Denver  teacher  strike  reveals  US  divide  over  reward  pay

Denver teacher strike reveals US divide over reward pay

By Anne Rowe for DPS board, February 25, 2019

DENVER (AP) — Denver instructors went on strike to enhance their pay, but the fight wasn’t that easy.

Emboldened by teacher advocacy nationwide and struggling to live in a quickly growing city, Denver teachers are challenging one of the country’s earliest incentive pay systems, which is backed by the instructors union and education reform supporters and funded by a voter-passed property tax boost in 2005.

The system known as Expert Settlement, or ProComp, permits teachers to include on to their base salary by earning perks of up to $3,000 a year for working in a hard-to-staff position or high poverty school or if their schools improve.

But teachers state the system is complex and can leave them thinking at what their profits will be.

Sarah Olsen, a third-grade instructor at Maxwell Elementary School, said she was currently living on a tight budget when she lost a piece of her income. The number of students getting free and reduced-price lunch — a step of hardship — dipped listed below the threshold for getting an incentive for a school ranked as “hard to serve.”

She also said the district cut the assured reward to teachers at the school for enhanced test scores.

“There’s simply no consistency with the incentives,” she said. “They can be taken away at any time. They can be decreased.”

With the use of reward pay increasing among districts and states, here’s a look at the discussion:


“We’ve seen a incredible increase in the number of schools, districts and states that are experimenting with reward pay programs across the nation,” said scientist Matthew Springer, who has studied the commonly varying programs for 20 years.

Springer, distinguished teacher of education reform at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, stated an influx of federal funds through programs like Race to the Top and the Teacher Reward Fund have encouraged more states to explore the concept.

Most states now allow for some sort of incentive pay, whether it’s offering bonuses to teach in high-needs schools or topics or basing raises on trainee or instructor performance.

Nine states require districts to consider performance in instructor pay and at least 11 states allow it, according to the nonprofit National Council on Instructor Quality, a research and policy organization. A majority of states incentivize pay for high-needs schools and subjects.


Market-driven recruiting and retention bonuses are normally accepted, but bonuses linked to trainee and teacher efficiency are more questionable. Educators state it’s not reasonable to pay them based on standardized test ratings that are affected by aspects beyond their control, like poverty.

Teachers likewise say they are self-motivated and not driven by perks the method a sales representative might be, for example. Numerous would rather see financing used to boost the base pay of all instructors, not awarded in a way that can develop friction and competitors within a school.

“Performance pay has ended up being just another way of nickel-and-diming teachers because unpredictable perks are no replacement for sustainable living salaries, especially as costs keep increasing,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said. “This just injects more instability into a occupation that’s ending up being ever more precarious.”

In Denver, the primary sticking point over rewards is how much additional to pay teachers who work in high-poverty schools and in one of 30 struggling schools. The district sees those bonuses as key to helping enhance the scholastic efficiency of low-income students. It says it likewise needs to honor the will of voters to invest tax earnings worth about $33 million a year on reward pay.

“There is not one school district in the country that is going to look at Denver and think, ‘Oh, I believe I’ll shot that,'” National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said after signing up with picketing Denver teachers this week.


There are a lot of reasons for reward systems, Springer stated, including the concept that teachers need to be compensated for results in the class, not just years of service.

“One of the things that I believe is important about these systems, particularly properly designed ones, is it’s getting us to a point where we can pay our highest-performing teachers a six-figure salary,” Springer stated. “And I think our finest and brightest educators deserve a six-figure income. But unfortunately, the single income schedule is never ever going to let us get there.”

An incentive pay program also might be less pricey than a general pay raise and an simpler sell for districts in need of taxpayer assistance, he said.


A 2017 analysis of more than 30 studies on benefit pay discovered that it has a modest positive impact on trainee test scores. The academic gains were roughly equivalent to including three weeks of learning to the school year, stated Springer, who co-led the study while a teacher at Vanderbilt University.

An unpublished University of Colorado study of ProComp that compared test scores in Denver with those of close-by districts between 2001 and 2016 discovered the bonus offers may have assisted increase trainee accomplishment.

The research study by assistant professor Allison Atteberry, which is being peer-reviewed, likewise found that the district maintained teachers at greater rates who were rated as more reliable based on their students’ test score development than those ranked as less reliable because the reward system started.

The research study did not discover evidence that the perks caused teachers to transfer into high-poverty or top-performing schools. But there was some indicator that the rate of instructors leaving hard-to-serve schools slowed.


Florida’s teachers union competed in a 2017 claim that the state’s perk program is prejudiced. It relies in part on college entry examination ratings. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this month proposed reforming the program, and no longer connecting it to examinations. He said almost 45,000 extremely effective teachers would be qualified for perks surpassing $9,000.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott won applause in his State of the State address when he raised the concept of gratifying effective teachers with incentives that could help them earn a six-figure wage. But union leaders stated the state test shouldn’t be the procedure of instructor success.

“The governor offers offense to Texas instructors every time he and his education commissioner claim to want more pay for the so-called best teachers,” Louis Malfaro, president of the Texas AFT union, stated in a statement. “The implication being that the hundreds of thousands of ladies and males who teach and assistance the 5.4 million students in Texas’ public schools are not worthy of being paid decently for the hard work they do every day.”


Thompson reported from Buffalo, New York.

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