Sunday, May 21, 2000

Many schools look at teacher rewards

Bonuses, criteria tests are some approaches

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Public Schools may be a pioneer among public districts in approving a teacher pay scale completely based on performance.

        But the concept of rewarding teachers for results has been or is being considered by dozens of school systems nationwide.

        Allen Odden, an education professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said other approaches either paid bonuses when certain criteria (higher test scores or lower dropout rates) were met or paid teachers for acquiring national certification or additional degrees.

        “What sets Cincinnati apart is that they took the knowledge and skills and performance part of the review and made it the heart of the salary system and of how you can move up,” said Dr. Odden, who helped local officials and Cincinnati Federation of Teacher representatives craft the new plan.

        Kentucky used to be on a system that rewarded individual teachers for meeting or exceeding goals on standardized tests. But in 1998, after several lawsuits over the system, Kentucky altered its plan to reward individual schools with additional funding.

        Among those on plans with base pay based on seniority that also provide performance-based bonuses for teachers are districts in California, Florida and Fairfax County, Md.

        Denver schools are in the midst of a two-year project that pays teachers $500 a year to participate and a $1,000 bonus if their students improve academic achievement.

        Dr. Odden said he is working with three other states and two other districts to implement plans similar to Cincinnati's. One of those states is Iowa, which announced its intention to pursue the plan a day after the CPS board approved its new plan.

        Iowa has already tinkered with different ideas, including a team approach that would reward teachers for collective success.

        Charlotte Danielson, who designed the original teaching criteria that CPS based its plan upon, said hundreds of school districts are implementing teacher standards.

        “But except in Cincinnati, it hasn't gotten to the stage where that has been linked to compensation,” said Mrs. Danielson, author of Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching, and lead developer for Educational Testing Service, a nonprofit organization in Princeton, N.J.

        “In most other places, any additional awards are tied to other criteria such as higher test scores. Cincinnati is truly the first to base it on what it takes to be a good teacher.”


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