11/20/2012 10:08 am ET

James Guthrie, Nevada Superintendent Of Public Schools, Argues Against Automatic Teacher Raises

Speaking to the Nevada Association of School Boards on Friday, Superintendent of Public Schools James Guthrie argued against automatic raises for teachers, claiming districts should be paying for effectiveness, not things that have no effect on student achievement.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Clark County School District, which teaches nearly 75 percent of all the state’s students, is required to award returning teachers annual raises of $1,465 due to its contract with the teachers union. A similar teacher salary schedule is in place at most of Nevada’s 16 other districts, and Guthrie says it needs to go.

A new teacher evaluation system that will rely on student test scores is currently in the works, and is expected to be implemented statewide in 2013. Presently districts are responsible for their own evaluation methods, which are often limited to principal observations.

The highly subjective method has left Guthrie not knowing how many of the state’s 23,000 K-12 teachers are actually effective.

According to the Review-Journal, the superintendent alluded to instituting a merit pay system that would ensure the top 10-15 percent of teachers are earning salaries on par with lawyers and doctors, thereby making the profession more attractive to college students choosing between careers.

The "Kids Count" report released in July by the Annie E. Casey Foundation placed Nevada last in education and 48th overall in the U.S. The report found that three-quarters of Nevada fourth graders were not proficient in reading last year, and 71 percent of eighth graders weren't proficient in math.

The sobering numbers had school officials calling for reform. Proposals in the Nevada legislature last year suggested overriding collective bargaining laws and making tenure more difficult to obtain for teachers.

The state also suffers from a chronic teacher shortage, and as a result, larger class sizes. Clark County currently boasts the largest average class size of the country’s 20 largest school districts at 35 students per teacher, but Guthrie isn’t bothered by the statistic, telling the Review-Journal, “The U.S. has succumbed to the delusion of small class sizes.”

He continued, "small classes with bad teachers gives you nothing."



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