Joy Torchia, Kauffman Foundation
Melissa Rasberry, CTQ
Accomplished teachers across Kansas work together to recommend a strategic compensation system
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Sept. 10, 2008) — The new report released today, Improving Student Learning through Strategic Compensation, offers a different voice and perspective on the issue of teacher compensation. Accomplished teachers from across the state of Kansas worked together during the past year to discuss the issue and to develop a series of recommendations for considering a new strategic compensation system. This approach is designed to recruit, retain and reward high-quality teachers in classrooms across the state. The report was released by the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ) and was developed by CTQ's Teacher Leaders Network in Kansas. It is the first-of-its-kind, teacher-led group to address the compensation issue at the state level.
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation sponsored the report's research. Improving Student Learning through Strategic Compensation. This report offers new solutions based on the experience of accomplished teachers and the recommendations are designed to acknowledge and reward professional work of teachers and meet the needs of the students, families and communities they serve. The report outlines a strategic compensation system from the perspective of master teachers. Such a system ultimately could redefine the teaching profession to make sure high-quality teaching permeates classrooms across the state of Kansas.
"At the core of a high-performing education system are quality teachers," said Margo Quiriconi, director of Research and Policy — Education, at the Kauffman Foundation. "Compensation structures are crucial to recruit, retain these quality teachers and to reward the most accomplished ones so they stay in the profession and mentor younger teachers."
Beginning in spring 2007, CTQ, a national research-based advocacy organization, started worked with teachers across Kansas to address compensation reform. The Teacher Leaders Network of Kansas — 16 teachers who teach in diverse communities from rural Lakin to inner-city Wichita — have researched the core issues, debated their responses and examined the potential impact of strategic compensation on their classrooms and schools in areas such as student learning, the acquisition of new knowledge and skills, local labor market needs and teacher leadership.
A central tenet of the approach is that a viable performance-pay framework must be flexible enough to allow districts and states to tailor incentives that advance their specific student-learning goals and that teachers will be partners in the design. In Kansas, with the support of the Kauffman Foundation, CTQ has helped lay the groundwork for deeper conversations among some of the state's most accomplished teachers around strategic compensation at both the state and local levels.
"The debate over performance-pay between the policy wonks in Washington D.C. and the union leaders across this country is often rancorous and dysfunctional," said Barnett Berry, president and CEO of the Center for Teaching Quality. "Our nation's best teachers have some unique solutions and it's time to listen to them to move this important issue forward."
The report identifies four pillars to strategic teacher compensation:
- Knowledge and skills: Teacher training that provides new knowledge and develops skills should be part of the compensation package. The report finds fault with "one-size-fits-all" professional development and encourages a skill-building approach that takes into account teachers' professional experience. The professional development program should be defined through teacher input, the report says.
- Student learning: Any strategic compensation plan that includes rewards for student learning must focus on student growth, not just proficiency. Multiple measures for evaluating student learning, including classroom-based assessments, should be used to determine rewards for student learning in a strategic compensation plan.
- Teacher leadership: Administrators must accept teachers as true partners in school improvement and help them lead, the report says. Creating incentives and job descriptions for teacher leadership provides a career path for teachers, beyond administration or other out-of-the-classroom positions. These pathways can be critical for keeping experienced educators engaged directly with students who will benefit from their expertise.
- Market incentives: Teachers should be paid more for teaching in high-needs schools, subjects and assignments. These market incentives should be determined at the local level. Districts should examine their unique market needs when considering incentives for hard-to-fill positions (such as math, science, special education, etc.) or high-needs schools. Market incentives should include a variety of financial incentives, including student loan forgiveness, housing allowances, etc.
In Kansas, professional-pay conversations have been under way for some time. In 2000, the Kansas National Education Association established an Alternative Compensation Study Committee, comprised of union leaders from across the state, which carefully studied the strengths and weaknesses of past plans and outlined a proposed resolution for consideration.
While other numerous discussions about this issue have been under way, the report advises that the teachers' voices and perspective needs to be considered in these decisions. Before policymakers act on plans to pay teachers more and differently, policymakers and the public need to listen to teachers and involve them as full partners in designing a new compensation system that recruits, retains and rewards high-quality teachers.
About The Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ):
CTQ seeks to improve student learning through developing teacher leadership, conducting practical research and raising public awareness about what must be done to ensure that every student in America has a qualified, well-supported and effective teacher. Over the past eight years, the Center's work, rooted in the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (1996) landmark report, has sought to promote a coherent system of teacher recruitment, preparation, induction, professional development, compensation and school design policies that could dramatically close the student achievement gap. As a small nonprofit with big ideas and ambitions to promote a true teaching profession, the Center has worked on a large range of research studies and policy development initiatives designed with the goals of cultivating leadership, spreading expertise and elevating the voices of accomplished teachers so that their knowledge of students and schools can inform the next generation of teaching policies and practices. More information about CTQ is available at www.teachingquality.org.