Performance pay for teachers in Nashville is a distinct possibility in the near future.
At a Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum, Mayor Karl Dean said he was “committed” to being a part of exploring the issue locally.
“This is something that can be accomplished in the relatively near future,” Dean said. “There are obviously some real challenges here. … It’s something that cannot be done overnight.”
And Director of Metro Schools Jesse Register highlighted the “urgency” of teacher compensation reforms, considering the large amount of federal stimulus dollars that should soon be available for performance pay plans. The next step in moving forward, Register said, is putting together a “power team” of Nashvillians to “really consider” the issue.
“I think there is a growing momentum in our country … to pay attention to those things that it will take to have an excellent teacher in every classroom,” Register said.
Friday’s forum pulled together an invited group of local school district, city and state government, and business leaders to hear performance pay experts talk about teacher compensation. Some of the aspects highlighted of effective performance pay plans include community and teacher buy-in, sufficient public or private funds available for meaningful bonuses, and school district organizational issues needed for effective implementation.
Performance pay momentum has been building publicly in Nashville for months. Dean has publicly called for reforms to Nashville’s teacher compensation system, and has stated repeatedly that improvements must be made in where the district places teachers, as well as in how those teachers are compensated.
And a highlight of Register’s pre-Nashville resume is his work with Chattanooga’s Benwood Initiative, part of which included reconstituting the staffs of certain schools and establishing a form of merit pay for many district teachers. The success of the Benwood Initiative has been cited in education research as evidence of the value of performance pay.
Performance pay was a hot — and heavily politicized — issue in Nashville two years ago. Four private donors offered to contribute $400,000 for a pay-for-performance grant at two Metro schools, Alex Green and Inglewood elementary schools. The grant would have allowed teachers at those schools to earn up to $6,000 as a bonus for increased grade-level performance. The possibility fell through due to failed negotiations between the district and teachers’ union the Metro Nashville Education Association (MNEA).
MNEA officials have told The City Paper that they’ll consider talk of performance-based pay models, due to their support of Register and Register’s history of community-based initiatives.