Education Chat

Chat Transcript: Teacher Pay for Performance

This Live Chat on teacher compensation addresses the ratification of a dramatically new teacher salary system by the Denver Classroom Teachers' Association that will reward teachers for improved student achievement and working in the most challenging schools in the district.

Teacher Pay for Performance

Our guests include:

Becky Wissink, president, Denver Classroom Teachers Association. The union’s membership voted 59% to 41% in favor of a new salary structure for teachers;

Allan Odden, professor of educational administration, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Odden is an expert on issues related to school finance and teacher compensation;

Brad Jupp, Denver public school teacher assigned to the design team of the Denver Public Schools/Denver Classroom Teachers Association Pay for Performance Pilot.

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
Welcome to Education Week‘s TalkBack Live chat on teacher compensation. In a decision that was watched closely by educators and elected officials across the nation, last Friday, members of the Denver Classroom Teachers’ Association ratified (by a vote of 59% to 41%) a dramatically new teacher salary system that will reward teachers for improving student achievement and working in the most academically challenged schools in the district.

We wanted to give our audience a chance to learn more about such new approaches to teacher pay and weigh in on what kind of impact pay-for-performance type plans will have on student learning and the teaching profession.

We’ve invited three guests today to talk about these issues. First, we have Allan Odden, professor of educational administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison -- an expert on issues related to school finance and teacher compensation. We also have Becky Wissink, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, to talk about Denver’s new ProComp teacher salary system and the role the union played in collaboration with Denver Public Schools to develop this plan. Finally, we’ve got Brad Jupp, a Denver public school teacher who worked on the design team of the Denver Public Schools/Denver Classroom Teachers Association Pay for Performance Pilot project.

Let’s throw it open to your questions...

Question from Kathryn Doherty, Education Week:
I wanted to start us off by asking the Denver teacher union president to tell us a little more about the ProComp plan. What ought we know about how this system will work? What is it and what is it NOT?

Becky Wissink:
I would not classify ProComp as merit pay or pay for performance. Student growth is only one component of the entire system. Knowledge and Skills, Professional Evaluation and Market Incentives are the other components. The ProComp system is an alternative to the single salary structure. For the past five years, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and the Denver Public Schools have collaborated on all aspects of a Pay for Performance Pilot and Joint Task Force on Teacher Compensation, ProComp is the result of those efforts. Current teachers will get to opt-in to the ProComp system or remain under the current single salary schedule. We have agreed to maintain the current system until the last employee chooses to opt-in or retires from the Denver Public Schools. New teachers hired as of January 2006 will automatically be placed into the ProComp system. For the next 18 months we(DCTA & DPS) will continue to define and refine the details of ProComp and the voters of Denver will need to authorize a tax increase for funding the system. ProComp costs more than what we are currently spending in Denver for teacher compensation. It is not a program that takes existing resources and allocates them differently. If the voters of Denver choose not to pay for the system, it won’t go forward. For the details about ProComp and our collaborative work:

Question from Dr. Matthew M. Delaney, NBCT, Curriculum Coordinator/Electives, Whitman-Hanson Regional High School:
There is a critical concern among teachers, and likely many in other sectors, about the current quality of leadership in many of our nation’s schools. Admittedly, although this problem can vary from district to district, it has shed a blanket of mistrust over any proposed change in the existing salary formulas that may promise to further empower and increase the control that individual administrators now exercise over classroom teachers. All across the nation, there are probably no more powerful examples of the subjective interpretations of the ways in which improved teaching and learning are valued and rewarded than the many and varied bonuses--or not--in place for National Board Certified Teachers. ProComp may, indeed, work for Denver but how do you believe that it can quiet these real concerns and be fairly applied in school districts that bring a history of mistrust and abuse of teachers rights to the bargaining table?

Allan Odden:
New approaches to pay are more difficult to create and implement when there is not a good working relationship between teachers and administrators.

