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Change in schedule

Minnesota education officials think it's time for the state's teachers to stop playing Steps and Lanes.

"Steps and lanes" refers to the traditional teacher-salary schedule, which rewards people for having additional years of experience and advanced degrees.

A better approach—and the wave of the future—rewards additional skills or work that demonstrably raise student achievement, the officials contend.

"I think people are just ready for it," state Commissioner of Education Christine Jax said in an interview last week, referring to pay plans based on performance. "We're looking for new ways to hit the teacher shortage."

She remarked that younger teachers, especially, take naturally to the idea of better pay for better performance, and that career-changers are put off by the current long wait for a top salary.

Pay-for-performance plans are drawing attention around the country, with a few districts and schools having already revised their salary schedules in that direction. Iowa legislators are considering such a plan for their state, but Minnesota's approach would be different.

Under a proposal that is part of Gov. Jesse Ventura's budget package, Minnesota would set aside $5 million in the coming fiscal year for districts that wanted to implement performance-pay plans as part of an overall reach toward state academic standards. Experienced teachers might, for instance, earn extra money for mentoring rookies or serving as "master teachers" in their fields. Or a district might choose to reward the entire faculty of a school whose test scores have improved.

If the legislature approves the proposal, districts with revised compensation plans that pass state muster and are embodied in locally negotiated teachers' contracts stand to get an extra $150 per student for teacher pay.

"There is bipartisan support" for the plan in the legislature, Ms. Jax said, "so I think it will happen."

—Bess Keller

Vol. 20, Issue 25, Page 21

Published in Print: March 7, 2001, as State Journal

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