Tuesday, May 16, 2000

CPS approves merit pay plan for teachers

First in nation to try new system

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Cincinnati Board of Education stepped to the front of a national movement Monday, unanimously approving a plan to replace the seniority-based pay scale for teachers with a system that would be solely based on performance.

        With the vote, Cincinnati became the first public school district in the country to implement such a system, which is scheduled to go into effect this fall if approved, as expected, by the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers. The system would be phased in over five years.

  • Teachers would receive an assessment at least once every five years.
  • The evaluation by an administrator and lead teacher is based on 16 criteria covering planning and preparing for student learning; creating an environment for learning; teaching for learning; and professionalism.
  • Teachers would be ranked as apprentice, novice, career, advanced or accomplished.
  • Teachers could move up in pay for teaching in a shortage area such as science, receiving additional degrees in their fields and receiving additional licenses or national certification.
  Source: Cincinnati Public Schools
        “This will have a profound effect not only on our system but on urban education in general,” Superintendent Steven Adamowski said. “We have never in the histo ry of school reform ... gotten to the point where we've aligned compensation, professional development and evaluation. Without that, you essentially end up with an organization with goals but no relationship between the goals and how people are compensated.

        “And no high performing organization in the world can operate that way, and we're not going to anymore either.”

        The new system would rate teachers in 16 different areas.

        Principals and master teachers would review a teacher at least every five years.

        Based on their scores, teachers would be placed in a category: apprentice, novice, career, advanced, accomplished.

        Each level has a corre sponding pay range, which could be augmented with supplemental pay for national accreditation, additional education and other criteria.

        A starting “novice” teacher would make $30,000. An “accomplished” teacher would make $62,500. The range matches the current range under the seniority scale.

        Allan Odden, a University of Wisconsin-Madison education professor who helped design the system, said it was the first of its kind in the country. He works with systems nationwide, and will be in Iowa today to help announce that state's intention to move toward merit pay for teachers.

        “You would think that something like this would be like pulling teeth and politically charged, but the opposite was true,” Dr. Odden said.

        Districts around the country have talked about implementing merit pay for teachers, some going as far as introducing bonuses for good performance.

        But this is the first time a district has implemented a systemwide overhaul based solely on performance.

        The concept was approved in CFT's 1997 contract, and union representatives and district administrators began jointly designing the system in 1998.

        The new system has been undergoing a trial run at 10 schools for the last 18 months, and also would need approval from all CFT members, about 3,600 teachers.

        But CFT bargaining chair Rick Beck said teachers generally support the system.

        “This is not a punitive system. ... It gives teachers a new guide to opportunities,” said Mr. Beck, who said he expects the union to approve the system in the fall.

        Jeff Bixby, a third-grade teacher at Eastwood Paideia in Madisonville and the building union representative, said he expects a difficult period of adjustment, especially for teachers who get lower-than-expected evaluations and corresponding salaries.

        “But we as a union helped create this, and this shows that we aren't just there to protect people who can't do the job,” Mr. Bixby said.

        Dr. Terrence Poole, an Amberley Village dentist whose fourth-grade daughter attends Kilgour, said he welcomes the new system if it pushes teachers to get better.

        “The whole point is to be the best teacher you can be for the kids,” Dr. Poole said. “And that might be painful the first year. But we've got to start somewhere, and hold everyone from the students to the principals to the teachers more accountable.”

Details of the merit pay system

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