Teaching Profession

Report Highlights Features of Districts’ Differentiated-Pay Systems

By Stephen Sawchuk — February 17, 2015 2 min read
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An interesting report issued Feb. 17 by the Center for American Progress outlines the differing features of ten districts that have restructured their entire teacher-compensation systems.

The districts in question are Baltimore, Denver, Douglas County, Colo., Harrison District 2 (Colo)., Hillsborough County, Fla., Lawrence, Mass., New Haven, Conn., Pittsburgh, Putnam County, Tenn., and Washington. (CAP is a Washington-based think tank with ties to the Obama administration.)

These districts have set varying criteria for awarding salary increases—rather than layering “bonus” pay on top of the existing salary schedule (typically determined by experience and credentials held). The report calls them “first-mover” districts for that reason. (To be fair, several of them still reward for holding a master’s degree, but experience no longer guarantees an increase.)

Here’s a handy chart from the report itemizing the pay features of the new systems.

The report is generally positive about the changes, noting, for instance, that teachers can earn a top salary within nine years in Harrison District 2, up from 27 under the old pay schedule, and eight years in D.C., up from 21. Of course, all of these districts tie raises to some type of performance measure, such as teacher evaluations. And although the report doesn’t focus on this, they’ve certainly all had their fair share of policy debates about whether those performance measures are accurate and implemented consistently.

Also of interest: Most of the districts, as expected, let the top teachers earn significantly more than they would have under the old systems. But the report indicates that “typical,” proficient teachers also tend to earn more than previously and in some cases have closed the gap with other professional salaries in the same metropolitan areas (as benchmarked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

From a research perspective, the impact of these systems is still pretty much an open question, since many of them haven’t been studied in depth. (Many recent studies looking at bonus pay have found no effect. But there appear to be some positive signs for transfer bonuses and at least one study suggesting that Washington’s system has had an impact.)

But from my perspective, it’s simply helpful having a rundown of the features included in these compensation system.

I’ve covered some of these districts’ plans in detail, including those in the Harrison district, New Haven, and most recently Baltimore, so check them out for more details.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.