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Ellen Lavroff, Chairperson, UAC

Denver Public School teachers, under the leadership of the EA, negotiated an unusual contract in early September, 1999, which included a two-year experiment to tie teacher pay to student performance. The district, which has 67,000 students and 4,300 teachers, allowed teachers (85% at each school) to decide whether they would participate in the plan for two years. At the end of that period, all teachers will vote to accept or reject it. The goal was to find 12 elementary schools and 2 middle schools to participate this year, and 2 high schools the second year. Here are the key points of the plan:

  1. Teachers get $500 to sign up and another $l000 to accomplish two objectives developed with their principal.

  2. After the two year trial period the bonuses would stop and there would no longer be step increases. Instead, teachers would be required to meet certain goals for those increases. (During the pilot program there will be annual cost-of-living increases.)

  3. Two administrators and two teachers will manage the pilot program and help design it with consultants.

  4. The 12 elementary schools will be divided into three groups. Group 1 will compare fall and spring scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills to measure achievement. Group 2 will require teachers to use their own tests to assess class work. Group 3 will judge improvements on how well teachers learned new skills such as teaching reading more effectively.

The two year contract includes a starting salary of $30,000 for first-year teachers and a 2.56% cost of living increase for all teachers, as well as step increases.

The program began October 31, 1999. Although teachers voted at 12 (of 82) elementary schools to participate, none of the middle schools did (out of 18). According to the EA Vice President, who is a member of the 4-person oversight committee, more than half of the teachers in elementary and middle schools did vote to participate. A campaign was launched to find the two middle schools.

Among the reasons given for the lack of enthusiasm are: 1) too little time to inform teachers, 2) mistrust of district administrators, 3) doubts that the money is worth the effort, 4) being held more accountable when they cannot control students' families nor other factors affecting students, 5) fears of unfair evaluations, and 6) little motivation for students to do well on tests which will measure the program's success.

Experts from national education and research organizations will help judge teachers' goals and the results. If the program is adopted permanently, and students fail to achieve target scores, teachers will lose traditional automatic longevity increases.

A final note: the DPS Board, at the end of November, approved a plan making the Superintendent's entire performance pay dependent on student achievement in third, fourth and seventh grade reading and writing tests. The rest of the administrators' raises will be withheld next year if students do not show an 8% improvement on state reading tests.