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Co-authors and Chalkboard staffers Julie Smith, educator effectiveness coordinator, and Bev Pratt, TIF grant manager, will be presenting a blog post series this summer on teacher compensation.
This is the first blog post in that series.
Merit pay is defined as paying teachers for increases in student test scores and has been proven time and again not to work for students or teachers, and we at Chalkboard agree. Teachers work hard for their students every day and so to say “We will pay you more, or pay you a bonus if your scores increase” does not suddenly make a teacher more effective. When we dig deeper into claims that merit pay systems work, we find that it is not the merit pay that makes teachers more effective, but it is the system of supports put in place to ensure teachers reach their professional and student goals.
Over the years, alternative compensation systems have evolved to include many different components based on the performance of both teachers and students, as well as on teachers improving their professional practice. For example, last month we visited a Colorado district that had a version of merit—or performance—pay in place that purported to be making a difference for kids. When we probed deeper to understand why the district was seeing improvements in student learning, it turned out the educators had a clear picture of what they needed to do to refine their practices, and had supports in place to help them meet those goals. The district also had a very well defined assessment system, designed with teachers’ input.
Portland, Maine, also designed an alternative compensation system when they moved from an experience-based pay model (first introduced in the early 1900’s) to a professional-learning-based salary system. Instead of teachers having to pay for college credits to advance across a traditional salary schedule, teachers had the option of opting into the new system that recognized educators as lifelong learners who continued to improve and adapt their teaching practice. Again, the redesign of their compensation model led to a focus on providing and valuing meaningful professional learning opportunities for teachers to enhance their craft to ensure they are effective with all kids.
Systems of support can and should exist with or without increases in pay for performance. An effective system regardless of the compensation system makes sure teachers are receiving quality professional learning opportunities focused on instruction, student engagement, understanding standards, and formative assessment. These quality-learning opportunities are embedded and ongoing, and they are collaborative among peers, with opportunities for independent learning. Most importantly, these districts prioritize professional learning by allocating resources, compensation, and time.
Educating kids today is different than it was a generation ago. We cannot assume teachers can adapt to this new environment just because they need too. Teachers and district leaders need to come together to collaboratively design effective professional learning opportunities that support the acquisition of new knowledge, skill development, exploration of beliefs and assumptions, and opportunities to practice. Together, they must refine the application of new learning and evaluate the impact of their learning on all students.
Stay tuned. The next blog in this series will explore alternative compensation models that support this type of deeper learning!
Bev is Chalkboard’s TIF grant manager and helps organize Chalkboard’s annual all-district meeting.
What happens when you bring together educators and school leaders for an all-day event to share innovations and best practices? You get a super-charged environment of learning, collaboration, creativity, and connection.
That’s exactly what happened on May 12, when more than 150 participants—teachers, building and district administrators, and union representatives—attended Chalkboard’s annual all-district meeting in Eugene. The educators, representatives from districts participating in either the Teacher Incentive Fund or School District Collaboration Fund grants, engaged with statewide peers and learned about innovative practices in Colorado and Tennessee.
In the name of learning together, three Colorado school districts shared their experience of designing a hybrid model for teacher leadership, redesigning the classroom to better align the curriculum with today’s global society, and rethinking educator compensation system for effectiveness and growth. Denver, Douglas County, and Harrison school districts challenged the participants to envision innovative approaches to transforming teaching and learning.
As one participant noted, “It was nice for our team to see what could be designed and hear from teachers about how their leadership roles support students and fellow teachers, and increase their own effectiveness. Triple win!”
Another winning presentation came from Tennessee’s Lipscomb University. Dean Debra Boyd shared the differences in working conditions based on generational characteristics, particularly as Generation Y’ers enter the education workforce. A timely topic about hiring and retention: one that many were dealing with back in their own districts. “If this information were presented two or three years ago, the audience response would have been much different,” remarked one attendee. “But now that our districts have been working on this for the last five years, this doesn’t feel as threatening as before.”
