Performance Pay Blog Post – Part III – Challenges and Lessons Learned

July 27th, 2010

Category: News

Analysis of the education landscape reveals obstacles to be overcome in order to implement a statewide performance pay program. Fortunately, improvements to many of these challenges are underway through the RTTT plan:

Teacher Evaluation: the policies for the statewide Delaware Performance Appraisal System (DPAS II) are currently under revision so that evaluations will take into account student achievement. However, in order to be used for performance pay, the practice of evaluations must change to provide educators accurate evaluations of performance and identify areas of improvement. And, it must be received as a fair, valid measure of teacher performance.
Data Systems: Delaware’s data system, while including many of the critical components, must become more accessible and produce data that accurately measures teachers’ impact on student learning. The state’s Race to the Top plan addresses the work that remains to be done to improve our systems.
State Policy: Delaware’s salary structure incentivizes components that have little correlation to student achievement. Rather, the state should provide funding flexibility to school districts to design and implement performance pay programs aimed at addressing student needs in their local contexts. The Race to the Top bonuses for high-needs schools and highly effective teacher leaders lay some groundwork for future conversations about changes to the salary structure.

Numerous states and school districts have engaged in performance pay programs that provide critical lessons learned around program design and implementation. Overarching themes that have emerged from successful programs include:

Goal Setting: Numerous programs throughout history have not brought desired results because program design and implementation did not align to program goals. Stakeholders must first determine the purpose behind implementation of a performance pay program and work backwards to develop a structure capable of meeting those needs. Delaware must have difficult conversations regarding the purpose behind implementation of a performance pay program, building on the goals in the Race to the Top of teacher effectiveness, recruitment, and retention.
Stakeholder Engagement: Constant communication with all stakeholders involved, including students, parents, principals, district personnel, and outside stakeholders, is extremely critical. By engaging the broader public, momentum towards meaningful reform is enhanced and probability of implementing a successful program increased. Delaware is already being recognized nationally for our engagement in the teacher evaluation revisions mentioned above.
Sustainable Funding: Performance pay programs can’t be piecemeal reform that is subject to the whims of politics. Rather, they must encompass a broader effort to accurately measure teacher effectiveness and recruit, train, support, and reward teachers that demonstrate promise towards reaching that goal. Race to the Top bonuses aren’t enough. This must be a long-term strategy if it is to be effective.

Next week, we will consider next steps Delaware might take to enable state and local school districts to implement performance pay programs designed to attract, support, reward, and retain educators capable of raising student learning.

Brett Turner



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