Teacher compensation reform is possible...

Guest blogger Robert Rickenbrode is Director of Teacher Preparation Studies at the National Council on Teacher Quality. In this post, originally published on NCTQ's Pretty Darn Quick blog, he explains the significance of the program profiled in Fordham's latest publication,  Teacher Compensation Based on Effectiveness: The Harrison (CO) School District's Pay-for-Performance Plan.

Imagine
a district teacher compensation system without steps and lanes, without
supplemental payments for extra-duties such as chairing a department, where a
new teacher can receive tens of thousands of dollars in increases in her first
few years, where teacher performance and student achievement are the only
measures, and where teachers are more highly compensated than in the
neighboring systems.

Now
imagine that this doesn't break the budget, that it is implemented in two
years, and that it was developed in cooperation with the teachers union.

Mike Miles, superintendent of the Harrison School District
in Colorado
(and a recent addition to NCTQ's board of directors), did not just imagine such a system: he
has been carefully developing and implementing it over the past several years.
And he's now written a guide to Harrison's system
published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Harrison
has demonstrated a sustainable path towards district compensation reform that
others can emulate.

The
Harrison plan places all teachers into nine
effectiveness levels annually, starting with new teachers, labeled
"novices,” who make $35,000 per year, and culminating with
"master" teachers, who make $90,000. Teachers can move up or down
levels annually, based on the most recent evaluation results. Those who move
down a level receive the lower salary only after two consecutive years at that level.
There are no automatic cost-of-living adjustments—a committee consisting of
district personnel and teachers and leaders from every school review the
entire compensation scale every three years and propose adjustments.

These
placements depend on two equally weighted components: performance and
achievement.

Performance
is measured by a combination of brief and longer principal observations
(ranging from 9 to 18 observations per year per teacher) using a simple, common
rubric.  Achievement is measured for all classroom teachers using eight
"weights" consisting of combinations—specific to grade-level and
subject—of measures like state tests; district semester and quarterly
assessments; district performance tasks; and a variety of college-level
assessments (AP examinations, ACT, etc.). There are 88 different achievement
templates covering all classroom teachers in elementary, middle, and high
school grade-levels.

There's
lots more good thinking (and extraordinary leadership) behind the plan. For
example, the Harrison Plan Focus Group, which consists of an administrator and
two teachers from every school, meets monthly to raise concerns and make
decisions regarding the plan. This group eliminated the original two-tier
design, which differentiated between core and non-core subject teachers and
decided that elementary ESL teachers are accountable for only reading and writing
on state and district assessments (not math or science).

In short, Harrison
has demonstrated a sustainable path towards district compensation reform that
others can emulate. We're hoping Mike is already at work on part 2: a behind
the scenes look at how he was able to get—and keep—everyone on the same page.

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