Retaining Teacher Talent
Policy Recommendation 1a: When developing an alternative compensation plan, local policymakers should implement and communicate a transparent approach that clearly identifies the rationale and methodology used to distribute performance-based incentives—especially when including student outcomes as one measure.
Most teachers of all generations will have difficulty trusting an evaluation system that is based solely on students’ standardized test scores or, indeed, any system that unfairly differentiates between teachers. The first step toward developing a transparent and valid evaluation system is to incorporate multiple measures that meaningfully account for the factors that are beyond a teacher’s control. For example, at the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in San Fernando, California, school officials have implemented the Peer Assistance and Review System, a teacher compensation program that uses three sets of reviews, each based on a four-point scale.5 All three reviews take place three times per year, and program administrators then average the scores of all of the evaluations to determine the level of compensation for a teacher.
Once the evaluation measures and approach have been developed in collaboration with key local stakeholder groups, district leaders should focus their efforts on building understanding and awareness of the new system. Schools that intend to implement the Teacher Advancement Program, for instance, are required by their local union affiliates and the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching to administer a faculty vote; in general, 65 percent to 75 percent agreement is required among teachers, depending on the union stipulations in the particular district.6 This vote is essential to achieving and maintaining stakeholder buy-in and is a way to promote information-sharing between administrators and staff.
Policy Recommendation 1b: When designing policy based on an alternative compensation system for teachers, local policymakers should be aware that those affected will be more likely to support a schoolwide bonus model than one that is based on individual awards.
Schoolwide incentives are more immediately agreeable to teachers than individual rewards, in part because of the egalitarian traditions of teachers. Thus, compensation reformers will face less resistance to schoolwide incentives and may want to develop a hybrid model that incorporates both individual and schoolwide performance measures.
For example, during the 1999–2000 school year, the Colonial School District in suburban Philadelphia implemented a mandatory performance-based pay system for all of its classroom teachers as well as some groups of nonteaching staff (LaFee, 2000). The district hired a consultant to identify appropriate criteria and alternative sources of input to judge individual teacher performance and developed a separate evaluation system to assess the performance of teacher groups by grade level, team, and department at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.