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Jan 11, 2010 9:40 PM by Andy Koen

Teachers to be paid on merit in District 2

This fall, Harrison School District Two will become the first public school district in the state to implement a performance based pay structure teachers at all of its schools.

The board of education has give the superintendent approval to overhaul the teacher pay structure from one that rewards tenure and education level with a new system that rewards student achievement and teacher performance.

Beginning in August, teachers will be evaluated by a combination of student test scores and individual evaluations. Those scores include the state required C-SAP tests as well as Harrison's internal assessments. 

Teacher evaluations will be conducted by the school principal with help from the district administration office.

As part of the overhaul, District 2 is increasing its pay scale across the board. The base pay for new teachers will be set at $35,000 a year; it's currently at $32,000. The maximum salary will increase even more dramatically from $68,000 a year to $90,000.

Most teachers will keep their current salaries and some will recieve immediate raises as a result of the increase. Under the new pay structure, salaries can not drop as a result of poor performance.

District spokesperson Jennifer Sprague says Harrison needs to be innovative in order to increase student achievement and to recruit better teachers.

"One of the reasons for this plan is to attract the best and the brightest teachers here at Harrison," Sprague said.

Teachers who teach special classes like music or physical education are not currently tested by C-SAP's and other test models and will be excluded from the performance pay structure.

The Chamberlain Academy began using a merit pay system for teachers during the past school year. Teachers are awarded bonuses based on the scale of growth that their students make in standardized tests.

Principal Sheryl Hobbs says the scores just came in this week and every teacher did well.

"Without exception, every teacher in the building met some level of growth measure and will receive an incentive pay."

Hobbs says that superintendent Mike Miles has given the school the choice of keeping their existing bonus style merit pay system for next year, or joining the district's which awards raises based on performance.

Tammy Anderson, who teaches 5th grade at Chamberlain, says the increased accountability of merit pay systems is a positive.

"It helps teachers be accountable for what they're teaching and it helps them stay focused on certain objectives," Anderson said.

But not everyone is excited about the switch. Mike Stahl, executive director of the Pikes Peak Education Association, is concerned that merit pay could create an atmosphere that pits teachers against one another.

"Many teachers have a level of anxiety that their livelihood will now be in the hands of students and their building principal," Stahl said.

But Jana Thomas, a 4th grade teacher Chamberlain, says that hasn't been her experience.

"When they brought this up to me I said, I don't think it's going to change my teaching because I already feel like I work my hardest and I try to do what's best for kids, but if you want to pay me more for it then I'm happy about that."

The district will begin giving teacher evaluations at the end of the current school year in order to set base pay structures for next year.

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