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Society for Quality Education

Incentivizing Great Classroom Teachers

July 23, 2014 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 07:38 AM

Shortchanged: The hidden costs of lockstep teacher pay is a new report that shows how "lockstep pay hampers recruitment, creates perverse incentives for retention, and ignores the urgency of bringing top talent to the schools that most need great teachers". The report recommends compensation systems that are "based on three core principles: make early-career teacher salaries competitive with those in other fields; offer raises for strong classroom performance; create incentives to teach in high-needs schools". There are already a few dozen US systems that are trying to find smarter ways to pay their teachers. Here is an excerpt from the case study of Achievement First, a network of 29 high-achieving charter schools located in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. 

"The model is composed primairly of base salary increases based on the individual teacher's performance and experience, as well as school-wide bonuses based on the overall success of the school. Newly hired teachers are generally placed in Stage 1, 2, or 3 based on their previous teaching experience. As teachers progress up the stages, they receive increased compensation, stipends for independent professional development, school-based and network-wide recognition and greater input into school and network decisions.

"A teacher must satisfy rigorous criteria to be called a 'distinguished' or 'master' teacher, including multiple years of data showing strong performance in classroom instruction, student achievement, and peer, student and family relationships. Accordingly, Stage 4 and 5 teachers in Achievement First's schools earn dramatically more through base salary alone than they would on the standard district salary schedule.

"Emily Spine is a Stage 3 teacher who relocated to New York City from Milwaukee this year specifically to teach first grade at Achievement First Aspire Elementary School, after experiencing one of the network's professional development sessions in her previous district. The Teacher Career Pathway was a major influence on her decision to move. 'In my second year of teaching, I was in the building from seven until seven, and I was looking at my paycheck andd that was not being reflected at all,' she says of her experience under a traditional steps and lanes system. 'That's not right. I wanted to find a place that compensated its teachers in a way that's commensurate with the impact they are having on their kids and their commitment to their schools.

"For Greta Gartman, a fifth-grade science teacher at Achievement First Bridgeport Academy Middle School in Connecticut, the focus on teacher leadership was a huge draw to the network. 'I was very excited to hear that Achievement First was valuing great teachers staying in the classroom, rather than pushing great teachers into administration,' she says. 'Having less contact with students because you're great doesn't really make sense to me.' As a Stage 4 teacher, Gartman says she feels inspired to be a role model for other teachers. 'My lessons should be examples,' she says. 'Other people are looking at me to know what great teaching looks like, so I'm always trying to do my best."

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