49,273. Without the pay rise, the same teacher would not receive a salary equal to or greater than $49,000 under the state’s current pay scale until they are in their 25th grade.

As Walters noted, individuals who were named Oklahoma Teacher of the Year were often relatively new to the profession. 2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Shawn Sheehan had just four years of teaching experience when he was named the state’s top teacher. The 2019 and 2021 recipients were in their seventh year in the classroom.

State Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa, said school administrators could simply “play the system” instead of identifying the best class teachers.

Under TLE, teachers are rated from lowest to best in the following categories: ineffective, needs improvement, effective, very effective, or superior. Walters said those deemed highly effective or superior would be eligible for pay increases under his plan.

According to Walters, 17,544 teachers in Oklahoma, or 43 percent, are currently rated as highly effective. Another 1,598 teachers were rated as superior.

Walters said the program would not require repeat annual evaluations and that teachers would keep their raise for several years before being re-evaluated even if they accepted a job in a different school district.

Democrats have criticized the work-rate basis for teachers’ pay and continued to oppose it during the budget hearing.

“A merit-based pay system provides a financial incentive to attract our brightest, our best teachers to counties where, frankly, kids are the easiest to teach,” said Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City. “And I think we can both agree that this doesn’t describe an area of ​​concentrated poverty.”

Walters said the system can address those concerns by including measuring student growth as part of teacher evaluation. As a result, teachers who take on students with the greatest learning disabilities would be rewarded for learning gains, even when those students may have catching up needs, e.g. B. A teacher who takes a student back from two years behind to just six months.

“As a public school teacher, when I went through the students I thought I’d made the biggest difference or helped along the way, the stories I remember weren’t the kids who got an A’s came and left with a one,” Walters said. “It was a kid that came in that had failed, had a difficult life, in his home environment, that came in and you know what, they might have done a C, but doing a C for them was a big deal and it took a lot of work, it cost a lot of driving. And I think we need to make sure that anything that rewards excellence rewards excellence in teachers who grow into difficult learners.”

State Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa, said school administrators could simply “play the system” instead of identifying the best class teachers.

“One way to increase teacher pay in your district, if you had a retention issue, would be to just up-rank all of your teachers,” Waldron said.

Walters pointed out that teacher evaluations are conducted at the local level in Texas schools, but the Texas Department of Education also reviews these evaluations to ensure their legitimacy. He said Oklahoma officials could provide similar protections.

Walters pointed out that other states, including Texas and Iowa, have successfully implemented similar incentive programs, as have some individual counties in Oklahoma.

“I see that in Texas. They’ve seen a dramatic shift in how they talk about teacher pay, in the way they talk about teacher retention,” Walters said. “And again, speaking to the[Texas]commissioner[of education]he said it’s very routine that districts get very, very good at identifying their best teachers and hiring the best teachers.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

| |
Back to top button