At the same time, if a performandce-based teacher evaluation is used as part of a new approach to pay, as intended in Denver, it should have clear teaching standards and clear scoring rubrics for the data that are gathered. When all assessors -- usually both administrators and teachers -- are trained in this process, it is possible to get reliable and valid evaluation scores. And even if the scores are not used for pay purposes, a standards-based teacher evaluation can replace most current teacher evaluation systems, which when implemented, reflect the opinions of the individual teachers and principals involved, rather than a common understanding of good teaching.

Question from Jennifer Rodriguez, communications director, State Rep. Mike Villarreal:
How have teachers received this change? If you have buy-in, how did you accomplish it?

Brad Jupp:
Teachers are largely positive about the change. The 18% margin of victory is far more than I anticipated on an issue this controversial.

We established buy-in by taking three steps. First, we agreed to put serious money on the table. Second, we structured the plan in a very careful collective bargaining agreement. Finally we communicated extensively; in the end we tried to talk to every teacher we could on a one on one basis.

Question from Atty. Annette Exum, Exum Law Group:
What provisions, if any, will be put in place to insure that teachers do not systematically exclude low achiever students from their class rosters through suspensions and disciplinary action in order to increase their probability of having higher achieving students in their class population for purposes of calculating pay rate?

Brad Jupp:
The major way we address that is by allowing teachers to accurately measure where a student starts when they set their objective. In our pilot program we learned what most people already suspected: low achievers actually learn when they are taught. They just don’t reach the same high achievement levels that students who begin the year at an already high achievement level. By measuring learning from each child’s unique starting point we make all of the difference in making our system fair for all kids.

We have also learned that we should have high professional expectations of teachers. We should not build compensation systems around expectations that some will commit the kind of poor professional judgement that you describe. If a teacher did do what you described, as a teacher union leader, I would hope that teacher would be disciplined appropriately.

Question from Scott Merrick, LS Tech Coordinator, University School of Nashville, TN:
Given clear causal connection between socio-economic factors and academic performance, many of those factors outside the reach of a classroom teacher’s influence, how are your administrators going structure the evaluative process(es) to ensure that they are fair and equitable? Or is that one of the issues still outstanding?

Becky Wissink:
Professional Evaluation is one of the issues still left outstanding. We have a joint committee working on a new tool for evaluation. During the pilot we separated the student achievement goals from the teacher’s evaluation. The tool will be standards based about what the teacher’s work is and what the teacher does rather than the outcome of the students that he/she serves. Another component in the ProComp system addresses annual objectives based on student growth not absolute student achievement which I believe is fairer.

Question from Judy Wiederhorn, Research Associate:
What is the likelihood of Denver voters approving the tax increase? What will happen to this teacher-approved performance pay plan if Denver voters do not approve the funding?

Brad Jupp:
1.) Polling data from August 2003 shows that registered Denver voters are likely to approve the increase. we asked very specific questions about each element of ProComp. They were favorable about all of them. We anticipate a tough campaign, but we are looking forward to it.

2.) If the taxpayers do not approve the ProComp increase, we would not run the system. We do not want an unfunded program in Denver.

Question from Mary Haskins, Associate Professor of Biology:
On the surface it would appear that teachers who work with motivated students/families would have an easier time in the pay for performance system. Will this type of salary system influence the ability of what we typically view as “challenging schools” (for example - inner city) to attract and retain teachers?

Allan Odden:
Well, there are two types of performance pay systems, one that provides bonuses, usually to all faculty in a school, when the school meets or beats a performance increase target, and the other that produces base pay increases on teacher instructional performance, to a set of teaching standards and scoring rubrics. For the former, if the bonus is based on absolute levels of scores, it would be biased in favor on advantaged communities, but almost all programs are based on some type of value added, or change, which allows all schools to qualify.

Even for the latter, called knowledge and skills based pay, by triggering pay increases based on implementation of effective teaching practices, teachers in all types of settings can qualify.

So systems can be created that reduce if not eliminate any type of family advantage.

