The Commercial Appeal, Friday, July 26, 2013. Reprinted by permission.
In the business world, a one-size-fits-all approach to human capital decisions is rarely successful. Professionals vary in their level of effectiveness, and decisions around promotion, pay and continuing education should reflect these differences.
Over the last few years, Tennessee has taken significant steps to ensure that we don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to the teaching profession. Our state has led the way in ensuring that great teaching occurs in every classroom. We have a new evaluation system that gives educators specific feedback on where they excel and where they can improve. We have reformed tenure to make it a more meaningful process. We have worked to provide better professional development to support teachers.
Now Tennessee is poised to move away from its outdated one-size-fits-all approach to how we pay teachers. The state Board of Education has adopted a plan that will modernize the salary structure for teachers. This plan will give local school systems the flexibility they need to reward, retain and attract excellent teachers.
National and Tennessee-based research shows that the way Tennessee has been compensating teachers — a system based solely on years of experience and number of degrees — just doesn’t work. This system leaves school districts with little flexibility to pay science, math and special education teachers more or to reward great teachers for outstanding work.
It restricts districts that want to be innovative about adequately compensating teachers for providing additional duties such as mentoring other teachers or providing enrichment services beyond the school day to students, or retaining good teachers who might be considering leaving their school district or — worse yet — the profession.
At the request of the state Board of Education, the Tennessee Department of Education developed a different model for our state. This new model ensures that no teacher can or will be paid less than he or she is currently making, but it provides school districts with much more flexibility to determine how to pay their teachers. This is important because different school districts have different student, personnel and human capital needs.
The new system also builds on Tennessee’s earlier efforts to encourage school districts to move away from one-size-fits-all approaches, and think about new and innovative ways to retain and reward great teachers. To date, 19 school districts in Tennessee have already implemented or are in the planning phases of implementing new compensation systems. We need to accelerate these efforts across the state.
Finally, successful implementation matters. It is crucial that we provide school districts, particularly rural ones, with the right support as they transition to a new approach.
Effective teaching is the most important school-based factor in improving student achievement, and we are proud that our state, policymakers and education leaders have made great teaching a priority. Under the leadership Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman, Tennessee is experiencing strong gains in student achievement and is seen as a national leader in terms of student-centered policies in education. It is important that we continue to build on key reforms to ensure that we recruit, support, retain and reward great teaching in Tennessee.
J. R. “Pitt” Hyde III is founder of AutoZone and a trustee at the Hyde Family Foundations. Gregg F. Morton is president of AT&T-Southeast Region and the Tennessee Business Roundtable.