Friday, August 25, 2000

Teachers ready for evaluation

Pay-for-performance idea has union backing

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As Cincinnati schools prepare to implement a comprehensive teacher evaluation and compensation system, a push is under way to promote the plan's acceptance.

        Teachers will vote on the performance-based pay system Sept. 14 and 15. It must be approved by the 3,600-member Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.

        Though it has not been approved, teachers who will serve as evaluators are in training this week, learning how to observe and measure the quality of their colleagues' teaching from national experts.

        Principals, also an integral part in the evaluation process, were trained last week.

        And the teachers union is wrapping up a series of forums to answer questions and lobby for the system, which union members helped create.

        Charlotte Danielson, author of the widely used Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching, said Cincinnati “is doing it right.”

        A committee of union teachers and CPS administrators spent the last two years developing the pay-for-performance system.

        Nearly 300 teachers in 10 schools participated in a test of the system last year. And there have been many opportunities for discussions and adjustments.

        “What they are asked to do is really professionally oriented,” Ms. Danielson said. “This makes you talk about your work, but until you do it, you won't realize how beneficial and how fun it can be.”

        Ms. Danielson, a program administrator at Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., is working with teachers this week.

        On Thursday, she engaged teachers in exercises that emphasize the standards Cincinnati teachers are expected to meet, and how to recognize those standards at work in a teacher's lesson.

        Allan Odden, a University of Wisconsin-Madison education professor who helped design Cincinnati's system, is also in town for the training. He said if carried through, the pay-for-performance plan would help teachers be perceived as professionals.

        “All of the evidence shows that if you do it well, teachers like it because they like talking about what makes good teachers and how to get better,” Mr. Odden said. “And if they do that they will see the results in the performance of their students.”

        If the teachers' union does not accept the plan, the district would continue to use a traditional tenure system, in which teacher pay is tied to length of service.

        A no vote would also mean “the dismantling of the professionalization of teaching” in the district, said Kathleen Ware, associate superintendent.

        Cincinnati's board of education approved the plan for implementation in May, making the district the first in the country to take such a step.

        The system calls for administrators and trained peer evaluators to rate teachers in 16 areas.

        Those ratings are applied to a pay scale, and teachers would be evaluated at least every five years — every other year if they choose. In nonevaluation years, teachers do a self-appraisal and pick areas where they need work.

        Based on their scores, teachers would be placed in a category, each with a corresponding pay range. The range matches the current range under the seniority scale, from $30,000 for a starting teacher to $62,500 for an accomplished teacher.


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