Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My Teacher Merit Pay Plan

It seems like every other week there is a new teacher pay reform proposal published, so not wanting to be left out, I figured I would offer my own ideas.

I propose a system roughly modeled on the Air Force promotion system.

Levels: There would be several levels of teachers, and within each level there would be steps based on years of service. Each level of teacher would have added responsibility... for example you might have novice teacher, teacher, teacher mentor, teacher supervisor, and master teacher. Within each level, there would be years of service raises.

Promotion: Promotion between levels would be based on a combination of value added scores (75%) and personnel ratings (25%).

Value Added Rating: The key to the value added scores part of the rating system would be to base it on a 3 year average of scores. This would serve to mitigate the effects of a "good" or "bad" group of students, and also take into account consistency over an extended period of time. I also think that weighting more recent years slightly would reward improving teachers, but a balance would have to be struck.

Personnel Ratings: Since a large part of my program would be to encourage high performing and experienced teachers to mentor newer teachers, I would create a rubric that not only took into account teacher mechanics like control of classroom, organization, use of time, etc..., but that also took into account more subjective measures like mentoring, teamwork, and leadership. To ensure integrity, I would propose that the rating score would have to have concurrence between three separate people, perhaps a master teacher, a department head, and the principal of the school.

Certification and Education: I would include certain advantages to teachers who completed teacher education plans, perhaps awarding them slightly higher pay than teachers who started teaching with just a bachelors degrees, but teachers who started without a degree and proved themselves as competent teachers would catch up to the "certified" teachers within one year. Since most education certification programs only take one year, the only advantage to attending them would be if the program provided the new teachers with applicable skills that improved value added scores. Additional graduate education could also be factored into the personnel rating, but once again, because of the weighting of the value added scores, only programs that "added value" would make the program make sense. Hopefully, this program would cause education schools to reform themselves to emphasize real world skills, instead of concentrating on education fluff.

Tenure: Finally, I would include a high year of tenure program for the basic level of teachers. If after say three or four years, a teacher wasn't able to meet a certain level of performance, they would be let go. Since most studies I have read have said that most improvement happens in the first two years of teaching, this should be enough time to determine who the good teacher would be. Additionally, once promoted to a certain level, teachers would continually have to meet cutoff scores for that level. This would ensure that teachers would have to continually strive to for success.

Goal: The goal of my proposal is to reward good teachers, while at the same time encouraging education schools to reform. Since their would be years of service raises, teachers who peaked out or simply didn't want to take on the extra responsibilities of promotion would still be rewarded for dedication and loyalty to the profession. Because value added scores carry most of the promotion points, education schools would only be able to survive if they could demonstrate that they gave their students a competitive edge, besides for a piece of paper. Reform is on the horizon, I think that my rough outline of a program is a good starting point to design a pay system that rewards high performers and hopefully provides incentives for teachers to excel and to improve.


Anonymous said...

I'm in - for the discussion/debate! (And, as you know, I'm approaching this from a high school perspective.)

My first thought: I think the personnel ratings as a determiner are too low. Maybe because the idea is developed with a perfect system in mind as the standard, rather than as an end result that would occur after a lengthy process of changeover? (I'm not accusing, I'm asking - what was the end result upon which you designed your ideas? And how would you suggest your system be applied to the change-over process?)

I think personnel should have greater weight, maybe 70/30 or even 60/40. In my opinion, it is quality classroom management (different from discipline) which is the determiner for classroom success. Not only is the teacher organized, but can the teacher present an organized calendar ahead of time to guide student expectations of process; an organized, posted, daily agenda that reflects consistant daily expectations; and how does the teacher relate to students? Does the teacher foster a working relationship with students (and an authoritative presence in the subject matter), or is there indication of a more adversarial relationship? Those would be my questions as an evaluator in this system.

Considering that personnel ratings in your system would include mentorship, what are your thoughts on the possibility of mentors being held responsible (in any way) for the success or failure of their mentees?

I like what you're doing here. I think it merits some consideration/analysis. I especially like the three-year evaluation of student performance. I have some thoughts on that, but I think the basic idea might be something which could potentially ease the concerns of teachers over being judged by student performance. Anyway, those thoughts for later.

Anonymous said...

That was me, Redkudu, above.

Parentalcation said...

Ahhh Redkudu,

I appreciate your input. My only wish is that we could debate this over a beer instead of in the comment section.

I am open to different splits of emphasis... as long as measurable student outcome carried the majority of the weight. I think the secret to the personnel measurement factor would be to have it based on a pretty well define set of standards, as well as having enough guarantees to ensure integrity of ratings.