Question from :
Do you think that this format of paying for improvement will cause dessention among teachers which may lead into a competitive environment of non-sharing and ill-will?

Brad Jupp:
While many teachers worry about new pay systems creating ill-will among colleagues, there is little evidence that this in fact happens. We have extensive data from the pilot shows that teachers get along just as well or better under the piloted pay system than they do under the single salary schedule.

Teachers, like other professionals, will continue to share their professional expertise and experience under ProComp. One way we have tried to support continued professional relations among teachers is to prvent budget quotas from determining success rates in our plan.

Question from Beth Johnson, Assistant Principal, Lowndes County Schools, GA:
Will defining “improving student achievement” be considered individually or by class? Will this improvement be based on one tests? Will considerations be made for extenuating circumstances (student moves in, special education, etc)?

Brad Jupp:
1.) Individually.

2.) Teachers may use multiple measures of student growth when setting annual objectives, but they are not required to do so.

3.) Yes.

Question from Liam Goldrick, Senior Policy Analyst, National Governors Association:
What lessons, if any, can/should state policymakers learn from Denver’s experience? Are there particular things that states can do to encourage or enable reform of teacher compensation systems?

Becky Wissink:
One of the most important lessons is to work with the unions and teachers to jointly develop any compensation sytem. The Denver project was not a one-sided venture and wouldn’t have progressed to this level if it had been.

Question from Jennifer Rodriguez, communications director, State Rep. Mike Villarreal:
In Texas, there is a lot of talk about needing pay-for-performance measures to spur innovation in the classroom. But how do you do you create an atmosphere that rewards teachers who are trying hard to innovate, but whose programs might still not be successful, with a system that will punish them if their attempts are not successful?

Allan Odden:
Well, I would put this issue differently. We have said that performance pay is a way, just one of many multiple ways, to encourage change in teaching in ways that boost student performance. If you review the major teaching standards that now exist -- those in Connecticut, Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, the National Board’s standards -- you see that they signal an approach to teaching and the hoped for connections between instructional strategies in the classroom and the kind of learning tasks in which students become engaged, that if implemented, lead to higher teacher performance. Indeed, we have shown via research that the teacher evaluation scores in several places are linked to student learning gains, i.e., the higher the eval score, the more students learn in that teachers class. This happens because the teacher is implementing instructional practices reflected in the teaching standards and scoring rubrics that do produce greater amounts of student learning. The recent study by Dan Goldhaber has also validated the National Board’s teaching standards as well.

So it’s not, in my opinion, just random or individualistic teacher innovation, but change towards the vision in the teaching standards used. And the district’s professional development strategies, then, also should be altered to help teachers learn to teach according to that vision.

Question from Thomas Miller, Teacher, San Jose California:
Does the evaluation process to measure teacher performance include a student evaluation of the teacher ?

Becky Wissink:
Not at this time. We have a joint committee of teachers and administrators designing the evauation tool.

Question from Terry Jones, Middle School Math Teacher, Rays of Hope Charter School:
Results-based pay systems have been the talk of many school districts over the last few years. It seems as if Denver is the latest in wanting to adopt this new pay standard. My concern is that with such a system, teachers will teach toward tests instead of a more well-rounded curriculm. In Denver, has this concern been addressed?

Becky Wissink:
During the four year pay for performance pilot, teachers wrote student growth objectives using standardized and criterion referenced tests for compensation. The rest of the curriculum was delivered to the students. Another finding of the pilot was student growth objectives could not be the only factor in determining a teacher’s pay. We believe that we have addressed this concern in the ProComp system by having annual objectives be a small part of a teacher’s compensation.

Question from Sue Smith, Warren Schools:
How will the achievement of special education students be fairly assessed? If salaries are based on achievement, many teachers would be resentful of having lower achieving students on their class rosters.

Allan Odden:
This is a good question.

