Merit pay update

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Merit pay update

Here are the most recent developments on the merit pay front.

First prize definitely goes to Florida, which only today unveiled the E-Comp statewide performance pay initiative. Florida has actually required performance pay by law since 2002, but many districts and counties have crafted pay plans designed to block teachers from even signing up--and often succeeded. The new plan will enroll teachers whether they apply or not.

E-Comp looks like a pretty good program. First of all, all teachers statewide will have a portion of their salaries based on student learning gains. Outstanding teachers will get bonuses equal to 5 percent of base salary. For a teacher making $50,000 a year, that means a $2,500 bonus. Notably, only the top ten percent of teachers in core academic areas (i.e., the ones tested on the FCAT standardized test) will receive these bonuses. Districts will be able to design their own assessments for teachers in areas not tested on the FCAT.

Houston: Houston's school board is making some smart changes to its rather lackluster performance pay plan. There aren't many details yet, but early reports sound good: the bonuses will be meaningful (topping out at $3,000 for now, but that number's expected to go up) and will be based largely on individual teachers' effect on student achievement gains. For the past five years, Houston has simply been giving blanket bonuses to teachers at its high-performing schools.

Indiana: The Indiana Senate is debating a proposed bill that would tie teacher evaluations to student achievement on the ISTEP state test. Good progress indeed, given that Indiana is currently the only state that explicitly forbids the use of student achievement data in teacher evaluations.

Kansas City: When Kansas City school officials negotiated a new teacher contract with the local AFT in November, the two groups signed a memorandum of understanding to form a joint committee on the possibility of implementing performance pay in the KC district.

The Feds: In December, Congress passed a $99 million Teacher Incentive Fund, a surprising win for compensation reform since almost no new programs were approved in this bare bones budget cycle. This was the ONLY new education program passed, as good an indication of any of the growing popularity of performance pay (take note, NEA). The intention of the program is to encourage districts to experiment with models of performance pay, since in actuality little is known about what works, though we know a lot about what doesn't work. Department officials are fashioning an RFP that will probably be out the door in the next couple of months. We'll keep you posted on this initiative as it takes shape.