District Trendline

Tr3 Trends: Counting what counts

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October 2012

Welcome to Tr3 Trends, NCTQ's monthly newsletter designed just for school district officials.  Each month, we use data from NCTQ's Tr3 database to highlight the latest trends in school district policies and collective bargaining agreements nationwide.  

This month we look at changes in how teacher performance is evaluated and factored into pay and layoff decisions.  Much of the shift on these issues has been driven by major changes to state laws in the past few years.  In this issue of Tr3 Trends, we see how these changes are playing out on the district level.

We analyzed a group of 81 districts which include the 50 largest in the nation and, when not already included, the largest district in every state.  Here's what we found:

35 of the 81 districts examined currently require standardized test scores to factor into teacher evaluation ratings.  Another 13 will do so in the next few years after new state laws are implemented.  

Most districts using standardized test scores in evaluations are simply following state law (22 states now require student achievement of growth to be significant factors in evaluation ratings--up from 4 states in 2009).  In fact, we found only four districts that factor standardized test scores into evaluations when state law doesn't require it: District of Columbia, Houston, and Dekalb and Gwinnett counties (both in Georgia).  While a new state law is not behind the Dekalb and Gwinnett shifts, they signed on early to what the state agreed to do in its Race to the Top grant.

The 11 districts that are scheduled to factor students' standardized test scores into evaluation ratings soon include Clark County (NV), Philadelphia, Hartford, New York City, and Hawaii.  

Nearly all districts that use standardized test scores in evaluations require that student achievement or growth data account for 50% of a teacher's rating.  In most cases the 50% is only partly made up of standardized test results, with the remaining portion determined by other measures of student achievement such as student learning objectives.

5 of the 81 districts have replaced traditional salary schedules with new schedules that tie raises in large part to performance.  26 districts offer high-performing teachers bonuses or stipends.

The step-and-lane pay systems that tie pay directly to seniority and education remain largely intact across the country; however, five districts in our sample have significantly revamped their salary schedules so that pay increases are largely, or exclusively, tied to performance.

In Baltimore City, teachers earn annual step increases through a combination of professional activities and annual evaluations.  With positive student growth outcomes, among other factors, they can move between salary lanes. The District of Columbia gives higher performers annual bonuses of up to $25,000 and allows the highest performers to increase their base pay by leap-frogging steps and lanes.  Denver's ProComp system let teachers build earnings through professional development, advanced degrees, student test score growth, positive classroom observations, and filling hard-to-staff positions.  In Lee County, step increases are only given to teachers earning ratings of effective and highly effective.  In Albuquerque teachers must meet several criteria, including student achievement standards, to move to the highest salary lane.  

Harrison, Colorado is not part of the 81-district sample, but we have highlighted it as one of the most progressive districts we've encountered in our research.  Harrison's new salary schedule has only nine pay levels, and a teacher's pay level is based solely on her summative evaluation and achievement data.  You can find out more about the Harrison structure here.  

Out of the 26 districts which offer performance-based bonuses but haven't significantly altered their salary schedule structure, Prince George's County (MD) and Houston offer some of the largest bonuses.  They give their highest performing teachers bonuses of $12,500 and $9,000, respectively.        

Almost half of the states have some kind of performance pay law on the books.  A number of these laws, though, are permissive, meaning they allow performance pay but do not require it. 

26 of the 81 districts use performance as the top criterion for layoffs; that's up from only 3 districts in 2010.

Most districts still use seniority as the top criterion for layoffs, but the number of districts using performance instead is growing rapidly.  Changes to state laws have driven this change in 23 of the 26 districts.  These 23 districts are in eleven states that now require layoffs to be done primarily based on performance.  The remaining three districts are the District of Columbia (D.C. has no state-level layoff policy); Mesa, Arizona (a new Arizona law states that seniority may not be the sole layoff criterion); and Meridian, Utah (a new Utah law also states that seniority may not be a factor in layoffs).

Even more change is expected.  During the 2015-2016 school year, Seattle will go from using seniority as the top layoff criterion to using multiple criteria when determining the order of layoffs.  In September 2016, Boston will also move from seniority-based layoffs to performance-based layoffs.  Both are the results of renegotiate contracts.

Go to Tr3's custom report page to access all the data we use in Tr3 Trends and to compare teacher policies in 114 school districts nationwide. Send feedback to gmoored@nctq.org.