Unlike the Denver plan, just about all the other plans do not use the scores of students in an individual teacher’s class for the pay system. For those performance pay plans that provide bonuses based on increased student performance, the bonus is almost always provided on a schoolwide basis to all teachers in the school. In calculating the change or testing the students, each program needs to decide how to include the scores of disabled, usually learning disabled students. Most do. But the bonus is based on some measure of improved performance.

For those performance pay plans that trigger base pay increases on the basis of a teacher’s performance, the measure is usually of how a teacher teaches, and is measured according to a set of teaching standards, multiple sources of data, and scoring rubrics for the data, with only trained individuals doing the scoring -- very much like the process for National Board certification. The standards might have elements that assess how a teacher responds to the unique needs of a struggling student, but the measure is of the response, and very rarely of the achievement score of that student.

So the presence or absence of disabled students, students who struggle for whatever reason, or any kind of student should not bias the results. Finally, most programs also assess the implementation of the systems to determine whether, inadvertently, there is some bias, and if it is found, redesing the bias out.

Question from Marie NaVeaux, Consultant, Albuquerque Public Schools:
The crux of this issue of course is the assessment piece--what assessment is being used in Denver to measure the student achievement? How often? Is it NRT or CRT? What is the delay-time between testing and having the test information?

Brad Jupp:
The crux of the element on student growth objectives is assessment.

Because student growth objectives are job-based and teacher assignments are very diverse, we have to allow for a broad flexible range of objectives. There are many examples of student growth objectives on the website teachers go to to enter their objectives on line,

We expect teachers to measure growth at least twice during the period of time for which the objective is written. Teachers almost always use criterion referenced tests and there is a rule prohibiting the use of the state’s large-scale standards test (which is technically CRT). The delay time between testing and test information is based on the test used, but most teachers get feedback quickly because they are administering the test themeselves or with colleagues at their schools.

Question from Joan Anderson, grant writer, Project Reflect:
Are there accountability measures so that teachers and other school personnel will find it difficult to alter student test scores to enable an increase salaries?

Allan Odden:
The answer should be yes. In the initial Kentucky program, a portion of the student test score was actually determined by teachers in each school. That lead to charges of bias and a lack of reliability, which was true in some cases.

For programs that use test scores of students, there needs to be systems that insure that the test scores are true test scores, and most states have procedures that insure that student test score data are not manipulated.

But this is an ongoing concern that simply needs continued monitoring of some sort over time.

As said in previous questions, the primary element of performance pay has to do with teacher’s performance and not with student test scores.

Question from Ed Lyell, former Colorado State Board of Education member:
Why has the pay for performance been set up as an ‘add on’. All new salary money should be delivered only for gains in student achievement, shouldn’t it? Doesn’t the proposed system still reward ‘dead wood’ teachers?

Becky Wissink:
The ProComp system is results-based pay. The Professional Develoment Unit is for participating, demonstrating and reflecting on what is learned. The evaluation component is for satisfactory evaluation. Market incentives reward effective teachers to positions that are hard to fill and are given to teachers who choose to teach in hard to serve schools. Annual objectives reward teachers for growth of student achievement. All teachers who enter ProComp, begin with a base and the elements are added to that. Teachers do not get steps and the elements of the ProComp. It is either or.

Question from Kelly Chatters, Executive Assistant, The Villages Charter School:
If you are basing your teacher pay on student “performance” then it must be linked to student “achievement” which can be determined by achievement tests, but those tests only measure academic areas like reading, writing, mathematics - so how would teachers in other areas be rated such as art, music and PE? How can it be equally divided?

Brad Jupp:
I suggest you look at the collective bargaining agreement, which is available on our website,

We have not adopted a “pay for performance” system, although the media frequently uses that term. We prefer to call it a Professional Compensation System for Teachers, or ProComp.

We have created a balanced compensation system that recognizes teacher accomplishments in four basic areas: acquisition and demonstration of knowledge and skills; classroom performance through professional evaluation; market incentives; student growth.

We do not allow teachers to use large-scale assessments when setting their annual student growth objectives. They do not provide the right kind of information needed to make high quality instructional decisions. We expect teachers and principals to measure student growth using more authentic methods. Once the move to authentic measures of student growth is made, jobs like art, music and PE fit in very nicely.