From presentations, to round tables, to brainstorming sessions, it didn’t take long to feel the power of collaboration: educators stepping outside the box, exploring opportunities, and engaging deeply in meaningful learning experiences.
And as the day came to a close, I came away excited about the energy, connectedness, and sharing that took place among passionate educators, who will go back to their districts, schools, and classrooms, and ignite the passion of learning in the children they serve.
Steve Campbell teaches at Ponderosa Middle School in Klamath Falls. A teacher for more than 22 years in Oregon, he was the local teacher association’s president the last four years, and has been involved with CLASS for the past three years and serves as the compensation committee chairperson.
I will honestly admit that I wasn’t very excited to travel to Colorado in February for the Douglas County School District Innovation Summit and Harrison School District #2 visit. At least I wasn’t attending by myself, but instead attending with an Oregon delegation of TIF and Collaboration grantees, plus Dale Rooklyn, our Chalkboard Coach, and Bev Pratt of Chalkboard Project. But in the end, I enjoyed the presentations and seeing the work they are doing in the areas of assessment, teacher evaluation, and compensation.
I didn’t agree with everything they did, however. I was disappointed in how their reforms were created without union involvement—there is perhaps 20 percent union membership in Colorado. I’m grateful for Chalkboard’s assistance in helping the teachers association become a prominent part of the CLASS reforms in Klamath Falls. Having union participation adds important checks and balances to the development process, and, in my opinion, the CLASS program has added greatly to the collaborative relationship between the school district and the association.
My biggest takeaway from Colorado is learning how these school districts created their own assessments after deciding the statewide assessments don’t evaluate what they feel are important.
Harrison School District’s teacher evaluation processes were compelling, and I wish I could have had more time to talk to their teachers about how they felt about scoring and evaluations, accomplished without association input. I flipped through a three-ring binder that included forms that teachers submit for review, outlining their achievements in the field such as mentoring, leadership, additional training, student scores, and others. This application is reviewed, scored, and used to evaluate if a teacher or principal deserves pay increases. As well as being a tool to evaluate pay increases, the reverse is also true—a teacher can go down in pay scale if their work performance falls below a prescribed level of expectations for two consecutive years.
Unfortunately, some of the things I really liked can’t really be replicated down here in Klamath Falls. Perhaps at some of Oregon’s largest school districts, but we have a small district of about 4,000 students, and the Douglas County district has 65,000 students, and we just don’t have the staff to do what they do. Harrison School District had 13 people working exclusively on writing assessments for every grade level.
Back in Colorado, there was a school superintendent who described the boldness of their reforms by saying, “We run with scissors.” They take chances and go for the big things in Denver and as a result, they are at the leading edge by trying new and different things. Here in Klamath Falls, Oregon, our Collaboration grant committees are testing the waters to make meaningful and lasting change happen to improve the profession of teaching, and increase the quality of education for all of our students and the families we serve. And I’ve learned—you can’t judge a conference until you’ve been there.
Dr. Andrew Dyke is a Senior Economist at ECONorthwest. He specializes in program evaluation and applied microeconomic analysis. He develops and applies sophisticated econometric models for many policy areas, including crime, education and labor economics. His recent project work includes student achievement growth modeling for Chalkboard Project’s federally funded Teacher Incentive Fund grant, an evaluation of Oregon’s Employer Workforce Training Fund, and regional economic modeling for TriMet and the Puget Sound Regional Council.
We all know this: Improving education to promote student outcomes—academic, social, and otherwise—is hard work, and it requires risk-taking and experimentation to succeed. Unfortunately, it’s also all too easy for individuals—educators and researchers, alike—to assume that they have found the magic bullet, if only everyone would sit up and listen… As a result, the “next big thing” often gets oversold as proven technology, implemented too quickly, and frequently discarded before the final results are in. Good ideas as well as bad can suffer the same fate. (more…)
Kathleen Sundell is President of the Salem-Keizer Education Association. She has been a special educator for 38 years. Kathleen received her bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and two master’s degrees from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She has been an advocate through her career and has worked to foster collaborative relationships. Kathleen has been at the forefront of the education reform effort in Salem-Keizer, chairing its Performance Evaluation Committee, which, through collaboration among teachers, administrators and central office personnel, redesigned the evaluation system for 2200 Salem Keizer educators.
