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Charlotte Area

Pay for Performance a mixed bag in schools

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced earlier this month it's switching to a pay for performance model that focuses on results and plans to scrap experience and credentials to determine pay. Since the 1980's, several districts around the country have implemented some form of pay that's based on a teacher's performance to mixed success. The jury is still out on whether pay for performance results in effective teaching. The CMS pay for performance plan would measure a teacher's effectiveness based on how much at student improves within a school year. This CMS model would be used set base salaries, not just bonuses or incentives. Superintendent Peter Gorman says the district is seeking input from teachers of all levels of experience on how to measure effectiveness. There would be less emphasis on test scores because those only show whether a student is on grade level, not whether the student made gains. But Gorman has given few details on the plan so far. Usually test scores play a major role in most districts that offer pay for performance. Center for Education Policy head Jack Jennings says it looks like CMS is taking a more sophisticated approach than usual. "But whatever is done because of the mixed record in the area, where there has not been a clear record of success," he says. "Whatever is done, should be done very carefully and it should be done with lots of solid, outside evaluation." Jennings says pay for performance is quote- "not a slam dunk" and that districts should be a little bit skeptical because educators are still trying to figure out how to do it well. The National School Boards Association generally supports pay for performance. But its research arm the Center for Public Education has found these models usually peter out. Many of them are in districts where teachers unions manage to kill them. Center director Patte Barth says there needs to be buy-in. "One thing we found out is that teachers sensed it was something being done to them, they weren't part of the planning process. So back to my first recommendation, it's absolutely essential that teachers are there at the table," she says. At Denver Public Schools, the pay for performance program is gaining a reputation as a prototype. Vanderbilt University education policy researcher Matthew Springer calls it "very different" from other programs being used. "It developed out of collaborative work between the Teacher's Association in Denver, between the school district, between other stakeholders in the community. And it really was a an effort that all individuals were involved in who had a stake in the school system," says Springer. Denver's model measures student achievement based test results and includes mentoring and student goals set by teachers, among other factors. Springer heads the National Center on Performance Incentives, which is conducting a rigorous trial-based study on pay for performance models. He says while the handful of studies that exist show some districts with pay for performance made gains in student testing, it's not clear whether it was because used the model or other factors played a role. Gorman estimates it will take the next three years to put this new CMS pay system in place.