Question from Rachelle Marion, teacher, riverside High School, Charleston, WV:
How do you plan to address inequities such as class load, distribution of students with above average ability or special education qualifications? Will some of your teachers have a disproportionate load of either advanced classes or classes with children of lower income and/or learning abilities?

Becky Wissink:
The annual objectives take into account the demographics of the students, class loads, special ed., etc. Teachers have a professional conversation with their administrator, using data, and agree upon objectives with the information that they have. Annual objectives are based on growth- taking students and moving them forward- not everyone getting to the same level at the same time. Examples of objectives used during the pilot can be found on the website:

Question from Kathryn Doherty, Education Week:
Professor Odden, we’re understandably focusing a lot of attention on the Denver plan today, but, from your work, are there other teacher compensation models that show promise? What’s key to getting them from idea to reality?

Allan Odden:
There are several performance pay initiatives across the country, some working better than others.

The first was Douglas County Colorado, which provided several small bonuses to teachers who engaged in a variety of professional development opportunities, such as learning a software program, how to score student performances to standards, etc. There also is an outstanding teacher program, that provides a three year bonus based on the submission of an extensive teacher portfolio. This system is an “add on” and popular, as it produced small change in the old salary structure and opportunities essentially for some upside gain. It continues.

Then Cincinnati tried, like Denver, to redesign the entire salary structure, what we call an “extreme makeover.” This system created apprehension because it altered the entire way teachers were to be paid. It also had transition policies that could have led to significant teacher pay loses for some teachers. Finally,it had implementation glitches. As a result, the teachers voted down the link to pay.

Lessons learned so far: modest efforts are more popular and easier to implement, extreme makeovers are much harder and more difficult to implement, and create more apprehension.

Like Cincinnati, Iowa also tried to change the entire salary structure, and is now struggling, though largely for funding.

Denver is trying a different version of an extreme makeover compensation plan. To move forward, it will need to get the additional funding from a voter referendum, and then all of its pieces -- which have not yet been designed -- will need to be implemented well. Because it has so many pieces and the entire schedule has been changed, really good implementation will be key. We’ll have to see what happens.

Where we have moved recently is more to a middle ground -- something more than a bunt single, say a double, but not going for the home run. So perhaps retain most of the single salary schedule. Provide some signficiant add ons: -- increases for scoring higher on a performance evaluation -- increases for teaching in a shortage area -- math and science for example, or in a low performing school -- increases for engaging in district specified professional development.

Make these all upside gains. Eliminate transition rules that could lead to drops in teacher salaries. REquire all new teachers to enter the program.

As the add on elements get up and running smoothly, then make them larger parts of the pay program.

In short, be bold, be cautious of the extreme makeover, pay lots of attention to implementation (most plans usually fail because of implementation glitches and not design flaws), and finally, imbed, as Denver, the entire plan in a series of school improvement and professional development initiatives, because improved student learning is caused by those initiatives, not just by altering the pay structure.

Finally, the Vaughn Charter school is an example of a place that designed and implemented an extreme make over and it still survives. It made early errors but changed them immediately, and this is easier to do in a small setting, with high levels of trust, than in large urban areas, where change is slow and often times, trust is not so high.

WE have cases of these plans on our web site:

Question from H. Taylor, Boston, MA:
Is the roughly three percent on top of the regular salaries earmarked for teachers who opt to teach in hard-to-staff/underperforming schools enough? Will these teachers end up losing out on other bonuses that teachers in better performing schools will get because of higher acheivment if the plan goes into effect?

Becky Wissink:
I don’t know if $1000 is enough. There is more involved in choosing to teach and choosing to stay in an underperforming school. Staff development, resources, supportive administration to name a few. The annual objectives are based on growth not absolute achievement and the distinguished schools bonus would go to schools based on multiple indicators of school success not solely test scores.

