Denver  instructor  strike  exposes  US  divide  over  bonus  pay

Denver instructor strike exposes US divide over bonus pay

By Anne Rowe for DPS board, February 27, 2019

DENVER (AP) — Denver teachers went on strike to enhance their pay, however the fight wasn’t that simple.

Emboldened by instructor activism nationwide and struggling to live in a quickly growing city, Denver educators challenged one of the nation’s earliest incentive pay systems, which was initially endorsed by the teachers union and education reform advocates.

The system understood as Expert Payment, or ProComp, allows instructors to add on to their base income 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 enhance.

Administrators and instructors on Thursday reached a tentative offer for better pay that ended a three-day walkout. However the union jeopardized on a $3,000 benefit for instructors who work in the district’s most tough schools that it stated wasn’t assisting keep educators in those schools. Both sides agreed to research study teacher turnover and review whether to get rid of that incentive.

Teachers say the bonus system is complex and can leave them guessing at what their revenues will be.

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

She also said the district cut the promised benefit to instructors at the school for enhanced test ratings.

“There’s just no consistency with the incentives,” she stated Wednesday. “They can be taken away at any time. They can be lowered.”

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


“We’ve seen a remarkable increase in the number of schools, districts and states that are experimenting with incentive pay programs throughout the nation,” stated scientist Matthew Springer, who has studied the widely differing programs for 20 years.

Springer, identified professor of education reform at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, stated an increase of federal funds through programs like Race to the Top and the Teacher Incentive Fund have urged more states to check out the idea.

Most states now permit for some sort of reward pay, whether it’s offering perks to teach in high-needs schools or subjects or basing raises on trainee or instructor performance.

Nine states require districts to think about efficiency in teacher pay and at least 11 states enable it, according to the not-for-profit Nationwide Council on Instructor Quality, a research and policy organization. A bulk of states incentivize pay for high-needs schools and subjects.


Market-driven recruiting and retention bonus offers are generally accepted, however bonus offers linked to student and instructor efficiency are more questionable. Educators state it’s not reasonable to pay them based on standardized test ratings that are affected by elements beyond their control, like poverty.

Teachers likewise say they are self-motivated and not driven by bonuses the method a sales representative might be, for example. Lots of would rather see funding used to boost the base pay of all teachers, not awarded in a method that can produce friction and competitors within a school.

“Performance pay has actually ended up being simply another way of nickel-and-diming educators because irregular bonus offers are no substitute for sustainable living wages, specifically as costs keep increasing,” American Federation of Educators President Randi Weingarten said. “This simply injects more instability into a occupation that’s becoming ever more precarious.”

In Denver, the primary sticking point over rewards was how much extra to pay instructors who work in high-poverty schools and in one of 30 struggling schools. The district sees those bonuses as secret to helping enhance the academic efficiency of low-income students. It says it also requires to honor the will of voters to spend tax revenue 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 believe, ‘Oh, I think I’ll shot that,'” National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said after joining picketing Denver instructors this week.


There are a lot of reasons for incentive systems, Springer said, consisting of the idea that instructors need to be compensated for results in the classroom, not simply years of service.

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

An reward pay program also may be less expensive than a general pay raise and an much easier sell for districts in need of taxpayer support, he stated.


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

An unpublished University of Colorado research study of ProComp that compared test scores in Denver with those of nearby districts in between 2001 and 2016 found the bonus offers might have helped boost student achievement.

The study by assistant professor Allison Atteberry, which is being peer-reviewed, likewise discovered that the district kept teachers at greater rates who were ranked as more reliable based on their students’ test rating development than those ranked as less effective because the reward system began.

The study did not discover evidence that the bonuses triggered instructors to transfer into high-poverty or top-performing schools. But there was some sign that the rate of instructors leaving hard-to-serve schools slowed.


Florida’s instructors union contended in a 2017 lawsuit that the state’s bonus offer program is prejudiced. It relies in part on college entry examination scores. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this month proposed reforming the program, and no longer tying it to exams. He said almost 45,000 extremely efficient instructors would be qualified for bonuses surpassing $9,000.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott won applause in his State of the State address when he raised the concept of fulfilling effective instructors with incentives that might aid them earn a six-figure wage. But union leaders said the state test shouldn’t be the step of instructor success.

“The guv gives offense to Texas instructors every time he and his education commissioner claim to desire more pay for the so-called finest instructors,” Louis Malfaro, president of the Texas AFT union, said in a declaration. “The implication being that the hundreds of thousands of ladies and guys who teach and assistance the 5.4 million trainees in Texas’ public schools are unworthy of being paid decently for the hard work they do every day.”


Thompson reported from Buffalo, New York.