Washington D.C. rolls out merit pay

2 Jan

All politics is local.

Thomas P. O’Neill

Moi would like to modify that quote a bit to all education is local and occurs at the neighborhood school. We really should not be imposing a straight jacket on education by using a one-size-fits-all approach. Every school, in fact, every classroom is its own little microclimate. We should be looking at strategies which work with a given population of children.

A Healthy Child In A Healthy Family Who Attends A Healthy School In A Healthy Neighborhood. ©

Teachers and schools have been made TOTALLY responsible for the education outcome of the children, many of whom come to school not ready to learn and who reside in families that for a variety of reasons cannot support their education. All children are capable of learning, but a one-size-fits-all approach does not serve all children well. Different populations of children will require different strategies and some children will require remedial help, early intervention, and family support to achieve their education goals. There should also be different strategies about teacher compensation. Washington D.C. is trying out a merit pay system.

Sam Dillion reports in the New York Times article, In Washington, Large Rewards in Teacher Pay:

During her first six years of teaching in this city’s struggling schools, Tiffany Johnson got a series of small raises that brought her annual salary to $63,000, from about $50,000. This year, her seventh, Ms. Johnson earns $87,000.

That latest 38 percent jump, unheard of in public education, came after Ms. Johnson was rated “highly effective” two years in a row under Washington’s new teacher evaluation system. Those ratings also netted her back-to-back bonuses totaling $30,000.

Lots of teachers leave the profession, but this has kept me invested to stay,” said Ms. Johnson, 29, who is a special-education teacher at the Ron H. Brown Middle School in Northeast Washington. “I know they value me.”

That is exactly the idea behind what admirers consider the nation’s most advanced merit pay system for public school teachers. This fall, the District of Columbia Public Schools gave sizable bonuses to 476 of its 3,600 educators, with 235 of them getting unusually large pay raises.

We want to make great teachers rich,” said Jason Kamras, the district’s chief of human capital….

The most important role for incentives is in shaping who enters the teaching profession and who stays,” said Eric A. Hanushek, a professor of economics at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. “Washington’s incentive system will attract talented teachers, and it’ll help keep the best ones.”

Under the system, known as Impact Plus, teachers rated “highly effective” earn bonuses ranging from $2,400 to $25,000. Teachers who get that rating two years in a row are eligible for a large permanent pay increase to make their salary equivalent to that of a colleague with five more years of experience and a more advanced degree.

Those rewards come with risk: to receive the bonuses and raises, teachers must sign away some job security provisions outlined in their union contract. About 20 percent of the teachers eligible for the raises this year and 30 percent of those eligible for bonuses turned them down rather than give up those protections.

One persistent critic of the system is Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers Union, who argues that the evaluations do not adequately take into account the difficulties of working in poor neighborhoods. He also says that performance pay inappropriately singles out stars.

This boutique program discourages teachers from working together,” Mr. Saunders said. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/education/big-pay-days-in-washington-dc-schools-merit-system.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

It is interesting that some eligible teachers decided not to participate in the program.

Dave Eggers and NÍnive Clements Calegari have a provocative article in the New York Times, The High Cost of Low Teacher SalariesThe Center for American Progress has a report by Frank Adamson and Linda Darling Hammond which discusses the importance of teacher pay.

In the report, Speaking of Salaries: What It Will Take to Get Qualified, Effective Teachers In All Communities Adamson and Darling- Hammond write:

As Education Trust President Kati Haycock has noted, the usual statistics about teacher credentials, as shocking as they are, actually understate the degree of the problem in the most impacted schools:

The fact that only 25% of the teachers in a school are uncertified doesn’t mean that the other 75% are fine. More often, they are either brand new, assigned to teach out of field, or low-performers on the licensure exam … there are, in other words, significant numbers of schools that are essentially dumping grounds for unqualified teachers – just as they are dumping grounds for the children they serve….

Download this report (pdf)

Download the executive summary (pdf)

Teacher compensation is important to retaining quality teachers.

Melanie Smollin has an excellent post at Take Part, Five Reasons Why Teacher Turnover Is On The Rise

With approximately 1.6 million teachers set to retire in the next decade, replenishing America’s teaching force should be a top priority. But filling classrooms with new teachers is only half the battle. Retaining them is equally important.

Numerous studies show that teachers perform best after being in the classroom for at least five years. According to a McKinsey study, 14 percent of American teachers leave after only one year, and 46 percent quit before their fifth year. In countries with the highest results on international tests, teacher turnover rates are much lower—around 3 percent.

This constant cycling in and out of new teachers is a costly phenomena. Students miss being taught by experienced educators, and schools and districts nationwide spend about $2.2 billion per year recruiting and training replacements.

