Some Districts Tinker with Better Pay for Better Teachers

Several school districts in Tennessee are experimenting with using extra pay to reward strong teachers. But a new study from the state comptroller’s office says it’s not clear such differential pay boosts student results.

Superintendent Jerry Boyd of Putnam County Schools - one of four Tennessee districts currently trying differential pay to reward better teachers. Photo via his Twitter.

Superintendent Jerry Boyd of Putnam County Schools – one of four Tennessee districts currently trying differential pay to reward better teachers. Photo via his Twitter.

Tennessee has four districts trying differential pay, and three others on the way. It’s hard to say if it’s helping so far, partly because the state’s broad push to overhaul education has lots of other moving pieces clouding the picture.

And, in districts like Putnam County, which has only been trying differential pay since 2011, it’s too early for conclusions, says Superintendent Jerry Boyd. He notes if you want teachers to improve, you also can’t skimp on continuing training.

“Just paying teachers more is not going to automatically make them a better teacher.”

Linda Wesson wrote the study for the comptroller’s office, and says differential pay seems more useful when it comes to retaining talented teachers.

“Research in that area has found that the professional development and the continuous learning help them be better teachers, and that the pay incentives are to keep those best teachers and have them not leave teaching, or not leave your district.”

Governor Bill Haslam supports paying teachers for results instead of seniority, but cautioned last week he wouldn’t push to make it state law this year:

“When we do this we want to make certain we’re actually producing something that will encourage more people to go into teaching, reward great teachers, and is something we can financially afford. And to date we haven’t figured that formula out, but we will.”

You can read the comptroller’s report here.

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