Teacher pay in Douglas County will move still further from the traditional longevity-and-education-based system to one tied to the quality of instruction. The district rolled out details on its pay-for-performance plan during the Oct. 2 board meeting.
It is recruiting volunteer teachers to participate in a pilot of the program, with full implementation planned for the 2013-14 academic year, according to district spokeswoman Cinamon Watson.
The program is interwoven with the district’s market-based pay system for new hires and world-class education targets. All are aimed at drawing the best teachers to the district, offering them incentives to reach their highest potential and, ultimately, preparing students for careers in a global marketplace.
While pay for performance isn’t new in Douglas County, the program still under development pushes aside the traditional pay system based on years of experience and higher education coursework and degrees.
“We’ve pretty much replaced the old step-and-lane structure (of) experience on the left, education on top,” said the district’s chief human resources officer, Brian Cesare. “We’re saying now it’s going to be performance on the top and market value on the left.”
In 1993, the district worked with its teachers union to introduce one of the first pay-for-performance programs in the country. It included individual and group bonus incentives, with pay based on a combination of teacher knowledge, skills and student performance.
The new program sets more rigorous standards for teacher performance. Teachers who receive high ratings will be eligible for pay increases and bonuses. Those whose ratings fall short of specified goals will be offered coaching and professional development to steer them toward better performance.
The belief, according to Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen, is “that great teachers should make more than good teachers and good teachers should make more than fair teachers.”
Under Colorado Senate Bill 191, the state in 2010 adopted tougher teaching standards, but DCSD is creating its own system.
Not all teachers share the district’s enthusiasm for the plan, in part because the program’s details aren’t cast in concrete yet.
“This concept of pay for performance is still fairly new,” said district spokesman Randy Barber. “We know this isn’t all done yet. We know this is a process that will continue to build. But we felt this was a very critical juncture in which we really needed to make sure people are informed well.”
Some teachers worry performance criteria will be set so high that only a small percentage of them will be eligible for significant pay increases. The district has not offered details yet on how the pay increases will be funded.
Fagen said the current uncertainty is understandable.
“We have to remember we moved the goal post,” she said. “We did so very intentionally because it’s best for our students. We’ve moved away from a pass/fail system. This is a much more robust and specific evaluation.
“Frankly, for a profession I love, we don’t like change very much, (but) this is a big transition. It’s important we approach this in a way that is motivating to people.”