Texas education chief suggests paying higher-performing teachers more


Education Commissioner Mike Morath said higher teacher pay could help in recruiting, retaining educators.

At a Texas House hearing, union officials were wary of tying student performance to teacher pay.

Paying quality teachers significantly more could go a long way in recruiting top college graduates and retaining educators at the state’s neediest campuses, Education Commissioner Mike Morath told Texas lawmakers Wednesday.

But Morath proposed an approach — paying some teachers more based on their performance — that was panned by teacher union representatives if tied to student test scores.

Morath said pay is the No. 1 reason why top college graduates are not becoming teachers.

“We know we have to love on those who love on our kids,” Morath told the House Committee on Public Education. “We know the teacher is the single most important … factor that impacts student outcomes.”

Less than a quarter of new teachers in the U.S. come from the top third of their classes and just 14 percent of new teachers in high-poverty schools graduated in the top third of their class, Morath said, citing a 2010 report from consulting group McKinsey & Company.

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“Our system is not working to bring the absolute cream of the crop into the profession,” Morath said.

Morath recommended the state create a system that authorizes districts to move to a tiered pay plan, which pays more to teachers considered high-performing.

Republican lawmakers touted Dallas programs that boost pay for teachers considered “effective,” based on teacher performance and student achievement, and pays incentives to teachers who work at so-called high-need campuses.

The Dallas program “and its success is being used as a kind of way to back-door promoting of value-added-evaluation for teachers based on student test scores,” said Louis Malfaro, president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, adding that independent researchers have decried such methods as inaccurate. “It’s important not to conflate intensive work in schools that are struggling with doing evaluation based on student test scores. We think those two do not need to be coupled, as the commissioner seems to want to do.”

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“I’m tired of people coming up here and you’re talking about the research. I don’t give a crap about your research,” said Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, speaking to Malfaro. “We’re here to talk about a real problem, … but you’re not telling us how to do it. You’re just saying, ‘Well, you can’t do this. You can’t use this metric.’ But you’re not telling us what to do.”

Differentiated pay is worth consideration, Malfaro responded, but he recommended increasing the amount of money the state spends per student and earmarking part of the increased funding for pay raises.

Monty Exter, lobbyist with the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said there should be a systematic approach when examining teacher compensation. “You can’t have compensation without having the evaluation conversation,” he said. “You can’t have compensation without having the working conditions conversation. You can’t have compensation without also addressing the pipeline issues. All of that has work together to create a sustainable system.”

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