Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pay for Performance

As we continue our journey toward excellence in education seeking a high level of student performance, there are many opinions on how to get there and stay there. Some of these opinions are differing, to put it mildly, but I believe there’s one universal opinion shared by all.

That common opinion is that improving student achievement, however it might be measured, requires the presence of high-quality teachers. All the Chromebooks and SMART boards in the world cannot fuel and sustain high student achievement without high-quality teachers.

There is no question that successful districts must attract and retain high-quality teachers. In some cases, we can assist our teachers in become high-performing teachers of quality. But, overall, our journey requires the very best teachers.

A much more difficult question, and one for which answers vary, is how do we ensure that high-quality teachers choose and remain at the School District of Janesville? Again, there are differing opinions, but most of us agree that one key element is appropriate compensation. You can’t get quality on the cheap.

Here at the School District of Janesville we have a history of appropriate teacher compensation, especially when compared to our peer districts. That has been, and will continue to be, our goal.  Having said that, new challenges continue to present themselves. Many of these challenges affect our budget. We realize we must continue to provide our teachers with adequate compensation despite these budget challenges.

The next question is how to provide adequate teacher compensation in light of our journey to excellence and the requirement that the journey include high-quality teachers.  Traditionally, teachers have been paid by a single-salary system based on years of experience and credits toward degrees and degrees earned. The only quality built into this system is if one assumes that the longer one teaches and the more credits one accumulates transfers into high quality. Research I have looked at indicates that longevity with additional credits and degrees do not guarantee improved student performance, a critical measure of teacher quality.

I am asking that we look at pay for performance, a one-time reward and/or incentive for results, as a way to provide appropriate compensation to high-quality teachers. Here’s why.

An across-the-board pay increase system does not address problems such as teacher shortages in key areas and turnover. High-quality teachers will leave if not adequately compensated, especially those in key areas such as upper-level math, special education and science. They will leave to other districts that provide appropriate compensation for these high-performers or they will choose to leave education for sectors where they are compensated fairly.

Pay for performance has been implemented with success. You may have read postings in this blog highlighting success with pay for performance in Arkansas. Teacher performance, measured by student achievement gains on the Stanford Achievement test or the Iowa Test of Basic Skills provided the basis for pay for performance rewards in that state.

There are different ways to create a pay for performance system and different ways to administer it.  Different measures based on student achievement can be considered. I am asking for a discussion within those parameters to ensure we recruit and retain the very highest-quality teachers to join us on our journey toward excellence.

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