Educators Speak Out on Pay for Performance

CAP Interviews Teachers and School Leaders Implementing Compensation Reform

CAP interviews teachers and school leaders implementing compensation reform about their success and the utility of the Teacher Incentive Fund.

A resource reading and math teacher works with a fourth grade student at Ridgely Elementary School, a low-income school in Springfield, Illinois. (AP/Seth Perlman)
A resource reading and math teacher works with a fourth grade student at Ridgely Elementary School, a low-income school in Springfield, Illinois. (AP/Seth Perlman)

Researchers, policymakers, and the general public agree that skilled teachers are valuable, but there is also a growing understanding that states and districts do not have adequate systems for attracting, developing, and retaining effective teachers. Improving these human capital systems would yield long-term dividends for both teachers and students.

The Teacher Incentive Fund, or TIF, is one of the few federal investments that can incentivize significant changes in human capital systems in participating states and districts. TIF supports performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems in high-needs schools. It also supports providing additional compensation for teachers who take on increased roles and responsibilities or teach in subject shortage areas, such as mathematics, science, and special education. Many of the TIF programs also upgrade their evaluation systems and professional development programs to help teachers become more effective. This is federal funding that goes directly to support effective teachers and those taking on challenging assignments.

The Obama administration and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan understand the importance of smart, forward-looking investments in education. That’s why the administration has proposed a dramatic increase in funding for the Teacher Incentive Fund from $97 million this year to $487.3 million in fiscal year 2010. And it provided additional support for the program with $200 million in funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The House has approved $446 million in funding for the program (H.R. 3293), and policymakers should support this funding level as they complete work on the final 2010 Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill.

We were fortunate to be able to talk to some educators who are on the ground implementing programs that include pay-for-performance and pay for additional responsibilities. They illustrate the promise of these types of programs for improving teaching and learning, and retaining effective teachers in the profession.

Interview: Superintendent Dan Hoverman and Principal Ron Wilke on Minnesota’s Quality Compensation for Teachers program

The Quality Compensation for Teachers program, enacted by the Minnesota state legislature in 2005, provides funding for programs in alternative teacher compensation in school districts and charter schools across the state. The Q-Comp program has five components to ensure success in student achievement and teacher development:

  • Career ladders for teachers
  • Job-embedded professional development
  • Instructional observations and standards-based assessments
  • Measures to determine student growth
  • Alternative teacher compensation or performance pay

CAP talked to two Minnesotans who have worked closely with teachers, unions, and state officials to develop the Q-Comp program in their schools about how Q-Comp is improving teacher performance and student achievement.

Dan Hoverman, superintendent of the Mounds View School District in suburban St. Paul, told us that Q-Comp has “changed the culture of the schools” in his district. And Ron Wilke, principal of LaCrescent-Hokah Elementary School in LaCrescent, a smaller town in the southeast corner of the state, says that Q-Comp has helped his school to “focus the conversation in terms of teacher learning, teachers coming out of their classrooms, coming together, and looking at student needs.”

Interview with Dan Hoverman, Superintendent of the Mounds View Public Schools in St. Paul, MN (mp3)

Interview with Ron Wilke, Principal of LaCrescent-Hokah Elementary School in LaCrescent, MN (mp3)


Video: Master Teacher Alma Velez on the Teacher Advancement Program at Anson Jones Elementary School in Bryan, Texas

The Teacher Advancement Program is the basis for a number of Teacher Incentive Fund grants. TAP was introduced by the Milken Family Foundation in 1999 and is now sponsored by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching. It is a comprehensive school reform model designed to attract effective teachers, improve the quality of instruction, and improve student achievement. It includes four elements:

  • Multiple career paths. Teachers may become master or mentor teachers, who serve on the school’s leadership team, provide other teachers with individual coaching and support, and conduct teacher evaluations. Teachers receive additional compensation for taking on these roles.
  • Ongoing applied professional growth. TAP professional growth includes “cluster groups,” individual coaching, and classroom-based support provided by master and mentor teachers. Cluster groups are groups of teachers that teach similar grades or subjects that meet for one to two hours weekly to identify student needs and develop instructional strategies to address them. Cluster groups are led by expert instructors in the school.
  • Instructionally focused accountability. TAP provides a system for evaluating teachers based on clearly defined, research-based standards. Teachers are evaluated four to six times a year by trained and certified evaluators.
  • Performance-based compensation. TAP pays teachers for their instructional practice in the classroom and the performance of their students. This additional pay is based upon multiple evaluations of their classroom teaching as well as their classroom-level achievement growth and school-level achievement growth, both of which are measured using a value-added model.

Alma Velez is a TAP Master Teacher at Anson Jones Elementary School in Bryan, Texas. As a master teacher, she leads weekly professional development cluster meetings with teachers in grades Pre-K, kindergarten, third, fourth, and fifth grade and field tests teaching strategies to share with other teachers in the school. She has also served as the Dual Language coordinator on the campus for the past 3 years. Here she talks about her role as a master teacher.

Video clips of Alma Velez, Master Teacher at Anson Jones Elementary School in Bryan, Texas





Interview: Columbus Education Association Leader Rhonda Johnson on the Colombus Teacher Advancement Program

Rhonda JohnsonRhonda Johnson is head of the Columbus Education Association in Columbus, Ohio, a union representing teachers, counselors, and other certificated staff. The Ohio Department of Education received a $20 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant during the 2006-07 academic year. The grant supports the Teacher Advancement Program in the Cincinnati and Columbus City Schools, as well as other pay for performance programs in Toledo and Cleveland. Rhonda has been involved with Columbus’ TAP program from its inception.

Interview with Rhonda Johnson, head of the Columbus Education Association in Columbus, Ohio (mp3)

Interview: Principal Rodney Wilds on Guilford County, North Carolina’s Mission Possible Program

Rodney WildsRodney Wilds is principal of T. Wingate Andrews High School in High Point, North Carolina. He was appointed to this position after being nominated for Guilford County Schools Principal of the Year in 2009. Rodney served prior to this appointment as principal at Jackson Middle School in Greensboro, North Carolina for three years where he led his faculty in meeting 100 percent of Adequate Yearly Progress targets in 2008 and 2009.

T. Wingate Andrews High School participates in the Mission Possible program, a comprehensive teacher incentive plan that combines a number of components to keep and attract highly effective teachers and administrators in schools with critical needs. The program began in 20 schools in the school year 2006-07, and eight schools were added in the 2007-08 school year with a Teacher Incentive Fund grant. The program entails ongoing professional development, collaborative support, and smaller class sizes. Teachers are offered recruitment or retention incentives to work in Mission Possible schools and become eligible for performance incentives. Performance incentives are based on student growth on state assessments in math, language arts, and reading.

Interview with Rodney Wilds, Principal of T. Wingate Andrews High School in High Point, North Carolina (mp3)

Interview: Master Teacher Kimberly Wilkins and Principal Adrienne Davis on the Philadelphia Teacher Advancement Program

Wilkins and DavisKimberly Wilkins is a master teacher and Adrienne Davis is a principal at the Imani Charter School in Philadelphia. The Imani Charter School is one of 11 high-need urban charter schools implementing the Teacher Advancement Program as part of a Teacher Incentive Fund grant. All of the schools implementing the Philly TAP program have made significant progress in reading and math over the past three years. Eight out of 11 schools in the second year of the grant made gains that were two standard errors above the gains that were expected, and the remaining three made gains that were one standard error above the expected gains.

Interview with master teacher Kimberly Wilkins and Principal Adrienne Davis of the Imani Charter School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (mp3)

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