Tennessee was one of the first states to win Race to the Top funding, but most districts have not been willing to offer bonuses for higher test scores, as the authors of RTTT hoped. In fact, the number of districts doing so is declining.

Four years after receiving permission to tie teacher pay to their performance, some school districts are moving away from paying teachers based on their evaluations.

“Four districts changed their teacher pay plans in the first year after legislators passed a 2010 law to allow districts to tie salaries to teacher evaluations. The law was part of Tennessee’s successful effort to win federal education funding through the Obama administration’s Race to the Top grant program.
“That number shot up to 57 districts — out of 142 statewide — in 2014 but fell this year to 54, state officials told lawmakers in Nashville on Wednesday.
“Officials did not say which districts had opted out, or why the pace of districts adopting performance-pay plans had slowed.
“But the stagnation could signal that superintendents and school boards are hesitant about putting too much stock in the state’s teacher evaluation system, which was among the first in the nation to use standardized test scores….
“Merit pay is just one of several options available to districts to differentiate pay under a rule that the State Board of Education revised in 2013. The most common option in Tennessee is paying teachers more to teach at high-needs schools, or in subjects where there is a dearth of qualified teachers.
“Officials at the Board and the Department of Education view differentiated pay as a means to attract and retain effective teachers, whom they say do not always have experience or advanced degrees.

“But many educators say teacher pay just needs to be raised in general.”