Douglas County School Board Backs Pay-for-Performance Framework

May 20, 2013
The new pay plan was approved unanimously this week by the board

The new pay plan was approved unanimously last week by the board

DENVER — The Douglas County School Board has approved the largest raises on the Front Range allowing the best teachers to collect up to 9.2 percent more starting in the 2013-2014 school year.  The compensation plan ties teacher salary increases to performance, and was approved unanimously by the board last week. 

Under the district’s pay-for-performance program, not all teachers will be guaranteed an increase. The new plan will categorize an educator’s teaching ability on a range from ‘highly effective’ at the top of the scale to ‘ineffective,’ at the bottom.  Pay increases will be based in part on that rating. Teachers rated ‘ineffective’ would not get more money, according to Douglas County School District (DCSD), although all employees will receive an increase to their total compensation package.

The average pay increase is 4 percent, half of which will be an ongoing permanent pay increase and the other half a one-year, one-time bonus.   That 4 percent average jumps to 5.2 percent when you include the school district absorbing increases in state retirement costs and increases in the medical benefits for full time employees.  The district also plans to cover the $2.2 million annual increase in contributions to the Public Employees Retirement Association of Colorado, and the $1.2 million increase in medical plan costs for all teachers.

The highest performing employees could receive an increase of up to 9.2 percent next year.

This is the second year in a row that DCSD has given employee raises and put additional dollars into the classroom after several years of pay freezes.

“We have excellent teachers and employees,” said Board of Education President John Carson in a district press release.  “We want to continue to attract and retain the very best…These increases are very much deserved by our staff…we value the hard work of our employees and their dedication to our students.”

In addition to the new pay for performance framework, the district’s innovative market-based pay system will also contribute to the increases teachers could receive next year.

The market based pay system determines a teachers’ salary range by taking into consideration the subject matter they teach.  For instance, hard to fill positions such as special education and calculus receive higher salaries.

The District spent several years collaborating with hundreds of teachers to develop the new evaluation system with an eye towards focusing on the parameters needed to meet the requirements of Senate Bill 191, which was approved by the legislature in 2010 and changed the way educators in the state would be evaluated.

The law requires evaluations of all teachers and principals by the 2013-2014 school year.  At full implementation of the law, 50% of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on the academic growth of their students.  The law also changes the criteria for teacher tenure, what they now refer to as ‘non-probationary status’ which is only earned after three consecutive years of demonstrated effectiveness and can be lost after two consecutive years of poor ratings.

“I think the evaluation process was definitely fair,” said Kristi Piccone, an Honors Biology and Forensic Science teacher at Rock Canyon High School for the past ten years.  ”We knew all year what the criteria would be and what we were being asked to look at in our own teaching and what we were asked to document…the whole process was also helpful in pinpointing what I can improve on.”

According to the district, the distribution of evaluation ratings, 14.75 percent of teachers are rated as highly effective, while 71 percent are rated effective, almost 14 percent are partially effective while a mere .22 percent are rated as ineffective.

“I think what the Board of Education approved is wonderful, it gives the most money to teachers that are working the hardest to be better,” added Piccone. “If we’re actually doing what we need to be doing for students, that makes us ‘highly effective’ and those people get the most money.”

According to a district press release, “Until the 2012-2013 school year, many teachers were subjected to pay freezes on the old salary schedule, which, coupled with the District’s practical necessity to hire new employees at competitive salaries, caused inequities in pay for many teachers.”

Backers of the pay-for-performance plan say it will help attract and retain high-quality teachers.


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