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Denver's Teacher-Pay Experiment Struggling

As D.C. teachers debate a proposal by Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee for big pay increases tied to improved student achievement, one of the nation's most ambitious experiments with teacher pay-for-performance may be floundering.

The new edition of Education Week reports that Denver's teachers union and school officials are digging in for a fight over proposed changes to the three-year-old ProComp, or the Professional Compensation Plan for Teachers. Unlike Rhee's plan, which would be subsidized for the first five years by foundation grants, Denver voters approved $25 million in new property taxes to implement the system, which rewards teachers for student growth on test scores, service in high-risk schools and other factors.

About half of Denver's teachers opted into ProComp; new teachers are automatically assigned. According to Education Week, Denver school officials want to expand the program while the 3,200-member Denver Classroom Teachers Association want to wait for a substantive evaluation of the pay system. The only study so far, by a University of Colorado professor, found that teachers who entered ProComp raised student test scores only slightly compared with colleagues who stayed out.

Click here for the article.

Bill Turque

By Marcia Davis  |  July 29, 2008; 8:51 AM ET
Categories:  Education  
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The following is taken from the Letters section of today's

Letters: July 29, 2008

Vote "No" on proposed D.C. teachers contract

I never thought that I would see the day when our Washington Teachers' Union would support a proposed contract that seeks to eliminate the due process rights of teachers. But our proposed contract is full of dangerous pitfalls ahead.

Namely, the red tier -- which has been sold as the "safe" tier -- takes away teachers' seniority rights. The green tier strips permanent teachers of tenure. New teachers will be forced into a four-year probationary period, and raises and bonuses are based on 100 percent private funding.

Failure to vote for this contract, D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee states, and teachers will receive no cost-of-living raises.

No credible school system seeks to maintain and attract a cadre of career professionals using these draconian methods. DCPS teachers should vote "No" on this contract and support going to impasse in the name of fair and collective bargaining.

Candi Peterson
Member, Board of Trustees
Washington Teachers' Union Board

Posted by: DC Teach | July 29, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

These new pay for performance plans are going to chase off people from wanting to teach.

Posted by: Jonathan Rees | July 29, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure what the answer is but there needs to be some accountibility or incentive for good teachers. Giving automatic tenure and making them untouchable does nothing but promote mediocrity. One of the best changes for schools would be for teachers (and the administration this is not limited to teachers by a long shot) to quit injecting their political and social views into the classroom and teach the material at hand.

It seems the trend lately is to be too worried about students' self esteem to actually promote any standards other than the lowest common denominator.

Posted by: Cryos | July 29, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I have yet to meet a DC Public Schools teacher that speaks proper English. Granted, my data set is tiny (n=4), but I'd be incensed if my child's language skills were being molded by any one of those people.

Teaching should be treated as the societally critical job that it is, not as some "entitlement" for teachers unions. If a teacher can't produce good results, regardless of tenure, then that teacher has no place in front of a classroom.

Posted by: Jay Reeder | July 29, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

A teacher's age or years of service have no causal effect on their commitment or ability to leve and teach students. Evaluate teachers on several observations by 2 or 3 different administrators; acknowledge that someone who teaches students who read several years below grade level should not be expected to move studetns to or above grade level in one year, and look for progress and growth even though test scores still fall below AYP and safe Harbor requirements. In otherwords, accept reality but expect everyone's best.

Posted by: perplexed1 | July 29, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Turns out that despite the challenges with Denver's pay-for-performance plan, Denver Schools posted their biggest gains in achievement in years -- even in middle schools.

Check out the story at:

Posted by: Creech | July 30, 2008 8:29 PM | Report abuse

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