Gov. Phil Bryant today presented a new approach to improving Mississippi's educational attainments--encouraging increased teacher effectiveness through a performance based compensation system.
At a news conference in Jackson, Bryant revealed and reviewed a new report that outlines flexible, accountable tactics local school districts can use to encourage and reward effective teachers in their districts.
Mississippi's current public school teacher compensation system does not reward excellent teacher performance but instead issues standard "step increase" raises to all teachers--even those who do not excel and whose students consistently underperform.
"We are all in agreement that Mississippi must improve its student outcomes and provide our children with the best possible education," Bryant said. "One way to do that is to start encouraging our teachers to perform at higher levels.
"It's time we started paying for teacher quality, not merely longevity. It does our educational system--and more importantly our students--a disservice for a dedicated, effective teacher to earn the same salary as a teacher who does the bare minimum. A performance-based system is a way to inspire all teachers to learn, grow and improve with their students."
The report, called for by Bryant in his inaugural State of the State address, is authored by the Research and Curriculum Unit at Mississippi State University and aims to complement ongoing teacher competency efforts, including the M-STAR teacher evaluation system.
The performance based compensation system outlined in the report is structured to serve a dual purpose:
* Reward teachers for measured effectiveness in the classroom
* Provide school principals with a new management tool
"You will find that we are not recommending a heavy-handed, one-size-fits all approach," Bryant said. "Instead, you'll see in this report flexible, accountable methods that local districts can use to design a program that makes sense for their children and their teachers."
Dr. Lynn House, interim state superintendent, says the Department of Education is interested in providing incentives to teachers who achieve strong results.
"Ensuring that students are well prepared to meet the challenges of a competitive, global society is a goal that educators strive to achieve each day," House said. "It is essential that we focus on student outcomes and providing incentives to those teachers who are achieving strong results for our students. I look forward to working with Gov. Bryant on the details."
Superintendents from Clarksdale, Gulfport, Lamar County and Rankin County have all expressed interest in working with Bryant on the performance based compensation plan, possibly participating in a pilot program to employ the methods outlined in the report.
Bryant said because the new compensation recommendations are flexible, local districts could fund performance-based raises in a variety of ways. The report details two funding sources: local district supplements and the savings that would result from eliminating the existing, non-merit "step raises".
"We should pay for what works, not for what is merely accepted," Bryant said.
Bryant also said the new compensation approach is just one facet of the education agenda he will pursue during the 2013 legislative session.
"You've heard me say that the 2012 legislative session was the most business-friendly in Mississippi's history. The 2013 session will focus on education. As we continue to improve the business climate of this state and bring in more and better-paying jobs, our educational attainments must keep pace."
A copy of the performance based compensation report is available for download by visiting: http://www.governorbryant.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Performance-based-compensation-Plan.pdf