Performance Pay – Current Context
The traditional salary schedule, which rewards teachers based upon years of experience and educational attainment, is one of the most enduring aspects of public education. This structure, dating back to the 1920s, stems from inequities based upon gender and job type that permeated the profession. The salary schedule removed raises and other job-related advancements away from the unpredictable judgments of administrators and district-level personnel, creating teacher autonomy and a sense of professionalism. Since its inception, however, there have been numerous attempts to alter it to more accurately reflect market principles by rewarding teachers and leaders for their contribution towards increased student learning.
Today, teacher compensation reform efforts are being driven by research demonstrating that the two mechanisms determining teacher pay, years of experience and educational attainment, are weakly associated at best with student learning. Therefore, a teacher’s impact on student achievement, assuming additional responsibilities within the school community, willingness to teach in high-needs schools, etc., are not taken into consideration when compensating educators. The disconnect between research and practice has spurred numerous states and school districts to overhaul their teacher compensation practices. These efforts are being supported by funds available under the federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), which provides school districts additional support in implementing performance pay programs. Examples from around the country include Denver’s ProComp, the TAP program, and Houston’s ASPIRE program.
Moving forward, it is critical that Delaware analyze current performance pay programs in order to ascertain lessons learned. After carefully considering the pros and cons of each approach, we must move forward with design and implementation of a performance pay program that rewards highly-effective educators for their contribution towards increased student achievement that is tailored to our local context.
Next week, we will analyze the current compensation structure in Delaware and implications of Race to the Top funds towards implementation of a performance pay program throughout the state.