Question from :
Are you comfortable with a first year teacher making more than a 20th yr teacher? If so, I want to teach in your school district.

Brad Jupp:
Yes! We are comfortable with first year teachers making larger pay increases than a 20th year teacher, if in fact the first year teacher accomplishes more than the veteran.

You are welcome to come to our district. I also invite you to join my union!

Question from Paulette Strong, principal, Quail Run Elementary School, Lawrence, Kansas:
With improving student achievement tied to teacher pay, how do you balance teaching to state curricular standards and preparing students for high stakes assessment (“drill and kill”) with teaching that creates the joy and sustains the richness in learning?

Allan Odden:
In part this depends on the nature of the state assessment, and in part it depends on what ones thinks will happen with good teaching. Tony Bryk and Fred Newmann have shown, in Chicago, that excellent teaching -- authentic instruction -- can improve students scores on “authentic assessments” as well as a standardized test, the Iowa Test of BAsic Skills. Drill and skill teaching only gets basic skill achievement. But really good teaching -- teaching mathematics to understanding, having students read and understand and apply the lessons of a novel to real life -- can enhance student abilities to score well on performance assessments as well as to do well on tests of basic skills and knowledge.

And as I have said in answers to other questions, there are two types of performance pay -- one based on improvements in student learning, the focus of your question, and one based on improvements in teachers instructional expertise.

Question from Mark Simon, Director, MCEA/JHU Center For Teacher Leadership:
First, congratulations on developing a masterful and necessarily complex system. You seem to have gotten the balances right in so many ways. The devil, however, is always in the details and there are clearly some rough edges yet. One of the pitfalls in previous merit pay plans was the demoralization that set in to the school teaching community as a result of hard to justify subjective administrator evaluations that had financial consequences. How do you plan to guard against this? Are administrators being trained? Is there recourse or appeal? It is obviously so important that the perception is one of fairness, and not that an objective system has somehow been made arbitrary. Good luck.

Becky Wissink:
The agreement has the safeguards built in. Binding professional review when pay decisions are at stake. I believe the system is fairer because of the safeguards that have been built into the collective bargaining language. We currently have a joint committee developing the tool to be used for evaluation. Training for teachers and administrators is part of the work we need to complete in the next 18 months before the sytem is implemented.

Question from Gary Gordon:
I understand that teachers in high-poverty schools or teaching in shortage fields receive additional compensation. How does this process work? What is the differential salary and how is it set?

Becky Wissink:
A teacher would enter the system with a base salary. The amounts of each of the elements in the ProComp system are based on a index or standardized. For each element that was earned an amount would be added to salary or be given as a bonus.

Question from Laura Kliewer, Sr. Policy Analyst, CSG:
Dr. Odden, I know you advised Iowa lawmakers on their teacher pay-for-performance legislation in 2001. Can you give us an assessment of how the implementation of that law is going in that state?

Allan Odden:
Iowa is struggling -- mainly because of funding.

Right after the plan was enacted, the state saw its general fund drop in absolute terms, and has struggled for the past 3 years, with funding the program. Gov Vilsak has been a strong supporter holding out for keeping the program and retaining the funding. But the funding situation has been dire.

Several legislators called for eliminating the program because of lack of funding, which they said made the program unfair to teachers.

At the beginning of this legislative session, it looked like the program would be dropped, but it is still alive, as far as I know.

The Department has developed the system for movement from the entry to the first career level, but the instruments for the remainder of the levels, I believe, are not yet developed, largely because of lack of funding.

Iowa’s efforts were ambitious, and they began in a terrible fiscal context, which has not improved, and thus the plan is in jeopardy.

Question from Kathryn Doherty, Education Week:
How important was the role of the Denver teacher union in this process? What can other districts learn from how you went about getting this system?

Brad Jupp:
ProComp would have been impossible without close union involvement. In fact, in the first and second year of the project, we kept it alive when there was much administrative confusion.

