Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pay for Performance

In Performance Pays (Technology & Learning, November 2006) Lindsay Oishi reports on Denver Public Schools “groundbreaking teacher pay for performance system.” Their system four parts – knowledge and skills, professional evaluation, market incentives, and student growth. I was so delighted to hear about a public school system with a balanced merit pay system. When I first started working as a teacher in 1996 after spending six years in industry I was flabbergasted by the pay system. I was evaluated by my supervisor, but it didn’t really matter. It had no effect on my pay.

I was paid the on the same pay scale as every other teacher in a NC public school, based only on years of experience and advanced degrees. Richard* taught math the same way he had taught it for the last 20 years. He lectured and gave problems from the book. He bemoaned the change in “population” at the school and wished for the good ole’ days when the kids were better behaved. He grumbled about attending staff development and you had better not get between him and the door at the end of the school day. Charlie* had been teaching for a number of years too. But he wasn’t counting the days until retirement. He started a new class teaching kids how to do desktop publishing, after he took a course at the local community college on it himself. Although he was not formally mentoring any new teachers he willing spent time with them to offer advice. He was at school all hours, knew the kids and could talk their language. They were both getting the same salary, but everyone knew they weren’t doing the same job.

To bring about the next revolution in education we need to reinvent the compensation system. Teachers who are getting it done need to be rewarded. And it shouldn’t just be based on the results of high stakes testing. It must be a multi-faceted measurement system. I think Denver has the right idea. You can read more about Denver’s program at Dept. of Ed.

*fictitious names

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