Archive for the ‘Teacher Incentive fund’ Category

Colorado’s Evaluation-Compensation Pilot Proposal

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

The state of Colorado has embarked on an ambitious principal and teacher evaluation program that may change how teachers are compensated, retained, and dismissed.

Based on Colorado’s SB10-191 law, the Colorado Department of Education is creating evaluation criteria for principals and teachers that school districts will use by 2013.

The first pilot of principal evaluation will occur in 2011-12 in selected school districts.  The major evaluation categories include:

I: Principals demonstrate strategic leadership

II: Principals demonstrate instructional leadership

III: Principals demonstrate school culture and equity leadership

IV: Principals demonstrate human resource leadership

V: Principals demonstrate managerial leadership

VI: Principals demonstrate external development leadership

VII: Principals demonstrate leadership around student growth

A pilot of teacher evaluation will begin in 2012-13.  The major evaluation categories include:

I: Teachers demonstrate knowledge of the content they teach

II: Teachers establish a respectful learning environment for a diverse population of students

III: Teachers facilitate learning for their students

IV: Teachers reflect on their practice

V: Teachers demonstrate leadership

VI: Teachers take responsibility for student growth

The complete program, with evaluation revisions, will roll out in 2013-14.

Annual performance evaluation is a feature of employment in the private sector.  In many instances, compensation relates to the assessment.  A number of school districts, including the state’s largest, Jefferson County Schools, will base compensation on annual evaluation.

Jefferson County School District will use its bargaining relationship with its Associations to put together its evaluation-compensation program.  Due to huge budget cuts, the District engaged in a “Summit” in March, 2011, to find $40 million in cuts.  All Associations came together to identify where fees would rise, staffing trims would take place, and programs would end.  The outcome resulted in a 93 percent approval vote by Associations in support of their contracts, despite an across the board 3 percent salary reduction.

A task force from the Summit will recommend a strategic compensation program that may involve two salary platforms: one for current teachers and one for new teachers.

The new teacher program is likely to remove traditional annual step raises and level lifts.  Tuition assistance will replace levels and compensation based on performance will replace steps.

The new compensation system will create a capacity to increase income based on overall performance and incentives based on specific achievement targets or goals.  As an example, steps based on years may be replaced by steps based on “two consecutive years of meeting performance expectations.”  Incentive pay may occur for achieving specific targets, such as “all students score proficient or above on 3rd grade math assessment.”

Much of this work requires refinement and experimentation.  Currently the District is implementing a $37 million Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant to determine whether incentive pay can substantially improve student academic performance in Title 1 schools.  Results of this study will affect the design of the District’s compensation and evaluation program.

Districts are beginning to incorporate some business practices from the private sector.  What’s unknown at this point is whether private sector practices, even well-tested best practices, will transfer to the public education environment.

Colorado Lost RTTT, but Jeffco wins big with TIF

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Public school teacher compensation has taken shots from every direction based on its lock-step grid structure.  Generally, all teachers in a district who have worked ten years and have 30 post-secondary credits receive the same salary.

Jefferson County School District in Colorado, the largest district in the state, is piloting a completely different compensation program funded by a $32.8 million federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant.

The grant provides money for a 20-school pilot project at elementary and middle schools with at least 50% of students on free or reduced price lunch.  Ten schools will pilot the new compensation plan; ten “control” schools will receive an across-the-board one percent pay increase and all the additional professional development services of the grant.  Teachers in the control group will continue to be paid for “steps and levels” negotiated in the District’s teacher contract.

The new strategic compensation plan is the result of collaboration by Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA), the teacher’s bargaining unit, district administration, and the school board.  It divides compensation into three tiers:  new teachers, experienced classroom teachers, and teacher leaders.  The pay structure looks like this:

Tier 1:  $40,000-$50,000

Tier 2:  $55,000-$75,000

Tier 3:  $80,000-$100,000

In Jeffco’s “steps and levels” structure, beginning salary is $33,000, and salaries top out at about $85,000.

How does the compensation plan work?