Districts could learn at least three things about union engagement from the Denver experience:

1. Collective bargaining helps make change durable.

2. Labor/management partnership requires expansion of union capacity. Our union is a very small outfit compared to our district; we are 1/1000th of the district’s staff and general fund budget. The district helped us build capacity to complete this project by paying for full time release of two union leaders for five years.

3. Management issues, such as school accountability and teacher quality are viewed as working condition and wage issues by unions. That’s OK. If the union and management can reach across that gap of perceptions, then a partnership can flourish.

Question from Drew Cullen, Research Coordinator, NEA/NY:
What are the factors relating to student achievement that will receive weight and what is the research that links those factors to improved student achievement?

Allan Odden:
I am not quite sure of the question, but will attempt an answer.

The factor most closely linked to student achievement in classroom instruction; some teachers have much more impact than others. This is the Sanders, Rowan, and others research, that now is widely cited.

The notion of performance assessments of teacher instructional practice is to be able to measure teachers’ classroom instructional practice, in a way that one could say that a teacher with a higher assessment or evaluation score actually, by some other analysis, produces more learning gains in their classrooms than do teachers with lower assessment scores.

UW CPRE has conducted several studies of whether this linkage actually occures -- in Cincinnati, the Vaughn Charter School, and Washoe County (Reno Nevada). And we have found many, strong linkages. Those papers will be published shortly in an issue of the Peabody Jl of Education, and are now on our web site:

WE are conducting an analysis of three years of data in those places and our current results show that the connections between evaluation scores and learning gains are even stronger.

So we have concluded that we do have the expertise to assess a teacher’s instructional practice to a set of teaching standards. And that the differential levels of performance are linked to differential teacher effectiveness.

One would probably want to do this in a district whether or not the assessment or evalaution results were linked to pay, to identify the most effective teachers, over time determine why they are more effective, and then to train other teaches in those skills and strategies.

Question from Dee Gulson, Principal, Oscar Howe Elementary:
What will be the criteria for compensation? (a standard % of improvement or one based on individual classrooms) As this has been used in other locations, what monitoring devices will be in place to ensure “honesty”?

Becky Wissink:
Sample objectives from the pilot can be found at the website:

Question from Ron Skinner, Research Director, Education Week:
Are there any pay for performance or teacher evaluation plans linked to student results that include a relative gain measure? Something that will measure the gains low-performing students make without penalizing teachers for the small gains that already high-performing students can make?

Allan Odden:
I’m not quite sure of a specific answer to this question. If the question were how to reward or motivate schools that have large numbers of students already at high levels of achievement, so that gains would be modest, there are a couple of answers.

One is that a bonus could be provided for improvements and/or maintaining a high level of performance.

Another would be to provide non monetary recognition for such a situation, like a flag, which is an appraoch that Indiana had taken for several years. I think the rationale for this approach was to recognize high performing schools, but to spend the extra money on where the problems were, ie. in the low performing schools, so to provide the bonus for improved socres. This often is the private sector approach as well.

This is an issue that almost always arises, so there is no “right” approach re going the first or second direction above. The right approach would need to be discussed through in each local context -- whether a state, district or school program.

I suppose one also could “raise the bar” also, as Texas is in the process of doing. Put differently, if many students already are scoring at the top levels of a certain test, then perhaps getting a tougher test, or raising the performance expectations, could be in order. There is a limit to this approach, but it is a possible approach.

Question from Liam Goldrick, Senior Policy Analyst, National Governors Association, Education Division:
Given what you know about the rejection of a performance pay plan by Cincinnati teachers almost two years ago, what factors do you think made the difference in Denver? Union involvement on the design team? Pilot schools? Communication and outreach?

Becky Wissink:
Five years ago, representative council directed our bargaining team to do something about the pay for performance issue. By having the collective will to enter into this policy arena helped. So many times policy makers don’t involve the practicioners. In Denver, practice met policy. We also used an input/feedback model throughout the whole process of pilot and development.

