State Nixes Merit-Based Pay for Teachers

Benefits of merit pay still unclear

As the legislative session winds down, the House has passed an education finance bill that will now appear before the Senate. The legislation contained at least one significant change: doing away with one merit-based pay system for teachers and increasing funding for a newer one.

The retired program, the Texas Educator Excellence Grant (TEEG), failed to have its intended effect after only two-and-a-half years of existence. It began its less than illustrious lifespan as an executive order of Gov. Rick Perry and mainly targeted disadvantaged school districts.

In a recent survey of the TEEG program, over 80 percent of teachers said they were already working as effectively as they could before the implementation of the TEEG, so the program did not affect their work. However, the program was confusing to implement and many districts dropped out entirely.

Legislators actually conceived the Texas Educator Excellence Grant after the failure of a third similar program in recent years, the Teacher Career Ladder, which also never produced desired improvements.

The latest program, the District Awards for Teacher Excellence (DATE), came about in May 2006 and is open to all schools. Last year the legislature appropriated $147.5 million for the program, but this year the state will use $50 million from the old program to fund the new one at $195 million a year.

According to the Teacher’s Education Agency (TEA), the purpose of the program is to “improve instructional quality and teacher efficacy to increase student achievement.”

While the legislature is going ahead with increased funding for the DATE program, its effectiveness is still unclear. The TEA is awaiting a Vanderbilt University evaluation report due in August 2009.

Holly LaFon has written and worked for various local publications including D Magazine and Examiner.

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