A public school teacher's pay should be tied to classroom performance and not just college credits and seniority, a commision set up by the Maryland State Board of Education said today.
The panel, which included leaders of the state legislature and county school superintendents as well as parents and teachers, also called for rigorous licensing exams and a two-year internship for new teachers, higher pay for fields where there is a shortage of teachers, and tougher standards in college teacher training programs.
"Teachers in Maryland are under-prepared, under-managed, and under-rewarded," said Stephen W. McNierney, a Baltimore business executive who headed the commission. "No one believes that every teacher does an equally good job. Stop paying them as though you believe that. Ahove all, clearly and visibly reward superior effort and teacher performance."
Formally known as the Commission on Quality Teaching, the 28-member panel was established to study ways to attract, train and keep high-quality teachers in the Maryland schools.
Its recommendations, which come after 18 month of study, hearings and debate, drew warm praise from state school Superintendent David Hornbeck but stiff criticism from the state's largest teachers union, the 36,000-member Maryland State Teachers Association.
Hornbeck said the recommendations will lead to better teaching and better learning, and said he would make specific proposals to the state board in December for carrying them out. "In almost any other profession that exists, evaluation is done and those who are superior are paid more," Hornbeck said. "Why should the schools be any different? I don't understand that. They do it in colleges every day."
But Janice A. Piccinini, president of the MSTA, declared that the proposals were unfair and "discriminatory."
"There should be equal pay for equal work," Piccinini said. "There's no objective criteria for determining who is better than whom. We think only good teachers should be in the classroom."
The MSTA is an affiliate of the National Education Association, which has strongly opposed merit pay and licensing exams throughout the country.
One version of such a pay plan was endorsed by the District of Columbia Board of Education a decade ago as part of a school improvement proposal by psychologist Kenneth B. Clark. Another plan was tried briefly by Montgomery County schools. Both plans were eventually scrapped after being strongly opposed by teacher groups.
Teacher licensing exams, however, have been adopted during the past five years in about 18 states, including Virginia. In Maryland briefer tests in basic reading and mathematic skills are now required in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
Last winter the Virginia State Board of Education, under prodding from the state legislature, adopted a plan requiring all new teachers to get satisfactory ratings after a two-year provisional period, which is similar to the internship proposal in the Maryland panel's plan.
Today only three members of the panel filed a dissenting report -- Daniel Collins, Carol Miller and Beverly Stonestreet, all leaders of MSTA.
"It's just mildly outrageous," McNierney said, "for people in a profession that specializes day after day in grading and evaluating people to say that teachers themselves can't be graded and evaluated."
McNierney, senior vice president of Black & Decker Manufacturing Co., estimated that the total cost of what the commission proposed would come to $51.4 million. He said about half of it would be required for the differentiated pay proposal, which would follow the system of faculty ranks almost universally used in colleges. Hornbeck said the total cost would be only about 2 1/2 percent of the $2 billion now spent on Maryland schools.