The once-vaunted teacher merit-pay plan in Texas will be converted this fall into a state grant program that pays for innovative education initiatives in a few dozen poor schools.
Nearly half of Texas teachers—about 180,000—received bonuses under the plan two years ago for higher test scores and student achievement. That was slashed by 90 percent after legislators made unprecedented funding cuts in education to ease a budget crunch.
The merit-pay program was kept alive the past two years in hopes that it could be resurrected when the state’s revenue situation improved.
But the legislature passed a measure this year to virtually kill it. The remaining funding, down to $24 million from a high of $392 million in the 2010-11 state budget, will be shifted into the new grant program.
GOP Gov. Rick Perry, who led the original drive to implement merit pay, signed the bill into law this summer with little fanfare.
The last bonus checks under the program were distributed to teachers this fall. Roughly 18,000 educators qualified.
An independent study of the program found that students in schools with merit pay had greater test-score gains than those in schools without merit pay. The schools also had less teacher turnover.
Bonuses were based primarily on student test scores. But each district developed its own criteria for distributing the money using state guidelines. In some cases, bonuses were given to deserving teachers across the district; in others, they were directed at a select group of schools.
Replacing the program will be the Educator Excellence Innovation Program. It will be aimed at all teacher experience levels, including preparing new teachers to be successful in the classroom and providing veteran teachers with new career pathways.
A version of this article appeared in the October 09, 2013 edition of Education Week as Texas Axes Teacher Merit-Pay Plan