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Report: Performance-based pay system for teachers has to be flexible

Gov. Phil Bryant in his State of the State Address called for an examination of how Mississippi might implement a performance-based compensation system for teachers

The results of a report – “Effective Teachers and Performance Pay” — compiled by Mississippi State University’s Research and Curriculum Unit that did just that were unveiled Friday at a news conference in Jackson.

The gist: Flexibility is a requirement for any system that rewards teachers for excellence. Specifically, the state can set loose parameters for how a system would operate, but it would be up to a school district’s superintendent to determine what benchmarks teachers would have to meet in order to receive the monetary reward, which could be a bonus or a full-blown pay raise. Officials from MSU’s RCU said that similar programs in other states have shown that leaving a compensation system’s design up to individual district works better than anything else.

Julie Jordan, RCU director, said those benchmarks could take in a number of areas, like graduates rates or scores on specific areas of state tests, and would most likely try to improve an area of a school district that has lagged behind.

“The single factor most affecting student learning is ineffective teaching,” Jordan said. Jordan added that no performance-based compensation plan without the integration of the M-STAR teacher evaluation system into it. M-STAR – the Mississippi State Teacher Appraisal Rubric – is an assessment system the state Department of Education plans to begin on a pilot basis this fall.

Funding the program would be up to individual superintendents, too. Ideally, Bryant said Friday, the funding would come from the pool of money that has been used for what the state calls “step raises” for teachers who have a certain level of seniority. District supplements could also be used. Bryant didn’t rule out employing one or more existing education funding sources at the state level to pay for it.

The report is nothing more than a recommendation now. Bryant said he hopes that changes come January, when the 2013 legislative session starts. By releasing the report now, nearly six months before the session starts, Bryant said the plan is for legislators to become as familiar as they can with it so when they get to Jackson the legislative process can start immediately.