I am not totally convinced that mentors should be held directly accountable for the success or failure of mentees, but I do think they should be evaluated in the effort or professionalism that they exhibited. I think each different level of teacher would be measured against different expectations, based on job responsibilities.

In the military we rate our NCO's on leadership, setting an example, communication, enforcement of standards, etc... I would imagine that similar rating blocks might work for mentors and for teacher supervisors.

I envision a system where every teacher mentor is assigned two teachers. Every teach supervisor is assigned three to four teacher mentors, an so on...

I also want to note that the whole concept of mentoring would never end at any level. Master teachers would be expected to mentor teacher supervisors, who would in-turn mentor the mentor teachers, etc...

I would also try and instill a climate where every teacher would be actively trying to train their replacement. Since teachers would eventually be rated on their ability to pass on knowledge, hopefully this would encourage an cooperative atmosphere that rewarded innovation (if needed), and school wide accomplishment.

Parentalcation said...

Change over... I forgot to address this.

I truthfully never thought of this, but I am going to guess that the best method would be roughly assign teachers to levels based on a combination of straight experience and supervisor review. Any changeover would have to guarantee that no current teachers would loose pay. I also would like to shift the whole pay scale to the left, allowing a much greater range in teacher pay, concentrating mostly at the upper level.

This would have the effect of minimizing resistance to the program, while providing incentives for teachers to stay around longer.

I recognize that some teacher might opt to not compete for higher levels because they don't want the added responsibility, but they would still get years of service pay raises and be able to keep their initial "ranks" as long as they kept up with their performance.

A key part of the system, and most controversial would be a system where teachers who burn out or whose performance slipped to far would actually risk being demoted.

JimMc said...

To carry out your Air Force analogy, you're asking the colonel to rank the staff sergeants. How many actual levels of leadership are there in the Air Force compared to schools? Doesn't the structure in the military hierarchy give each level of leadership better opportunity to observe and grade their subordinate level than schools do? Is it plausible to impose your plan on schools without reforming the structure?

Parentalcation said...

I would caution against comparing my idea directly to the military system... I don't want to turn schools into the military.

I was instead mostly using the Air Force Enlisted Promotion System as a very rough guide to a way to promote teachers and determin pay levels.

I made student outcome the largest factor because teachers don't have as much oversight as other occupations.

I do think that my idea would require a significant change in the structure of most schools, but I think since it would include provisions for added advancement and promotion based on merit, along with an opportunity to earn every more pay, the difficulty of getting students to buy-in would be reduced.

I don't think my ideas is by any means the best one, but instead I offered it as a starting point to encourage discussion.

Perhaps the most important idea that I came up with is to measure student performance as an average of several years, along with a slightly weighted formula to give slightly more points for recent high performance.

Most teachers who dislike ratings on student perfomance complain that sometimes they just get unlucky with a specific class. A 3-year average would mitigate this phenomena.

(sorry for any spelling errors... in a rush... didnt have time to spell check)

JimMc said...

I think (most) everyone agrees that some kind of merit evaluation is better than none. I'm just thinking of Kedrudu's (or whatever) questions about personnel evaluations and how a principal (or even assistant principal) could practically accomplish that for all of the teachers in a school?

As far as the 3-year scoring goes, that works in theory - as long as the measuring stick (i.e. the tests) remains the same over time. But if the measuring stick changes, the comparisons are no longer valid. This is hard stuff - no wonder it hasn't really happened yet.

Parentalcation said...

I am not so sure that test changes would matter so much. If you are measuring relative changes in "improvement" and not just achievement, there should be a way to norm the tests.

I was imagining the Principal being more like an endorser (final reviewer) of the report. Our Commander signs off on over 300 reports a year (every single one in our squadron), with nothing more than a concur or non-concur block.

Redkudu said...

Let's explore cimmj's (or whatever - I'm kidding, I'm kidding, all in fun, Jim!) questions. I'll look at my school as an example, as it's pretty much just like every other school I've worked in.

Students: about 1,800 middle to low socio economic class

1 principal
6 assistant principals
9 "staff" (registrar, attendance, etc.)
2 paid hall monitors
1 campus police officer
6 counselors
9 departments (English, Math, Science, History, Ag/tech, Fine Arts, Foreign language, athletics, special ed)
Special ed - we are the district's special ed school, so that department is very large and mostly independent.
1 department head for each department
1 team leader for each grade level within the department
Over 200 teachers, support personnel (interpreters, paraprofessionals, etc.)

