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What's the Future of Merit Pay for Teachers? (page 4)

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Updated on May 4, 2009

Toledo, Ohio
The city’s teacher compensation program, called TRACS, began in 2004. Teachers apply for a 5% bonus to their salary, and are assessed based on a classroom evaluation, a writing sample, and a portfolio. They are then tasked with helping the district on special projects, such as curriculum instruction. If a TRACS teacher accepts a position at a high-needs school, they receive a 15% pay increase.

Tennessee
In 2001, Hamilton County Schools received a $7 million grant to assist nine of its lowest-performing schools. Among the reforms created with this money was a bonus plan for teachers that turned out to be such a success, it was expanded throughout the entire state of Tennessee with federal dollars. The program, called “differentiated pay,” is based on student gain on reading and math scores over the course of one year. It also includes “team bonuses” for schools that show growth on test scores, so that every certified teacher on the staff gets a pat on the back in the form of up to $2,000 bonuses for teachers and $5,000 for principles. Susan Swanson, director of urban education for the district, said test scores have gone up every year since they started the program. “The recognition is probably more important than the money for most of these folks, and it has a tremendous effect on a school when they’re showing movement and growth,” she said.

Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Q Comp program began in 2005. It is optional, but Kristie Anderson, Q Comp specialist for the state's Division for School Improvement, said 71 districts are currently using the program Every district in the state is allowed to develop its own program, but all focus on giving cash incentives for student wide gains on standardized assessments, in addition to classroom and school-wide goals. The program also gives teachers bonuses for sharing expertise with other teachers to help improve student achievement.

Every school district will be taking its own approach—borrowing ideas from successful programs, and coming up with goals based on the unique challenges their schools face. But teacher compensation in some form will most likely be an article on your local school board’s agenda this year. Merit pay, at least under this administration, is not a passing fad, but is considered an essential component of school reform.

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