Merit Pay

New York

Schools and teachers collect prizes for math, science instruction

New York

Teacher group: Reward top-rated teachers with more pay, duties

Sketch of a teacher "career ladder" from Educators 4 Excellence's new report on teacher pay. (Click to enlarge) Teachers should be paid more — but they should have to prove their value before getting big raises or better positions. That's a central idea of a paper about teacher pay released today by the teacher advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence. The group convened a 16-teacher policy team last fall to study past and current experiments in teacher pay, survey city teachers about their views, and come up with recommendations about how to change the way city teachers are paid. Currently, city teachers earn a starting salary of $45,530 and see their pay rise in small increments each year and as they accumulate additional credentials such as a master's degree. Large salary jumps come late in teachers' careers or when they move into administrative positions. The group's recommendations include increasing the starting salary by a third; creating a "career ladder" so teachers can be rewarded for strong performance without leaving the classroom; introducing bonuses for teachers who receive top ratings on new teacher evaluations; and paying more to draw teachers to hard-to-staff subjects, such as science or special education. Educators 4 Excellence is aligned with school reform groups that have battled the teachers union in the past, and some of the group's previous reports have influenced city and state policy proposals. But the teacher pay report does not side neatly with either Mayor Bloomberg or the UFT. It does not call for merit pay tied to student test scores, which Bloomberg has supported and the city teachers union has said it would never accept, nor does it support Bloomberg's recent proposal to offer permanent pay raises to teachers who earn top ratings on new evaluations. But it also does not call for union-backed school-wide bonuses of the type distributed under a city program that was aborted after it did not lead to increases in student performance. "We are not interested in replicating failed experiments. As teachers, we already work hard, and we know that more pay will not make us work harder," reads the report. "But we do want to be recognized for our successes. We want to build up our supply of excellent teachers by recruiting and retaining professionals who might otherwise choose other fields."
New York

Poll: NYers don't trust Bloomberg to protect students' interests

New York City residents won't be appointing Mayor Bloomberg as students' chief lobbyist any time soon. Nearly twice as many New Yorkers trust the teachers union to protect students' interests than they do Bloomberg, according to a new poll out of Quinnipiac University. Bloomberg's approval rating on schools has hovered around 25 percent since early 2011, according to the poll. The poll, conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 5, found that 56 percent of registered voters in New York City say they trust the union more to go to bat for students. Less than a third, 31 percent, said they trust Bloomberg more. (The poll of 1,222 registered voters had a margin of error of 2.8 percent.) Among households containing public school students, the split was even more pronounced. Just 21 percent of those voters picked Bloomberg, and 69 percent chose the teachers union. Parents' backed the union more often than even households with union members. The news comes in an education-packed poll conducted after a month in which in a showdown over new teacher evaluations led Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo each to ratchet up rhetoric against teachers and their unions. The poll found that the percentage of New Yorkers with favorable opinions of teachers had fallen, from 54 percent last March to 47 percent now. But while a different poll earlier this week found high approval for Cuomo's school policies, a set of questions designed to assess New Yorkers' feelings about a slate of policy initiatives Bloomberg proposed during his State of the City address last month elicited mixed results.
New York

Annual awards fete math, science teachers at array of schools

At a time when the Obama administration is rewarding efforts to improve math and science instruction, seven city math and science teachers are being lauded for the work they already do. For the third straight year, the Fund for the City of New York and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation are giving city teachers awards for excellence in teaching science and mathematics. The teachers will receive their prizes — $5,000 each — at an award ceremony tonight and their schools will celebrate the awards, and the $2,500 that their math and science programs receive, at a series of assemblies tomorrow. The teachers were nominated by students, parents, colleagues, and administrators and then selected by a committee made up of representatives from local science museums and universities, based on their students' achievement, their involvement in extracurricular activities, and their efforts to promote math and science inside and outside the classroom. The recipients’ high schools range from the city’s highest-performing to some of the weakest, including one that the city is trying to turn around using federal funding. Here are this year’s recipients, along with a highlight about each that we pulled from longer biographies compiled by the Sloan Awards: Teacher: Kate Belin School: Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School Subject: Geometry, Functions Why her school thinks she’s great: Belin makes math relevant and interesting for students at Fannie Lou Hamer, where 90 percent of entering freshman are below grade level in math or English, by connecting math to the world outside the classroom.
New York

Study: $75M teacher pay initiative did not improve achievement

New York City's heralded $75 million experiment in teacher incentive pay — deemed "transcendent" when it was announced in 2007 — did not increase student achievement at all, a new study by the Harvard economist Roland Fryer concludes. "If anything," Fryer writes of schools that participated in the program, "student achievement declined." Fryer and his team used state math and English test scores as the main indicator of academic achievement. Schools could distribute the bonus money based on individual teachers' results, but most did not. Most teachers received the average bonus of $3,000. The program, which was first funded by private foundations and then by taxpayer dollars, also had no impact on teacher behaviors that researchers measured. These included whether teachers stayed at their schools or in the city school district and how teachers described their job satisfaction and school quality in a survey. The program had only a "negligible" effect on a list of other measures that includes student attendance, behavioral problems, Regents exam scores, and high school graduation rates, the study found. The experiment targeted 200 high-need schools and 20,000 teachers between the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 school years. The Bloomberg administration quietly discontinued it last year, turning back on the mayor's early vow to expand the program quickly. The program handed out bonuses based on the schools' results on the city's progress report cards. The report cards grade schools based primarily on how much progress they make in improving students' state test scores. A so-called "compensation team" at each school decided how to distribute the money — a maximum of $3,000 per teachers union member, if the school completely met its target, and $1,500 per union member if the school improved its report card score by 75%.
New York

Testing the Murky Waters of Merit Pay, With Mixed Results

Last spring I took a position as English department chair at a New York City independent school, giving me a chance to work in the city after many years in suburban schools. The head of my new school told me that he and the board planned to launch a performance-based compensation system and asked me to help administer it. Like many teachers, I object to being paid based on student test scores, but after learning that wasn't the plan at my new school, I found myself intrigued. I admit it: I believe in merit pay, performance-based compensation, or whatever you want to call it. I've been in education too long not to be frustrated with the lock-step salary system: No matter how hard a teacher works, she's paid the same as everyone else who started the same year she did and has the same number of postgraduate credits she does. While no one goes into teaching for the money, we're also not volunteers. And why shouldn't great teachers make more than mediocre ones? So in I jumped, working with a formula that the department chairs, grade leaders, and heads of the secondary and primary schools had created. We made classroom observations and assessed each teacher's collegiality, commitment, and participation in activities outside the classroom.  Teachers were scored 1 to 4 in 20 different categories. The categories were weighted, producing final scores that fell into four ranges. Teachers who fell into three of the ranges would — when the plan went into full effect — receive bonuses. Good thing it turned out to be a pilot program. We made some mistakes; we learned a lot; and we saw hope for the future.