Teacher Effectiveness

Shelby County Schools teachers want a raise, not a bonus

PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN
Shelby County School leaders presented its bonus pay plan for the districts teachers based on last year's evaluation scores. All teachers will receive a bonus, but not a cost of living raise.

Wooddale Middle School teacher Tina Armstrong called the district’s recently-passed bonus plan ‘a slap in the face’ while the president of the local teachers’ association said educators deserve a raise, not a bonus, during Tuesday night’s Shelby County School Board business meeting.

Following the meeting Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II said although teachers are in favor of step increases (to the salary schedule), the district is not offering general raises, but will reward teachers with performance-based pay.

“We have a robust and reliable data system that shows how teachers are performing,” Hopson said.  “If the data shows that a teacher is not performing, why should they earn as much as a teacher who is performing at a higher level?”

Bonus pay for teachers will  start at $250 for Tier I and Tier II level, $650 for Tier III, $800 for Tier IV and $1,250 for Tier V.  Teachers in the Tier I and Tier II level are considered in need of improvement while a Tier III teacher is considered a strong teacher and Tier IV and Tier V teachers are the highest-performing teachers.  All teachers working in the district can expect to receive the bonus after 20 days into the 2014-15 school year.

Hopson said the one-time teacher bonus is part of the district’s effort to thank teachers for their hard work.  Teachers have gone two years without a raise and some have endured job uncertainty as Memphis City and Shelby County schools merged last year.  Hopson said he wanted to be able to give all teachers something. The district’s long-term performance-pay plan has not been formalized.  Hopson said teachers will be involved in that process.

Hopson said  the district isn’t able to give employees a cost of living raise since the state withdrew the 2 percent pay increase for state employees in April.  Hopson said initially, the district planned on using the state-promised 2 percent cost of living increase to fund a differentiated pay schedule. The district was counting on $9 million from the state, but because of budget cuts, the state only provided $6.2 million.

Memphis-Shelby County Education Association President Keith Williams has called the district’s bonus plan a ‘Pig in a Poke,’ a phrase used to describe a trick or scheme.

Williams criticized the usage of teacher evaluation scores as a basis for rewarding teachers because the association argues that the value-added portion of the evaluation is unreliable and inaccurate.  Williams has also said that it is unfair of the district to not reward the efforts of retiring teachers, who will be separated from the district by the time the bonus checks are distributed.

“Retiring teachers should’ve been included,” said Rosemary Winters, a special education teacher and member of the association’s political action committee.

About a dozen teachers attended Tuesday night’s meeting and stood in solidarity in support of teachers and Williams, who spoke against the bonus pay plan and hiring process for teachers displaced by school closures this year.

Correction: An original version of this story stated the wrong time period teachers would receive their bonuses.  Teachers will receive them 20 days after the first day of school. 

Contact Tajuana Cheshier at [email protected] and (901) 730-4013.

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surprise!

Teachers in Millington and Knoxville just won the Oscar awards of education

PHOTO: Milken Family Foundation
Millington English teacher Katherine Watkins reacts after learning that she is the recipient of a 2017 Milken Educator Award.

Two Tennessee teachers were surprised during school assemblies Thursday with a prestigious national teaching award, $25,000 checks, and a visit from the state’s education chief.

Katherine Watkins teaches high school English in Millington Municipal Schools in Shelby County. She serves as the English department chair and professional learning community coordinator at Millington Central High School. She is also a trained jazz pianist, published poet, and STEM teacher by summer.

PHOTO: Milken Family Foundation
Paula Franklin learns she is among the recipients.

Paula Franklin teaches Advanced Placement government at West High School in Knoxville. Since she took on the course, its enrollment has doubled, and 82 percent of her students pass with an average score that exceeds the national average.

The teachers are two of 45 educators being honored nationally with this year’s Milken Educator Awards from the Milken Family Foundation. The award includes a no-strings-attached check for $25,000.

“It is an honor to celebrate two exceptional Tennessee educators today on each end of the state,” said Education Commissioner Candice McQueen, who attended each assembly. “Paula Franklin and Katherine Watkins should be proud of the work they have done to build positive relationships with students and prepare them with the knowledge and skills to be successful in college and the workforce.”

Foundation chairman Lowell Milken was present to present the awards, which have been given to thousands of teachers since 1987.

PHOTO: Milken Family Foundation
Students gather around Millington teacher Katherine Watkins as she receives a check as part of her Milken Educator Award.

The Milken awards process starts with recommendations from sources that the foundation won’t identify. Names are then reviewed by committees appointed by state departments of education, and their recommendations are vetted by the foundation, which picks the winners.

Last year, Chattanooga elementary school teacher Katie Baker was Tennessee’s sole winner.

In all, 66 Tennessee educators have been recognized by the Milken Foundation and received a total of $1.6 million since the program began in the state in 1992.

You can learn more about the Milken Educator Awards here.

Colorado Vote 2018

Polis campaign releases education plan, including new promise about teacher raises

Congressman Jared Polis meets with teachers, parents and students at the Academy of Urban Learning in Denver after announcing his gubernatorial campaign. (Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat)

Congressman Jared Polis, one of several Democrats running for governor, released an education plan for the state Wednesday that includes new details on tackling teacher shortages and better preparing high school students for work.

The Boulder Democrat wants to help school districts build affordable housing for teachers, increase teacher pay and make sure that “100 percent of Colorado’s school districts are able to offer dual and concurrent enrollment programs through an associate’s degree or professional certification, and work to boost enrollment in them.”

The education plan includes the congressman’s initial campaign promise to deliver free and universal preschool and kindergarten.

“Part of my frustration is that politicians have been talking about preschool and kindergarten for decades,” Polis said in an interview with Chalkbeat. “It’s time to stop talking … and actually do it.”

Big questions remain, however, about how Colorado would pay for Polis’s plans.

Free universal preschool and kindergarten would cost hundreds of millions of tax dollars the state does not have. Polis has acknowledged that voters will need to approve a tax increase to secure the funding necessary — and voters rejected Colorado’s last big statewide ask to fund education initiatives.

His additional promises, especially providing schools with more money to pay teachers, only adds to the price tag for his education plan. The campaign did not release any projections of how much his teacher pay raise proposal would cost.

“If a teacher can’t afford to live in the community they work in, that is not going to be an attractive profession,” he said. “We need to do a better job in Colorado making sure teachers are rewarded for their hard work.”

Other components to Polis’s plan includes providing student loan relief for teachers who commit to serving in high-need and rural areas, increasing teacher training and building and renovating more.

Polis is the latest Democrat to roll out an education platform.

Former state Sen. Michael Johnston released more details earlier this week about his campaign promise for tuition-free community college and job training.

Johnston’s campaign estimates that the initiative would cost about $47 million annually. The campaign provided specifics on how the state would pay for it: by combining existing federal grants and state scholarships, revenue from online sales tax, and state workforce development funding. Savings from volunteer hours put in by tuition recipients also are factored in.

Former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy released her education plan last month.

Like Polis, Kennedy is calling for teacher raises. She wants the state’s average salary to be closer to the national average. The former state treasurer also wants to expand preschool and job training for high school students. A key piece of Kennedy’s proposal to pay for her initiatives: reforming the state’s tax laws to generate more revenue.

Other Democrats running to replace Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is term-limited, include Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne and businessman Noel Ginsburg.

The Republican field to replace Hickenlooper, a Democrat, is also crowded. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced earlier this month that she’s running. Other leading Republican candidates include former Congressman Tom Tancredo, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, and businessmen Doug Robinson and Victor Mitchell. George Brauchler, district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, dropped out of the race to instead run for attorney general.