New teachers will start at $40,000 and will have a minimum of three years, and up to five years, to move out of the first tier.  During that time, they will establish annual individual, team, and school goals.  They will receive additional compensation, up to a total of $10,000, for goals met.  Goals include student achievement and growth using the Colorado Department of Education growth model.  Theoretically, new teachers can earn up to $50,000 their first year out.

Tier 2 teachers represent the experienced teacher corps.  These teachers will also establish individual, team, and school goals.  They will receive pay based on goal achievement levels, with up to $20,000 on the table.

Tier 3 teachers will serve as teacher leaders.  This level continues the career pathway set by Tiers 1 and 2, focusing on additional value that leaders bring.  These teachers may work longer days or more days during the school year.  They will mentor, provide data analysis skill, do model teaching, and/or perform peer performance evaluation.  With an entry salary of $80,000, these teachers can earn up to an additional $20,000.  Ideally, this tier will offer teachers a chance to try out leadership roles that can prepare them for administration leadership positions.

Additional professional development

Compensation change isn’t the only purpose of the TIF grant.  The district will create professional development programs for both pilot and control schools.  Schools will also receive an additional half-time vice principal to help manage the grant.

Overall the grant, distributed over five years, encourages creativity and innovation to ensure that children in low-income areas receive the support and powerful teaching necessary for their success.

Program received with mixed results

The JCEA is now meeting with the 25 elementary and middle schools that meet the free and reduced lunch criteria.  High schools are currently excluded from the study because of their size.  Issues have arisen around teachers at the top end of the current salary structure.  Some salary adjusting in Tier 2 will have to occur to accommodate the transition.  Some teachers are eager for the opportunity; others see risks and are “wait and see.”

Teachers’ union key to developing the plan

The Jefferson County Education Association was a critical player in developing the plan.  The union wants to take a lead role in figuring out how their professional compensation will look in the 21st century.  Kerrie Dallman, president of JCEA, said, “I am excited about this grant because it gives Jeffco teachers the opportunity to shape our profession now and in the future.  We know change is coming, and we want to help plan that change.”

Answering important core “reform” questions

Does teacher compensation affect teacher performance?  Does more focused professional development make the most difference for kids?    A related question is whether such a plan will attract a broader array of college students into the teaching profession if they can increase their income faster than in the current system.  JCEA wants to know if having a career path giving teachers more leadership opportunities will make a critical difference.

The five-year time frame may not be long enough to adequately test these premises, but much is at stake in the Jeffco study: new ways of thinking about compensation, professional development, career opportunities, new teacher training, and especially union-management collaboration.


Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

June 1, 2010, states sent in their second round Race to the Top applications.  However, the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) may be seen as the great idea to help states and school districts solve the dilemma of compensating all personnel fairly, evaluating performance objectively, and using bonuses to motivate strong employees to do their best.

public elemenatary school in Colorado

public elemenatary school in Colorado

Too bad the research for TIF guidelines didn’t use (as yet) Scholastic’s Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on America’s Schools. The March 3, 2010, survey clearly noted that teachers do not do a good job because they may get bonuses.  As long as the pay is fair and adequate, they are more interested in collaboration for student success, good relations with the school community, clear standards common across the states, and strong support from the school administrators, school board, and superintendent.

Even so, school districts and states are going to try for TIF.  With deficit school budgets, how else are school districts going to keep high-quality teachers needed to innovate to reach today’s students (a strong consideration in the Scholastic survey)?  In fact, how are the schools going to establish innovative evaluations which “accurately measure teacher performance” unless they receive a grant to make it happen?

TIF guidelines are premised on the concept that tenure following a “steps and levels” salary schedule and ‘time in the system’ priority for transfer options leads to implicit (if not obvious) incentives for teachers and administrators to move to the least challenging schools.  Thus, low-performing schools are left with the newest or those least willing to make change of any kind.

Five core elements to receive a TIF grant are

1) A plan that communicates clearly what a “performance based compensation system” (PBCS) would look like.  One component that will take determined leadership to design.

2) The entire school community, including unions, must come to the table.

