Pay for Performance – the intent and more

March 9, 2012

No, it is not a ploy to reduce salaries.  It is a ploy to increase them!

Everywhere I go there is tons of misunderstanding and misinformation about pay for performance.  I am going to do my best to answer questions that I have been asked.

Q – If only the top 10% of teachers in a school (for example) can get the pay for performance money, it discourages us from working together because we are competing.  Isn’t that bad for our students?

A – The draft of the pay for performance framework has always been criterion referenced, not norm referenced.  In a literal sense, this means that if every employee in the system met the rigorous targets set forth in the plan (differentiated for them), every employee would qualify and be paid the additional compensation.  There is no “curve.”  It is straight achievement or performance.

Q – Where are we in the development of the pay for performance system?  Where are the details?

A – When I arrived, the board was clear that they wanted to pay great teachers and employees more money.  They know that this district was and is built on great people, and they feel that old school compensation is not paying great people what they are truly worth.  They directed me to update the pay for performance system.  After some initial study, it was clear that we did not have the money to build the system the way we wanted to build it.  We started to study election years – 2011, 2012, 2013.  We could not go out in 2012 because it is a Presidential election and that makes a tax increase in Douglas County a more expensive campaign than our supporters could handle.  Therefore, we had to look at 2011 or 2013.  My position was that 2013 was too late – no money until January 2014, and while 2011 was fast, we felt we could collaboratively build the framework that would provide enough information to our supporters that they would support the campaign and also vote for the increase.

Therefore, Doug Harman began the work of leading a team in the development of the framework.  When Doug left, Dan McMinimee took it forward.  The framework basically has 3 main parts:

  1. Evaluation (CITE/LEAD) – required by SB 191
  2. Balanced Assessment – SB 191 requires that part of evaluation be student growth and achievement data.  Since we are not satisfied with CSAP or TCAP as a high quality indicator of the growth and achievement of our students on the MOST important things we teach and develop, we started to build our own balanced assessment system – one that will take the most important outcomes (content and skills) and measure them well (real time) to create a balanced data set that tells us how are students are growing and achieving.  We want to value the assessments our teachers are giving now – formative, interim, and summative as well as include more standardized measures.
  3. World Class Education Targets – these are the things from the research and literature that we know are good for our students – things that will make our students (continue to make our students) some of the most prepared in the world for any college or career pathway of their choice.

This is the framework.  As you can see, it is like the frame of a house.  It has no “meat” on the bones yet.  That was by design.  We did not have enough time to do a high quality job creating differentiated “meat” prior to an election and we are committed to doing it well.  I used to really dislike evaluating my amazing counselors, music teachers, art teachers, physical education teachers and more using an instrument that was clearly not written for the most valuable things they do.  I was having word wall conversations with physical education teachers instead of talking about developing student ethics through individual and team sports, developing health and wellness through life-long sports, and more.  Silly!

We don’t want our system to look like that.  Instead, we want to find the finest PE teachers in our district and pay them to help us develop the rigorous metrics inside the framework above that makes perfect sense for what they do.  That is exactly what we want to do with the pay for performance money – use it to pay great employees to build the system (add the “meat”) as well as participate in the professional development that will allow them to be successful in the system. Then, we want to transition to paying people additional money for being successful in the system.  If negotiations go well, that’s where we are.

As always, my team and I are interested in hearing your comments and questions. We would like to encourage you to direct them to the specific District department they are related to at Feedback Central. Since it has not always been feasible for me to provide detailed responses within this blog, comments and questions will be addressed by myself and my team in future meetings, blog posts and articles.