State to fund planning for alternative educator pay programs
Changes in teacher compensation plan not on horizon for Moffat County
December 20, 2008
The Colorado Department of Education is offering funds to school districts that offer alternative ways of paying teachers.
Paying teachers based on their performance is one option districts could use, said Jami Goetz, CDE Office of Professional Services executive director.
The program has $980,000 to offer state school districts that apply. The funds can only be used to create plans that will improve student achievement and teacher retention through alternative teacher pay models.
Plans also could include methods to gauge teacher effectiveness and attract teachers to struggling schools.
“The goal for the program is to decrease the drop-out rate, close achievement gaps and increase the number of postsecondary degrees and certificates awarded to students,” Goetz said in a news release.
Still, Moffat County School District won’t participate in the program without having weighed the pros and cons.
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“I think you have to go cautiously into those different, alternative salary models,” Superintendent Pete Bergmann said.
In his view, different ways of paying teachers can be effective, but would take time and care to implement.
“I think that when you start changing a system that has been in place with a salary structure, it can be very time consuming and difficult to do and do it right,” Bergmann said.
“So, it wouldn’t be something we’d be looking to jump into.”
Michele Conroy, Moffat County Education Association co-president, was contacted for this article but declined to comment, saying she hadn’t researched the issue enough to make a statement at this time.
Dennis Carlson, director of Ski Country UniServ, has worked with bargaining agreements in Eagle County School District, which uses a performance-based pay model.
Ski Country UniServ is a field office for the Colorado Education Association, a teacher’s union.
“At first, it was a struggle for (teachers), mostly because it was pushed on them,” he said. “They really didn’t have a choice as to whether they were going to do it or how it would be done.”
Some of the friction generated by the program was caused when a teacher compensation model designed primarily for elementary school was moved into middle and high schools.
With help from Ski Country UniServ, Eagle County Education Association, a branch of CEA, has adjusted components of the alternative compensation package. Changes include reducing teacher performance evaluations by half, from six per year to three. Through bargaining agreements, teachers also have secured a 2- to 6-percent pay raise annually, based on their performance.
Ultimately, Carlson believes performance-based pay can be effective if all stakeholders are consulted during the planning and implementation stages.
“There needs to be buy-in from the beginning to make it work,” he said.