The recently announced plan to award bonuses to high-ranking teachers if they either stay at or move to a high priority school (those schools in the bottom 5% in terms of student achievement) reminded me of a similar effort to recruit teachers to the state’s Achievement School District by paying them significantly more than they could make at other schools.
In fact, I wrote about this topic when the ASD plan was announced.
My first question when I heard the story was “where is the money coming from?” But it is federal money, so the state hasn’t come up with some pool of money to be used to give bonuses. And there’s no indication the program will (or will not) continue beyond the first two years.
The point is, Tennessee lags behind the rest of the country in college degree attainment. And our NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) scores are quite low. Of 8 states that test 100% of graduates on the ACT, we rank 7th in average composite score.
Improving schools in our entire state should be a top priority. And if it makes sense that you can attract more teachers (and more talent) with bonuses and higher pay, shouldn’t that simply become the policy of the state?
If Tennessee became the state where teachers were very well paid and had lots of professional support (professional development, mentoring, paid training), we’d surely attract bright candidates from across the country to teach in our schools. 50 Tennessee counties border other states. Bright graduates from colleges near Tennessee would soon want to teach here because the pay and support were such a strong incentive.
Metro Nashville Public Schools started using a compressed, improved pay scale this year. It helped triple the number of applicants they had for teacher openings.
Why not do the same for the entire state? An investment along these lines could be a game-changer for Tennessee. We have a long way to go. But we can get there IF the political will exists to push forward.