Editor’s note: Denver instructors reached a tentative deal on Feb. 14 that ended a three-day strike.
Besides raises of 7 to 11 percent, one of the concessions they won was the end of performance-based pay, which they said was undependable and led to unacceptably low base pay.
Nathan Favero, an education policy expert at American University, answers three concerns about the efficiency of performance-based pay and how its elimination will effect education in Denver.
How did performance affect teachers’ pay?
While teachers’ base salaries were primarily determined by their education levels and teaching experience, in Denver public schools, instructors also got significant benefits based on a number of other elements, consisting of performance.
The main performance-based benefit went to instructors in schools where students performed especially well on standardized tests. If a school was designated as high-achieving, then all teachers in that school received the bonus that year. The size of benefits for teachers working in acknowledged schools varied from year to year, but amounts have been as large as US$5,100 per instructor.
Under early variations of the district’s reward pay system, instructors were also recognized separately for excellent performance. Nevertheless, these private performance perks were mainly done away with in 2015. Teachers still received specific performance evaluations every year, however in most schools, these assessments did not affect instructor pay, except when a instructor was found to be severely lacking.
Even after 2015, person efficiency pay was still utilized in one set of schools. Every year, the district determined 30 “highest priority” schools. Teachers in these schools could get benefits based on individual performance evaluations. These examinations ranked teachers based on several information sources, including students’ standardized test scores, studies filled out by trainees, achievement of student knowing objectives set by the teacher and class observations conducted by school leaders or peers.
How efficient is pay-for-performance?
Research teams based at the University of Colorado at Denver and the University of Colorado at Stone have concluded that the pay-for-performance system had few effects on students.
One analysis found that performance incentives triggered a tiny increase in math scores, but even these small gains were offset by small drops in reading and writing ratings. Other analyses discovered no evidence of any impact on standardized test scores.
Despite lackluster results on standardized tests, Denver’s pay-for-performance system may have assisted a bit when it comes to keeping teachers. One analysis estimates that the city maintained up to 160 teachers per year who otherwise would have give up if it wasn’t for the performance pay system. Given the fact that the district had 3,700 instructors at the time of the study, this implies about 4.3 percent of Denver’s instructor labor force was potentially maintained due to the fact that of the pay system. Another analysis suggests that the retained teachers were better-than-average instructors, which makes them particularly essential to the district.
Across the country, other school districts have had similar experiences with pay-for-performance. On average, teacher pay-for-performance systems appear to produce a little enhancement for students, though not always.
The minimal success of Denver’s efficiency pay system may be due in part to its complexity. Researchers found through surveys and interviews of teachers that lots of of them did not know precisely how bonus offers could be earned or even had incorrect details. Lots of instructors also felt that the benefit system was unfair and that the private efficiency evaluation might often be controlled by, for example, setting quickly possible goals to be examined with an administrator at the end of the year.
So what modifications under the brand-new agreement?
Under the brand-new labor offer, almost all pay-for-performance is eliminated. Instead of paying rewards to instructors in schools with impressive standardized test scores, $750 benefits will be paid to teachers in up to 10 schools picked by a committee for quality in areas such as health education, therapy services and neighborhood engagement. The arrangement particularly states that these awards can not be based on teacher performance evaluation data or school report cards that consist of standardized test ratings.
The offer likewise removes perks connected to private performance assessments for instructors in high-priority schools. Additional pay for instructors in hard-to-staff schools will continue. However, all teachers working in these schools will receive the same benefit, regardless of their performance evaluation.
Teachers have asked for a pay system that is more predictable. The modified pay system need to offer them more certainty at the beginning of the year about how much they can anticipate to make. Students and administrators will have to hope that the district can continue to keep premium teachers regardless of the removal of performance perks that might have helped encourage some of these teachers to stay in the district in the past.