December 16, 2010 10:41:00 AM
Two Columbus elementary schools are part of a new teacher-pay model the state Department of Education is touting as new and innovative.
And the fact that the program is considered new and innovative speaks volumes about Mississippi schools.
Under the program, which is funded by a federal grant through 2015, teachers will be offered bonuses and other perks for -- hold your breath -- doing a good job.
The program also puts in place -- wait for it -- specific goals for teacher and principals'' improvement, and actually rewards teachers and principals for meeting those goals. The goals include improving test scores, but also can include the teachers'' and administrators'' interpersonal skills, ability to innovate, and other benchmarks by which most companies already judge their employees.
Under this radical new system, teachers and principals are evaluated several times a year, through both announced and unannounced visits to their schools and classrooms, to determine if they''re meeting their goals. They''re given outside training to improve their teaching and management skills.
The end result is to raise test scores and improve student learning at at-risk schools. Locally, Cook Elementary and Franklin Academy are participating in the program.
Another goal is to retain teachers, and deal with a shortage of educators that is crippling some districts.
Low pay for teachers, and a lack of professionalism among many administrators, are the culprits for much of this turnover. The teachers who are challenged with improving the education of the country''s most at-risk students are also the nation''s worst compensated.
This program puts in place a common-sense approach that is long overdue in Mississippi''s schools -- actually rewarding those teachers and administrators who do the best job, giving them concrete goals to improve themselves, and putting them on a career ladder to build a professional future in Mississippi.
Mississippi was awarded $10.2 million, which funds the program at just 10 schools in eight districts statewide for the next five years. Results won''t be seen for some time, as the program kicks in next school year.
But we have high hopes, and also hope the state will find the funding necessary to expand the program if it works.
While the jury is still out on the program''s success, we think this common-sense approach is long overdue.