Teacher Pay and Test Performance

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 12, 2014

By Dr. Scott Alsobrooks

Guest Columnist 

House Bill 504 recently passed the Mississippi Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Bryant.

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This Bill provides a much needed pay raise to Mississippi public education teachers. There will be an automatic $1,500 per year raise starting July 1 of this year; with an additional $1,000 slated for next year.

Performance pay takes effect in 2015-2016. In that year school districts will receive $100 per student for a school ranking of A, and $75 per student for a ranking of B. Schools not ranked A or B can receive $100 per student for moving up an entire grade for that school year.

This performance system will be derived from scores on standardized tests.

Some have argued that better teachers will gravitate towards jobs at highly ranked school districts where they can earn more money.

However, there is a plan to reward high performing teachers in schools ranked C, D and F geared to counter that notion.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average annual pay for a Mississippi teacher is $41,994.

Neighboring states outpace Mississippi; Louisiana comes in at $51,381; Alabama averages $47,949; Tennessee averages $48,289; and Arkansas $46,632. However, some lawmakers and activists in these states are lobbying for a pay raise of their own.

The increase for Mississippi teachers will certainly be a boost to their incomes, but Mississippi will remain very near the bottom in terms of teacher pay, as South Dakota is the only state that has an average annual teacher pay lower than Mississippi ($39,580/year).

The average across the nation is $56,383.

Going forward, the foundation of the performance pay system is geared to drive Mississippi teachers towards a higher salary by getting better results from students on standardized tests.

This move, like the Bush administrations’ No Child Left Behind Act and the Obama administrations’ Race To The Top Fundfurther solidifies standardized testing as a central focus of Mississippi schools!

Scott is Pearl River Community College’s Vice President for Economic and Community Development