Question from Darren Ball, Graduate Student, University of Virginia:
In the Denver structure of pay for performance will teachers now have an opportunity to make more money or will the amount of pay be similar to the old structure just with a different framework? Second, If the pay is more for high performing teachers does the money come from low performing teacher salaries?

Becky Wissink:
No teacher will make less than the current structure and many teachers have the opportunity to earn more. We have developed a salary calculator so indivdual teachers could see how opting in to the system would affect them. The salary caculator can be found at the website:

Question from Kathryn Doherty, Education Week:
What’s your prediction on whether current teachers will opt in to the system or watch and see how it plays out with new teachers?

Brad Jupp:
I believe there will be a relatively high number of teachers who enter from two demographic areas: teachers in the first three years of their career and teachers with more than 13 years in their career. Why? It will be obviously to their economic advantage.

Another demographic group will benefit if they wait, and we will advise them to do so for up to seven years.

Ultimately, if we continue to see turnover rates between 250 and 500 teachers per year and count in a large percentage of these two demographic groups, I suspect that by year four 60% of the work force will have opted in to ProComp.

Question from Dr. Janice S. Cover, Director, Elem Ed, Palm Beach County:
What criteria did you use for pay for performance and how did you arrive at the criteria?

Brad Jupp:
We use multiple measures of teacher accomplishments in ProComp in four areas: knowledge and skills acquisition, professional evaluation, market incentives, and stucdent growth. There are nine different pay elements each of which is based on its own criteria. The best way to get the big picture about ProComp is to visit the website, There you’ll find a wide range of documents that detail the criteria we use or are developing for the nine elements.

Question from Melanie Parsons, parent, Cincinnnati:
I’m hearing more about resource equity across schools within a district rather than just across districts. Do you feel the Denver plan will make funding more equitable in the district, or have no effect?

Becky Wissink:
Funding for teacher compensation is determined at the district level not at the individual schools. The dollars for resources (ie. materials and staff) is allocated to the schools determined by the student count.

Question from Kevin Brown, Principal:
One of the benefits of getting rid of teacher salary schedules is to give more control over budgets to administrators at the school level, does a rigid, prescribed evaluation system prevent the benefits of school-based budgeting?

Allan Odden:
Actually, the roots of the alternative approaches to compensation are not to allow principals to provide salary increases to teachers. It is to have a system wide salary structure that: 1. provides base pay increases to teachers more on their instructional expertise as measured by a performance evaluation system, and/or for engaging in district specified professional development 2. provides a salary bonus to all teachers in schools when the school as a whole meets or beats a performance improvement target.

The goal is to have the system improve, and to have all the system improvement initiatives be support by these new salary structures, so the pay and reward systems are aligned with system goals.

Indeed, that also has been the approach in the private sector when it moved to pay for knowledge and skills, and group bonuses. The pay systems were system wide, not different at each place.

There are many other options for school based budgeting and resource reallocation, that do not depend on the salary structure per se. Schools would need authority to hire and deploy teachers, but doing so within a common salary schedule can easily and does easily work, and doesn’t detract from the possibilities of a school based budgeting approach.

Yes, there would be more options in a charter school, that could design its own salary structure, but school based budgeting also could work in a system with a common salary schedule -- but different from the current single salary schedule.

Allan Odden:
Just to remind everyone, that the next annual CPRE Conference on new approaches to teacher compensation and evaluation will be held in Chicago, at the Westin Hotel near O’Hare airport, on November 11-12, 2004. We hope Denver will be there, as it has been for the past four years.

Question from Kathryn Doherty, Education Week:
What are the hurdles ahead for the Denver program?

Becky Wissink:
Getting the details right. The stage has been set with the framework of ProComp and we need to continue our collaborative effort to fill in the details for the teachers, administration and the public.

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
Thank you all for participating in this discussion. Unfortunately we are out of time. I’d like to thank our guests for their time and effort. Thanks to the audience for your thought-provoking comments and questions. Education Week on the Web hosts these session because we think sharing information is an important way to improve education. We thank you for helping to make that happen.

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