3) Rigorous, transparent, fair evaluation procedures that include, but are not limited to, student achievement (i.e. tests) and multiple observations in the classroom.

4) Data management and analysis.

5) Professional development to improve teaching strategies and time to analyze data.

As of April 2009 seven schools have implemented TIF with TAP, the Teacher Advancement Program designed under the auspices of the Milken Family Foundation in Santa Monica, CA.  The model has been promoted since 2000 by Lowell Milken, lawyer and philanthropist, with strong business connections which are seen the moment one reads the philosophy and assumptions of the model.

Now that schools, districts, states are looking for ways to change the tenure-evaluation-compensation design, TAP is the go-to model.  Most districts, of course, don’t have time or money to spend to plan a completely new paradigm.

The website says TAP provides on-the-job teacher training, career advancement, instructionally focused accountability, and performance-based compensation.  It says that performance award programs are successful when integrated with strong teacher leadership, professional development, and reliable analysis of student achievement-three of the factors that teachers in the Scholastic survey wanted.

Actually, when one finds a description of the process at a school using TAP, it looks very similar to many turn-around models designed to improve student achievement by making the most of teacher preparation, coaching, and collaboration on data analysis.

The big difference is the focus on bonus pay as the incentive to get teachers to take on a model to turn around a high-need school.  And, so far, studies don’t address bonus pay as a determining factor for good schools.  Finally, the website for TAP doesn’t address the problem of tenure, a negotiating factor with unions.

Colorado’s Big Bet

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Colorado has placed a big bet on how to improve student testing outcomes through more frequent teacher evaluation.  Senate Bill 10-191 sets in motion a vast assessment system of annual performance appraisal for all teachers.

Probationary teachers must receive three consecutive satisfactory reviews to move to non-probationary, or tenured, status.  Tenured teachers will drop to probationary status with two consecutive years of unsatisfactory performance.

The legislature put no new money into the system to pay for expanded evaluation, yet alone additional compensation for superior performance.  After all, Colorado is so broke that the legislature reduced education spending by $260 million for 2010-2011.

So what’s a school district to do?  Why of course… apply to the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant program!

So far, the U.S. Dep’t of Ed has funded 33 TIF plans.  According to Jonathan Eckhart, Wheaton College, only six are currently deemed successful in their impact on student learning.  The typical plan drops bonus dollars on teachers on top of the traditional steps and levels compensation system.

Jefferson County School District, the 37th largest district in the country and largest in Colorado, may attempt something else.  Jeffco is looking at tying its whole compensation system to student outcomes by eliminating steps and levels in their traditional format.

Essentially, the District is exploring the idea of paying teachers on a goal-based system.  SB10-191 declares that 50 percent of each teacher’s evaluation is based on student test outcomes.  Districts have some flexibility in choosing the assessments, but about 40 percent of teachers will receive 50 percent of their performance rating based on the state’s CSAP test.  In Jefferson County, the remaining 50 percent of assessment may be based on team and school goal-setting.

Teachers may also gain more pay by providing added value to the district through their contributions to student success, teacher mentoring, curriculum improvements, professional development, and serving on teacher appraisal teams.

The new system envisions a four tier set up.  The first tier includes new teachers.  The second tier includes teachers who work primarily in the classroom.  The third tier requires additional certifications and expanded teaching and professional development responsibilities.  The fourth tier will probably be a hybrid of teacher/administrator.

Teachers will receive additional pay within tiers as their work with students produces positive results.  As teachers move across tiers, taking on more responsibility for leadership and professional development, they may receive additional jumps.

But the District cannot afford this program without help.  The Teacher Incentive Fund grant program, if the district’s proposal is accepted, will provide the additional dollars for at least five years for up to 10 schools in a pilot program.

After the pilot program, there’s the great unknown. If the program succeeds, will the district be able to scale it up, as it also tries to keep current with other program innovations necessary for a 21st century education?  If the program succeeds, will the Jefferson County taxpayer and the state of Colorado reward the district for its success?

These are big questions as the district moves into untested territory to see if a non-steps and levels compensation system can kick start and sustain significant improvements in student academic outcomes.