Education Reform Commission Update
- T.J. Kaplan, GSTA Legislative Consultant
After observing the meetings of the Governor’s Education Reform Commission since its inception earlier this year, Georgia Science Teachers Association President Jeremy Peacock traveled to Atlanta to express members' concerns. He spent the day in Atlanta meeting privately with key commission members prior to the full commission meeting, where he delivered testimony on behalf of GSTA.
Jeremy met first with Representative Mike Dudgeon, a former member of the Forsyth County Board of Education who now serves as the Vice Chair of the House Education Committee. The meeting also included newly elected Representative Sherri Gilligan, a former instructor at Lanier Tech. Jeremy took the opportunity to express to both Representatives concerns about funding proposals that may move away from teacher training and experience as a compensation model for Georgia teachers. Representative Dudgeon agreed that, particularly in STEM fields, advanced degrees are often crucial background for a successful teacher. Dudgeon also noted that the ERC is not moving towards eliminating T&E, but rather looking at a broad range of options for recruiting the best teachers to Georgia. Notable ideas put forth by the Teacher Recruitment Committee of the ERC, of which Dudgeon is a member, include signing bonuses for STEM teachers, higher starting salaries for all teachers, and differentiated pay for teachers in more difficult subjects (including STEM) and high needs schools.
Jeremy also met with Senator Lindsey Tippins, a former member of the Cobb County Board of Education, who now serves as the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. After hearing GSTA’s concerns, Senator Tippins thoughtfully expressed his own similar concerns about Georgia’s current system for recruiting and retaining talented teachers. He, like other members of the commission, is actively searching for effective ways to appropriately compensate teachers for the skills that they bring to the classroom.
Finally, Jeremy met with Governor Nathan Deal’s education policy advisor to update her on GSTA’s work with the Department of Education on the standards revision process. She was excited to hear about the active role GSTA is playing, and will continue to work with us on the issue. Jeremy also briefed her on GSTA’s observations from the Governor’s Education Reform Commission to date, and our concerns surrounding teacher compensation and recruitment.
Jeremy delivered the following testimony to the Governor's Education Reform Commission:
- We want to specifically provide input on the ERC Funding Committee proposals that would move away from teacher training and experience as a compensation model for Georgia teachers.
- Even though these proposals would not force current teachers into a new compensation model, our members are concerned with how the proposals might affect Georgia's ability to recruit and retain the most qualified teachers in the future.
- While committee members have cited research showing that teacher training and experience is not correlated with student achievement, there is evidence that teacher training and experience does correlate to student achievement in science
- In particular, we know that a strong content background combined with knowledge of how to help students understand that content is a key to effective science teaching and learning.
- However, we need to ask the bigger question of which compensation model will be most effective in recruiting and retaining excellent teachers for Georgia's science classrooms.
- College graduates with science degrees often have a range of lucrative career options, and the prospect of facing the constant challenges that come in the classroom, with the knowledge that one's salary is tied to student test results, may not fare well against those other options.
In the coming months, each of the ERC committees will finish drafting the recommendations that will be voted on by the full commission prior to December. The finished proposals will be submitted to the Governor. Before any action is taken, the proposals would need to be drafted in the form of legislation that will be considered by the full General Assembly and the appropriate committees. We will continue to follow developments and ensure that the voice of Georgia’s science teachers is heard. You can provide input directly to the Commission by submitting comments at this link or by emailing the Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.