As I sit next to my companion on our way to a conference, I think about how far I’ve come. You see, I am the President of the one of the largest Teacher’s Association/Union local in the state, my companion is our District Superintendent, Dr. Sandra Husk, and the conference is a joint labor-management conference. We will join our school board chair and share with districts from all over the nation how we collaborate around District and Association issues big and small. Little did I know, fifteen years ago, that this special education teacher from small town Iowa would be leading her colleagues in education reform.
How did we get here? Dr. Husk introduced us to the CLASS (Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success) Project. We were skeptical at first, and unsure about what it was and why we would sign on. But as we talked, we realized that our educators wanted different career opportunities without leaving the classroom; our professional development system, while improved, still needed work; and, we needed a new evaluation system since ours hadn’t been updated since 1983. What CLASS funding brought us most was time and expertise. The grant gave us time for collaboration, and guidance from our CLASS coach, Chalkboard staff, and experts that they brought in from all over the country. Also, time to talk about issues important to educators. (more…)
The US Department of Education has put out the draft priorities for the next round of the Teacher Incentive Fund and invited public feedback. The Teacher Incentive Fund provides grant dollars to school districts and partners that want to explore ways to recognize and reward effective teaching. More about TIF and the proposed priorities can be found here.
We have learned quite a bit from being part of a Teacher Incentive Fund grant along with six Oregon school districts. You can read our full feedback letter to the USDOE here. Here are the highlights:
Evaluations: Require a minimum of four, not three, categories for teaching proficiency
In the proposed selection criteria, the Department requires a Rigorous, Valid, and Reliable Educator Evaluation System that includes at least three performance levels. However, advice from respected national leaders, including Charlotte Danielson, indicates that a three-level proficiency system leads to “central tendency,” or the notion that most professionals will end up in the middle category because it is safer to mark and easier to defend. This provides less differentiation for informed practice and limits the distinctions needed for improvement. Additionally, we note that every respected national model has a minimum of four levels. We are not aware of any respected, research-based rubrics for teaching proficiency based upon a three level framework.
As a former teacher, principal and assistant superintendent, I know very well that educators can tend to have their own language that makes non-educators’ eyes glaze over. Differentiated instruction, common core, instructional rounds, etc. could all describe a range of activities that have nothing to do with teaching or learning.
Translating the education-ease for a public audience can be a tricky endeavor. We want the public to understand the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the strategy or intervention, but we don’t want to oversimplify the work. Unfortunately, the term ‘educator evaluation’ suffers from an oversimplification. Whether or not the oversimplification is justified in many cases, it is important that we begin to redefine the term.
The term ‘evaluation’ often brings up images of an inspection or other high-pressure situations in which there is a black and white decision made: yes or no, thumbs up or thumbs down, raise or no raise, continuation of employment or lay-off. When the evaluation is put in the context of teaching, the assumption is made that teachers are being graded as good or bad. Evaluation can and should be something a lot more than a grade or ranking.
WHAT IS A ‘VALUE-ADDED MODEL’ AND HOW IS ‘VAM’ BEING USED IN OREGON?
We are continuing our webinar series with a conversation about value-added models–a complex statistical tool for measuring student growth. The discussion will include an explanation of what VAM is, how it is different than other measures of school performance, and a bit of national and local context around how it is being used in education.
Each of these virtual brown bags are designed to provide you with relevant news about education issues and to hear first-hand accounts of ongoing developments from local, state and national policy experts and educators.
JOIN US FOR THIS CONVERSATION.
TOPIC: What is a value-added model?
WHEN: Wednesday, February 22, 12:00 PM- 1:00 PM
WHERE: Join us online at http://bit.ly/yFz1V4