Wednesday, November 14, 2007

CAP Holds Briefing on Teacher Compensation

On Monday, the Center for American Progress (CAP) held a briefing titled, "Reforming Teacher Compensation: What Can We Learn from Recent Programs?" The briefing featured two new papers from CAP about effective strategies for reforming teacher compensation as well as a representative from Denver's ProComp teacher compensation system.

Over the last couple of years, policy makers have started to implement a number of alternative compensation strategies (including pay for performance). The panelists agreed that the idea of teacher compensation is not new. However, as stated by Joan Baratz-Snowden from the Education Study Center and Brad Jupp from Denver Public Schools, the current single salary schedule for teachers has had remarkable staying power. Baratz-Snowden attributed this staying power to the fact that the current salary schedule (based on teaching experience and college credits and degrees) is easy to understand and administer, it is predictable and teachers believe it is fair and objective. She also stated its limitations: it has not produced competitive salaries in the current job market; it does not respond to market forces; and the evidence linking teacher education and experience to improved student performance is weak.

To alleviate the confusion over the various proposals surrounding teacher compensation, Robin Chait from the Center for American Progress identified five types of differential compensation policies: 1) pay for performance, 2) pay for knowledge and skills, 3) career ladder programs, 4) pay for teaching in high-needs subjects and 5) pay for teaching in high-needs schools. She noted that all five policies aim to improve teacher performance and attract and retain teachers by compensating them in part for improvements in student achievement. Baratz-Snowden said that the notion of pay for performance is the most contentious, and how reformers frame these proposals is key to their success. One major problem for most states and districts, she noted, is linking specific student achievement to a specific teacher.

Jupp spoke about Denver's "ProComp" program, which he asserted is one of the most successful alternative compensation programs in recent years. The program uses a methodology based on students' learning gains on tests to determine only a part of teacher pay increases. He emphasized the collaboration in the Denver school system and noted that schools, teachers and administrators "need a shared will to solve the problems and move forward to ensure student success."

When asked about essential elements to implement differential compensation policies, Baratz-Snowden noted that six key elements were necessary: sufficient and stable funding, communication and teacher buy-in, skilled leadership, targeting high-need schools and subjects, program evaluation and monitoring systems, and integrating and aligning other systems to compensation systems.

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