School & District Management

Pittsburgh Teacher Pact Tests 3 New Pay Elements

By Stephen Sawchuk — June 18, 2010 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Pittsburgh school district and its American Federation of Teachers-affiliated local union have reached agreement on a five-year contract that contains significant new pay elements and that officials there say is the result of a new approach to collective bargaining.

The new contract includes a revamped salary schedule for new hires, with a focus on teacher performance, and the creation of two programs to award pay bonuses to school staffs and individual teachers who significantly boost student achievement.

In large part, the pact codifies elements of the district’s Empowering Effective Teaching plan—its successful bid for $40 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s $500 million Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching initiative. (“Winners Named for Gates Teacher Grants,” December 2, 2009.)

Beginning in April 2009, the district and the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers jointly devised a plan to qualify for the grant dollars, an effort that officials said laid the groundwork for a bargaining process that put the goal of student learning ahead of traditional bread-and-butter union concerns.

“It wasn’t done by bullying. It was done by a mutual recognition of the need to change,” said Mark Roosevelt, the superintendent of the 28,000-student district. “Over the long haul, we think working with our workforce will show greater possibilities for students than engaging in fisticuffs.”

New Schedule

In addition to raising teachers’ base pay over five years, the contract lays out a number of changes in how teachers are compensated. In probably the contract’s most revolutionary feature, it creates a new salary schedule that emphasizes teacher performance.

Most schedules reward teachers for longevity and credentials earned. Under the revamped schedule, which will go into effect July 1, new teachers will continue to earn “step” increases each year, but they will no longer win automatic raises for receiving master’s degrees.

Instead, teachers will earn major pay boosts by satisfying a periodic review based on a combination of their teacher-evaluation scores and by demonstrating that they have advanced students’ academic growth.

After meeting the four-year tenure mark, and each third year thereafter, teachers will be placed into one of four “professional growth” levels. The most effective teachers could pass the $100,000 mark in as little as eight years.

In time, veteran teachers would have the opportunity to qualify for a career ladder that would reward them with $10,000 to $14,000 annually in additional compensation for working with students with the most challenges and in extended-day programs.

Few districts across the nation have overhauled their salary schedules to focus on teacher performance and student outcomes. An attempt to tie teacher evaluations to pay in Cincinnati failed in the mid-2000s.

More recently, Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs, Colo., instituted a pay system based on evaluation results and student outcomes, but that district does not bargain its salary schedule with a teachers’ union. (“Colo. District Boots Traditional Salary Schedule,” May 12, 2010.)

Bonus Pay

The Pittsburgh district and the local union will jointly flesh out the details of two additional bonus-pay programs, to begin in the 2011-12 school year. A school-based pay program will reward teachers, paraprofessionals, and other staff members at schools whose student-achievement growth falls within the state’s top 15 percent.

The contract also creates a pilot individual performance-pay program that will reward individual teachers for increasing student growth. As outlined in the contract, the bonuses will be based on two factors: a mandatory demonstration of student growth, and a “choice” component giving teachers credit for high performance on the teacher-evaluation system, demonstrated leadership, or providing professional development to others.

Participating teachers could earn up to $8,000 additionally through the program, and will be able to opt out of it when the pilot ends.

Superintendent Roosevelt said that the information gleaned from the voluntary performance-pay program will help the district shape its new salary schedule. For instance, the committees will determine how to document evidence of student growth in subjects not covered by standardized tests.

In remarks submitted as an op-ed commentary to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PFT President John Tarka and the president of the national AFT, Randi Weingarten, said they are committed to continuing the collaboration with the district.

“We won’t agree on everything, but we are now better equipped to communicate and find a way to deal with disagreements, so we can focus on what we all agree on: doing everything we can to help students succeed,” the union leaders wrote.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2010 edition of Education Week

Events

Teaching Webinar Examining the Evidence: What We’re Learning From the Field About Implementing High-Dosage Tutoring Programs
Tutoring programs have become a leading strategy to address COVID-19 learning loss. What evidence-based principles can district and school leaders draw on to design, implement, measure, and improve high-quality tutoring programs? And what are districts
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management What the Research Says Q&A: How Can High Schools Continue to Improve Now?
The way to do it, says researcher Robert Balfanz, is to dig beneath the averages to find real solutions to schools' thorny problems.
6 min read
Conceptual illustration of students making choices based on guidance.
Viktoria Kurpas/iStock
School & District Management Opinion It Isn’t White Supremacy for Principals to Expect Staff to Be on Time
Leaders can be sensitive to families’ different rhythms and challenges without dismissing basic professional norms.
2 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management Polls About Lessons on Racism in Schools Can Be Eye-Opening, and Misleading
Opinion surveys may help district leaders host more-productive conversations, but how they're framed can lead to wildly different results.
11 min read
Hand holding smartphone with voting app. Online voting with mini people concept flat vector illustration with smartphone screen, voting box and voters making decisions.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Pandemic-Seasoned Principals Share Hard-Earned Leadership Lessons
The COVID crisis has tested principals’ resolve to an unprecedented degree, but many have gleaned valuable takeaways from the experience.
6 min read
Boat on the water with three people inside. Leader pointing  forward. In the water around them are coronavirus pathogens.
iStock/Getty Images Plus