Oregon educators exploring new ways of teacher pay

Representatives from nearly 40 districts of all sizes and education stakeholders - including a group from OSBA - attended Chalkboard Project's Info Day August 4 in Eugene to take a fresh look at teacher pay and evaluation. 

The Chalkboard Project is an independent, non-partisan group dedicated to improving Oregon's K-12 public schools.

"The Chalkboard Project is guided by the concept that current teacher compensation doesn't work," said Lisa Freiley, OSBA Legal, Labor and Employment Services director. "By that, they mean it does not result in effective recruitment and retention of teaching staff, it does not reward teachers when they participate in activities that improve their teaching skills or support their district's educational goals, and it does not effectively connect teacher compensation with increasing student achievement."

Pilot programs that explore teacher evaluation and alternative compensation methods are one of Chalkboard's 13 recommendations, and OSBA has officially supported that recommendation. OSBA offers performance-based pay information on this Web site. OSBA's Human Resource Development staff is available to help districts of any size plan, develop and implement alternative compensation systems.

Chalkboard is interested in supporting districts willing to experiment with innovative compensation programs and emerged from Info Day with 15 districts having expressed an interest in developing a pilot. Chalkboard also intends to bring together teacher groups for discussion about alternative compensation. Developing an alternative compensation method for teachers brings up bargaining and funding issues as well as determining how performance should be measured, evaluated and tied to student achievement. Ron Wilson, OSBA associate executive director, said that teachers' associations, administrators and OSBA share some of the same concerns about performance-based pay and other forms of alternative compensation.

One of the speakers at Info Day, Marc J. Wallace Jr., of Teacher Excellence Through Compensation in Lake Bluff, IL, told attendees that alternative compensation systems take a great deal of time, careful transition and may require operation of the old and the new at the same time. He named districts in several states - including Vancouver, WA - that are using knowledge-and-skill-based salary schedules and said that many more are in the development stage. 
Wallace suggested that districts interested in alternative compensation:

  • Get clarity on the key elements of quality instruction, including content-specific teaching
  • Create a focused, specific professional development program to systematically improve teacher quality
  • Design an evaluation/assessment system that is clearly and specifically linked to the content and focus of the professional development program and that provides four or five levels of performance 

Wallace suggested doing pilot projects to define measures and the assessment process, test the assessment process without tying it to pay, introduce everyone to the process, and learn from the pilot.

"Any such program needs to be financially and administratively sustainable and professionally designed and maintained," said Wilson, "and a regular, ongoing funding source is a critical part of putting all the pieces together, making sure we achieve alignment in teachers' compensation, professional development and evaluation.

"We need to leverage the resources we have to the greatest extent possible to be both efficient and effective in student achievement. Performance pay may be a leveraged way to improve levels of student achievement, but it is not a substitute for adequacy of school funding," said Wilson.

"Any district that wants to consider implementing alternative compensation for their employees should begin with plenty of lead time," said Freiley, "recognizing it will take time to develop and bargain with the local association. My staff is available to help."