Each AP is assigned 1-2 departments

We are a "teaching campus" for two local colleges, which means we have education students on campus each day. I've twice mentored students in their observation phases (they just come in and observe me daily), and once mentored a student teacher.

In the English department we have 1 first year teacher (she has a volunteer mentor), 2 second year teachers (no "official" mentors), and then the rest have anywhere from 3-20+ years.

At this point in time, teacher "evaluations" are done through something called the ABC project: Appraisal By Collaberation. Basically, we team up with another teacher or two, are expected to complete a "project" of our own design which studies a way to improve student learning. These are treated as a joke. We receive no time during the year to meet or work with our group, and at the end we gather in our AP's office for a 5-15 minute session in which we explain what we did, and s/he checkmarks a review sheet with some very vague determiners of performance.

I completed my entire ABC project last weekend. I built a website intended as a resource for parents and teachers about bullying in schools, and particularly how to handle homosexual issues. This website would theoretically be offered to teachers and parents through the district. Our campus' GSBA club mentor pulled some basic info together for me to put on the website, and I looked into some books and articles addressing various solutions. Took me maybe 8 hours. (It's a nice website though.) That's how we're evaluated as teachers in our school.

I actually really like the idea of an ABC project - it has a lot of potential. But with no time devoted or allowed for the collaberation, and even the APs treating it as a joke, it's become a ridiculous little game we play. And you can see that as a measure of teacher's effectiveness, it's completely useless.

I've worked at the school for 5 years. I've only been observed by a principal once, in my first year. I got compliments through email. I have never since had an AP in my room for observation, nor do we see principals in our wing.

redkudu said...

So now that I've said all that, I'll add that I think this idea is certainly within the realm of possibility. If each "unit" is responsible for those within the unit, the English department might look something like this: (Rory, tell me if this is what you had in mind.)

New teachers (I'd propose they be grouped this way with between 1-3 years in the field, and 1 year at the school, or at the high school level if they have 3+ years' overall experience), would be assigned a mentor. Personally, I think mentors should have a minimum 5 years' experience at the high school level.

Mentors would have 1-2 mentees, and evaluate their performance, with a team leader as a "sign off" person on the evaluation.

Team leaders would then report to department heads. Department heads to APs. APs to principal.

Evaluations, in my opinion, would be based on no less than 1 actual observation, ideally more. Mentees would need to observe other teachers in order to complete their requirements.

Those are just some very simplistic ideas. And, I work in a state with no official unions, so we might have more leeway in implementing something like this.

Couple of the pros I can see with this, especially for new teachers: mentees could get lesson plans from mentors, relieving the stress of writing their own and dealing with the day-to-day of the classroom. I think a lot of brand new teachers would find this decreases a lot of stress. Experienced teachers are able to design lessons which fit into the class period, and if mentor and mentee are teaching like lessons at the same time, this opens up great possibilities for side-by-side problem-solving. Mentees would get to see experienced teachers at work - watch how the structure the class, how they deal with classroom management, etc.

What I think would be important at this level (mentor/mentee) is that the mentor be adept in writing clear, concise lesson plans - something which perhaps would be evaluated by the team leader.

So to sum up my long-winded thoughts - yes, I think this plan could be imposed on schools without completely reforming structure. It might take a year or two for everyone to adjust to their new roles (not to mention the time required to decide upon effective evaluation standards), but at its core this could still work within the basic hierarchy of a school.

Ryan said...

Most teachers who dislike ratings on student perfomance complain that sometimes they just get unlucky with a specific class. A 3-year average would mitigate this phenomena.

Well, maybe.

This year I've been getting about an 80% passing rate on the growth norms for my kids, meaning that 80% grew the way they should. A couple of years ago, with the unholy class from hell, I would have been lucky to have had 40% make the growth they should. If there's an average year in there (let's say 70%), then my three year average is 63%.

.630 is a hell of a batting average, but is it good enough for a teacher?

Parentalcation said...

I am not quite sure what you mean about a passing rate on growth norms. Does the percentage measure passing of a grade level test, or does it measure the number of students who completed 1 year of growth?

However it is measured, my proposal would have to include a standard. My initial idea is to base it on the average scale growth of the same type of students state or district wide.

Theoretically the average score would be 1.0 In other words, the average teacher would improve the average classes academic achievement by one grade level.

Also remember, my ratings are not used for teacher bonuses, they are used for promotion between levels. It is also compared with other teachers in the same district or school. These other teachers might also have a bad year.