Douglas County Colorado experiments with variable teacher pay

11 Jun


Moi wrote in Study: Teacher merit pay works in some situations:


Teacher compensation is a hot education topic. The role of evaluations in compensation, merit pay, pay based upon credentials and higher pay for specialty areas are all hot topics and hot button issues. The Center for American Progress has a report by Frank Adamson and Linda Darling Hammond. 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)


Melanie Smollin has an excellent post at Take Part, Five Reasons Why Teacher Turnover Is On The Rise Marguerite Roza and Sarah Yatsko from the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Education have an interesting February 2010 policy brief.


Stephanie Simon of Reuters writes in the article, Valuing Physics Over P.E., Colorado Schools Test Novel Pay Scale:


A wealthy school district in Colorado is launching a radical experiment that sets a different pay scale for each category of educator, ensuring that even the best third-grade teacher would never earn as much as a veteran high-school math teacher.

The new system, which takes effect next month for all 3,300 educators in suburban Douglas County, Colorado, has sparked fury and resentment among some teachers and some parents. But it has also drawn interest from superintendents around the nation.

“It’s quite novel,” said Eric Hanushek, an education economist at Stanford University.

School districts across the United States have traditionally treated all teachers the same; no matter what grade or subject they taught, they started at the same base salary and received the same raises for experience and advanced degrees.

In recent years, districts have tried to differentiate a bit by offering merit pay to their most effective educators, signing bonuses for teachers in high-poverty schools, and pay bumps for those in hard-to-staff fields, such as special education. But Douglas County’s system goes much further.

The district’s chief human relations officer, Brian Cesare, said he asked school administrators, “Which jobs keep you up at night because they are so difficult to fill?” Using the answers as a gauge of supply and demand, he divided teaching jobs into five salary bands.

Most elementary, art and physical education teachers are in the lowest bracket; their annual salary tops out at $61,000. Middle-and high-school English teachers can earn up to $72,000. High-school science and math teachers draw upper salaries of $82,000. At the very top: Special education therapists, who max out at $94,000.


The broad categories contain some quirks: The district is more selective about kindergarten and first grade teachers than other elementary teachers, Cesare said, so they fall in a higher bracket. Middle school social studies teachers are considered easy to hire, so they’re in the lowest bracket.

The goal, Cesare said, is to “pay the top more… the bottom less.”

No teacher currently employed by Douglas County will have to take a pay cut, but if they’re earning more than their market value, their merit bonuses will be smaller, Cesare said.

A sprawling swath of suburbia between Denver and Colorado Springs, Douglas County is one of the wealthiest in the nation, with a well-regarded school system. A slate of conservative Republicans took control of the school board in 2009 and has pushed through a series of controversial policies, including expanding the number of charter schools and providing vouchers to help students pay tuition at private and religious schools. The voucher system is being challenged in court.

The board abolished traditional tenure protections for teachers in 2010 and said last year it would no longer recognize the teachers’ union after contract negotiations hit an impasse.

With no contract to set guidelines on salaries, performance evaluations or working conditions, the board is free to impose systems like the new market-based pay rate.

“We no longer exist,” said Brenda Smith, the president of the local union, who has mustered protests against the new system but cannot block it.



What the various studies seem to point out is there is no one remedy which works in all situations and that there must be a menu of education options.




A Lively Debate Over Teacher Salaries               


Are Teachers Overpaid?                                      


Some Teachers Skeptical of Merit Pay         




Washington D.C. rolls out merit pay                      


Report from The Compensation Technical Working Group: Teacher compensation in Washington                            


Fordham Institute report: Teacher pensions squeezing states


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