Bonuses could also be earned by taking advanced courses in improving classroom techniques and by improving the scores their students achieved on state tests.
These salary additions can add up to as much as $9,800 per year. In addition, teachers' pay can be docked if state testing demonstrates that their students have fallen too far below expectations (Philips & Tyre, 2007). The system has been so successful, that Denver has completely eliminated their pay scale based solely on years of experience and academic degrees (Olson, 2007b).
Denver's program collaborated with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, an NEA affiliate, to develop their plan. In addition, they've permitted teaching veterans to opt into the program, rather than force them to participate. This has helped with the acceptance of the program as teachers have not felt pressured into joining the ProComp Plan.
To help facilitate this decision, Denver's ProComp Plan has its own Internet website with a salary calculator, so teachers can determine their payout, if they achieve various accomplishments. and, Olson (2007b) concludes, as of Fall 2007, nearly half of the veteran teachers are taking part in the program.
Alaska has also recently instituted a merit pay system that rewards teachers, in addition to administrators and even non-instructional personnel for improved student test scores. Several elementary school employees received bonuses through the Alaska School Performance Program, in their inaugural round. $1.8 million was paid out to 773 educational staff members across the state. Most of the employees who received these bonuses were 'certified' employees, such as teachers and principals, according to Cavanagh (2007). These employees received bonuses that ranged from $2,500 to $5,500. In addition, 303 'non-certified' school employees, including employees such as teachers' aides, food-service workers, and custodians, collected awards from $1,000 to $2,500 each.
Understanding that all employees contribute to a sound academic environment, the Alaska School Performance Program seeks to reward all school employees when students improve test scores or maintain high marks on state exams in reading, writing and mathematics.
Even though the program may be adjusted as the years go on, to ensure fairness in both urban and rural areas, recipients and their administrators are proud of their recognition for the hard work that they've put in (Cavanagh, 2007).
New York City, New York:
New York City has recently announced their plan to give bonuses to teachers at some of the city's highest need schools, pending state legislature approval, if they are able to raise their students' test scores. Honawar (2007a) reports that this largest school district in the country, with 1.1 million students, implements their merit pay system with the blessings of their local teachers' union, a ground-breaking development.
Part of this easy acceptance of the plan is in its design. Instead of giving bonuses to individual teachers, bonuses go to the entire school who raise student test scores. The United Federation of Teachers believes that this will foster teamwork and collaboration.
It is also a voluntary plan, requiring at least 55% of the teachers to vote to opt-in to the program. It is hoped that this plan will help attract some of the city's best teachers to some of the lower performing schools in the district.
The New York merit pay program is based almost solely on raising student test scores. Approximately 200 of the district's more than 1,400 school would be eligible for an award, if they demonstrate gains in student achievement. Awards of roughly $3,000 per the number of teachers would be given to each successful school. This award amount would then be divided up by a committee made up of the school's principal, another administrator and two teachers.
In September 2007, the Houston school board approved an overhaul of America's largest performance for pay system for teachers, following a study at Vanderbilt (Honawar, 2007b). The reworked program will continue to reward the 200,000 student Houston school district's schools and teachers that succeed in raising student test scores. The newly named ASPIRE Award program, an acronym for Accelerating Student Progress Increasing Results & Expectations, hopes to address some of the troublesome areas of the program's first year. Some of the areas improved upon are improved communication with teachers, better data analysis used for determining awards, and an increase in the number of educators that are potentially eligible for the bonuses (Olson, 2007a).
Despite the positive changes, the Houston Federation of Teachers still opposes the plan. Gayle Fallon, the president, states that the union would oppose, "any plan that is just based on how well a kid bubbles in a standardized test" (Olson, 2007a). However, it is predicted that most teachers will still decide to opt-in to the program, given the expected payout of up to $22.5 million in bonuses come January 2008, with as much as $7,300 going to individual teachers.
The program is still set to pay the most money to teachers of core academic subjects, such as English and mathematics. However, instead of internally analyzing data, the district has hired William L. Sanders, a national expert on 'value added' educational measurement, to externally analyze the data from multiple years of both state and national testing, according to Olson (2007a).
This will provide a more statistically robust and fairer system than the previous year, that awarded more than $15 million in staff bonuses.
ASPIRE will allow the district to calculate value-added results for a more diverse group of teachers this year. These will include departmentalized elementary and middle school teachers who teach language arts, science and social studies, as well as teachers who teach preschool through grade 2, and high school teachers.
In addition, every teacher and staff member will receive an award if their school's average academic improvement of students is in the top half of all schools in the district. Yet, as last year, smaller awards will be given to all instructional staff at schools that perform well under the Texas accountability system (Olson, 2007a).
Research Demonstrating the Potential of Merit Pay:
In addition to individual reports of local successes, recent studies have found a generally positive relationship between merit pay and increased financial incentives for teachers and improvements in student achievement. Pay for performance programs encourage teachers to look at their own practices and how these impact student growth.
Michael Podgursky, a professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia, commented following his study with Matthew Springer, the director of the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University, that the research evidence to date was strong enough to encourage districts and states to experiment with merit pay innovations (cited in Olson, 2007b).
However, research also has shown that financial incentives alone may not be enough to improve student learning and dramatically change the teacher-talent pool, according to Olson (2007b).
There are other issues that also need to be addressed to improve educational effectiveness in American classrooms and the associated attrition in the teaching profession. School principal leadership, opportunities for advancement for teachers, increased availability of materials and resources, improvement of student behavior and discipline, and an opportunity for teachers to influence decisions within their working environment are all needed to improve teacher satisfaction and turnover and positively affect student educational growth, in addition to providing financial incentives through pay for performance systems.
Milken Family Foundation's Teacher Advancement Program:
Combining a universal desire for the best possible education for America's children and research that demonstrates the single most important school-related factor for student success is having talented teachers on staff, the Milken Family Foundation developed the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), in 1999.
The program is "a bold new strategy to attract, retain, develop and motivate talented people to the teaching profession. (...) TAP's goal is to draw more talented people to the teaching profession - and keep them there - by making it more attractive and rewarding to be a teacher" ("What is the Teacher Advancement Program," 2007).
This innovative program was developed to provide bonuses to teachers who increase their students' academic progress and demonstrate their teaching skills through classroom evaluations that are conducted by TAP trained and certified evaluators, four to six times per year.
The TAP program has been evaluated by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, the agency that operates the program, and has found it to be a success. Olson (2007b) states that teachers in schools that are participating in TAP "are more likely to significantly raise student achievement than similar teachers in other public schools."
However, TAP is a comprehensive program that goes beyond simply merit pay for teachers. Teachers who were qualified were also rewarded for taking on more responsibilities. In addition, teachers have the ability to take advantage of school-based professional development, during the day, to develop their knowledge and skills, through TAP (Olson, 2007b).
It is this combination of pay for performance and opportunities to improve their skills that many believe is TAP's secret to success.
There are four components to TAP: multiple career paths, ongoing, applied professional growth, instructionally focused accountability, and performance-based compensation.…