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School board to consider suspending pay-for-performance for a year

2017-18 school year will focus on new teacher evaluation rubric


The Douglas County School District may suspend the differentiated pay structure for licensed teachers and administrators, replacing it for one year with uniform pay raises while it reassesses the evaluation and salary systems that many community members say spurred an exodus of quality educators.

Interim Superintendent Erin Kane pointed out at the Board of Education's Sept. 5 meeting that no one is talking about moving away from pay-for-performance, but rather honoring what employees want and restructuring the pay-for-performance system.

“We want to talk to our employees about what it is that motivates them and makes them want to bring their A-game every day,” she said. “Because at the end of the day bringing their A-game is what makes our kids winners. That is what is behind this. Not any kind of movement away from differential pay.”

The recommendation to put the differentiated pay system on hold for the 2017-18 school year came from Steve Colella, the district's chief of human resources, who said doing so gives teachers and administrators the chance to review and share their opinions about a revised teacher evaluation rubric developed over the past year. A group of teachers and administators worked with the district on the revisions.

"Let's ... allow participants to weigh in and have robust discussions without worrying about the impact on the raises," Colella said.

The seven-member board will vote on the recommendation at its Sept. 19 meeting, beginning at 6 p.m., in the boardroom of Wilcox Administration Building, 620 Wilcox St. in Castle Rock.

Douglas County parent Darien Wilson, who attended the Sept. 5 meeting, talked before the recommendation was presented about how teacher turnover following implementation of the pay-for-performance structure has affected her three children.

“I hope you never have to dry the tears of a 5-year-old when she learns that her beloved teacher is leaving,” Wilson said through tears herself to board members. “You should be doing everything possible to retain teachers, so that they can maintain the relationships they have with the children of Douglas County.”

Evaluation systems 'created challenges'

Teacher and principal evaluations are required in all Colorado school districts under 2010's Senate Bill 191, also called the Educator Effectiveness Bill. Districts were allowed to adopt either the state's teacher-evaluation program or create their own. DCSD is among six districts that designed its own for teachers and administrators, along with a differentiated pay structure based on those evaluation rubrics. They were both implemented in the 2012-13 school year.

CITE, Continuous Improvement Effectiveness, has six components for measuring teacher effectiveness: Outcomes, Assessment, Instruction, Culture and Climate, Professionalism and Student Data. Each of those categories contains a number of standards against which teachers are evaluated.

LEAD is a rubric used to evaluate administration, including principals, deans and directors.

Based on the results of evaluations based on those rubrics, teachers and administrators are rated as highly effective, effective, partially effective or ineffective. They then receive differentiated raises based on the ratings.

“The district implemented a new CITE rubric and a LEAD rubric for our administration and a pay-for-performance, or a differentiated pay structure, based on those brand-new evaluations,” Colella said. “We know that the simultaneous implementation created challenges."

Over the past years, many teachers have expressed dissatisfaction with salaries, competition among teachers because salaries are tied to subjects they teach,and hours of time spent on evaluations.

If the board of directors approves the recommendation, the district would suspend the differentiated pay structure for employees evaluated with CITE and LEAD and instead provide flat pay raises for the 2018-19 school year for those rated“partially effective” and above. All other employee groups — including classified staff, which includes secretaries, instructional assistants and food service workers — will continue with the current differentiated pay system.

Board member Wendy Vogel asked why only half of employees would be included in the suspension of differentiated pay, saying it seems to pit classified and licensed employees against each other.

But Kane said the goal is to revise CITE and LEAD evaluations, which must comply with Senate Bill 191.

"The big difference is the legislative structure," Kane said. "It has nothing to do with what system, and has more to do with the basis of the evaluation being from the state legislature versus being from your job responsibility."

Developing a new rubric

The human resources department met with a group of teachers and administrators during the 2016-17 year to revise the CITE and LEAD rubrics. Colella said it took into consideration several factors in developing a new CITE rubric for this school year and interrupting the pay-for-performance structure, including the district's value of incentivizing “great work” through differentiated pay increases.

“From a competitive perspective, I can tell you anecdotally I have had teachers come to me and say `I really like what Douglas County does,' ” Colella said. “Maybe you don't get paid as much some districts, but the concept of being paid more for doing better appeals to a lot of people.”

On the other hand, Colella pointed out that factors besides performance should be considered. Stakeholder input is essential, and the previous implementation of evaluation rubrics and differentiated pay structure led to confusion for many people, he said.

Although the LEAD rubric remains the same for nowbased on feedback from LEAD participants revisions are “probably warranted,” Colella said.

Before explaining the pay-for-performance recommendation, Colella gave the board updated figures on the district's teacher turnover rate, which improved over the previous year, but remains higher than neighboring districts. Colorado Department of Education data shows DCSD's teacher turnover rate was 19 percent in 2016, compared to Littleton Public Schools at 8.7 percent and Cherry Creek School District at 10.4 percent. The state average was 17 percent.

But board member Jim Geddes called the reported increases in teacher turnover rates over the past years a “myth.”

“The question is, if you want to just coast and not be evaluated and be paid on some salary scale, based on seniority, that is not the kind of person I want in my organization,” Geddes said. “Whether we are taking care of sick people or teaching our children.”

Board member Anne-Marie Lemieux said she would like to hear from principals and teachers to see if they are on board with the recommendation. That could be completed in a survey format or a question sent out over Facebook, she said.

“I think it would be easy to send that question out so that when you come back to the board for a vote on it, we can say, `yes, we support the needs of the employee,' " Lemieux said.


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