Why are so many new teachers fleeing the profession after so few years in the classroom? Here are the top five reasons teacher turnover is an ongoing challenge:

5. BURNOUT: A recent U.C. Berkeley study of Los Angeles charter schools found unusually high rates of teacher turnover. At the 163 charter schools studied, teacher turnover hovered around 40 percent, compared to 15 percent at traditional public schools.

Since demands on charter school educators are seemingly boundless, including extended hours, researchers theorized, burnout is a viable explanation for the teacher exodus. “We have seen earlier results showing that working conditions are tough and challenging in charter schools,” explained U.C. Berkeley’s Bruce Fuller. “Charter teachers wear many hats and have many duties and are teaching urban kids, challenging urban kids, but we were surprised by the magnitude of this effect.”

4.THREAT OF LAYOFFS: In response to annual budget shortfalls, districts nationwide have sent pink slips to tens of thousands of teachers each spring for the past four years. In 2011, California sent out 30,000.

Retired teacher and author Jaime O’Neill believes this ongoing threat to job security has a destabilizing effect. As a new teacher, he wrote, you can expect your job “threatened each and every year when the annual state budget reveals once more that big cuts to education are coming, that you’ve been pink slipped until or unless there’s a last-minute reprieve. That yearly panic will cause you to wonder why you ever went into teaching in the first place, and you will surely make plans to seek other employment with each mention of just how precarious your employment is.”

3. LOW WAGES: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently said that teachers should earn between $60,000 and $150,000 per year. That’s a far cry from the current national average starting salary for teachers, which is $35,139.

Linda DeRegnaucourt, an accomplished high school math teacher, told CNN that after working for five years without a raise, and taking home an annual salary of $38,000, she simply cannot afford to continue doing the job she loves. DeRegnaucourt, like many other teachers, will leave the profession to pursue a more lucrative career.

2. TESTING PRESSURE: Since the No Child Left Behind Act was introduced in 2001, standardized test scores in math and reading have become the most important accountability measure used to evaluate schools.

Studies show that pressure to raise student test scores causes teachers to experience more stress and less job satisfaction. Many educators resent narrowing curriculum and stifling creativity in favor of teaching to the test.

On the National Center for Education Information’s “Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011,” the majority of comments submitted by survey respondents were “expressions of strong opposition to the current emphasis on student testing.”

As states increasingly rely on standardized test scores to evaluate individual educators, determine teacher pay and make lay-off decisions, testing pressure will only increase.

1. POOR WORKING CONDITIONS: When the Gates foundation polled 40,000 teachers about job satisfaction, the majority agreed that supportive leadership, time for collaboration, access to high quality curriculum and resources, clean and safe buildings, and relevant professional development were even more important than higher salaries.

But working conditions in many public schools remain far from this ideal—especially for beginning teachers, who are most likely to be assigned to the highest-need schools. Despite the added challenges they face, these teachers are often given few resources and little professional support.

Marguerite Roza and Sarah Yatsko from the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Education have an interesting February 2010 policy brief.

In Beyond Teacher Reassignments: Better Ways School Districts Can Remedy Salary Inequities Across Schools Districts Roza and Yatsko report:

Inside nearly all large school districts, the most experienced and highly paid teachers congregate in the more affluent schools. The opposite takes place in the poorer schools, where teachers tend to be more junior and lower paid, and teacher turnover is higher. Financially, this maldistribution means that a larger share of the district’s salary dollars are spent on the more affluent schools, and conversely, the poorer schools with lower salaries draw down less funds per pupil. The problem, of course, is that the resulting dollar allocation patterns work to reinforce achievement gaps, not address them….

This brief addresses this concern by demonstrating that districts would NOT need to mandatorily reassign teachers. It shows that there are other ways to restructure allocations that do not systematically shortchange the neediest schools. Discussed here are four options that districts could pursue to remedy school spending inequities created by uneven salaries:

  • Option 1: Apply teacher salary bonuses to some schools to balance salaries

  • Option 2: Vary class size across schools to level spending

  • Option 3: Concentrate specialist and support staff in schools with lower-salaried teachers

  • Option 4: Equalize per-pupil dollar allocations

Download Full Report (PDF: 736 K)

The goal of putting a quality teacher in every classroom depends upon preserving the ranks of quality teachers during times of tight budgets.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

 

One Response to “Washington D.C. rolls out merit pay”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Study: Teacher merit pay works in some situations « drwilda - July 27, 2012

    […] Washington D.C. rolls out merit pay                  https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/washington-d-c-rolls-out-merit-pay/ […]

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