Denver Public Schools Makes National News

Last night on NBC Nightly News Denver Public Schools’ “ProComp” teacher compensation system was in the spotlight. This new program, seven years and $25 million in the making, is meant to link teacher pay raises with, among other things such as professional development, student performance. The Eagle School District has been utilizing such a system to determine teacher pay for several years, and a handful of other Colorado school districts are either in the exploration or an early implementation of similar programs as well.

So, rather than the obligatory “step” or “cost of living” increases in pay that have characterized teacher salary raises, accountability for students’ success will now hit teachers directly in the paycheck.

While I recognize that systemic change is difficult and sometimes fraught with unforeseen consequences, I think moving towards a “pay for performance” type salary structure for teachers is long overdue. As a former teacher and professor, it was disappointing that no matter how hard I worked and how much I could prove my students had learned I would still receive the same pay raise as the (rare) colleagues who put forth less effort and frankly didn’t seem to care too much about what their students achieved. Bad analogy, but are we serving time here, or helping kids?

Student learning is not just some simple economic model of some machine which will take the input of money and student and output learning and job. Learning may be directed and in some way controlled by costs but not determined. The teacher also is not some machine that will give some certain amount of knowledge. The teacher is also a source of support and encouragement which is priceless. They are people who make a significant difference in lives of their students. But we all have to remember that not only students are ones who need motivation, teachers are also a human being that needs some encouragement and direction. Proper reward for a suitable paycheck or some other form may do wonders for both sides.

DPS has bitten off a lot with its new program, but I have seen the action research some of its teachers have done, and frankly, I’m impressed. This program gives teachers the opportunity to grow in pay as they grow students – a win-win situation bound not only to increase student performance but also to increase teacher morale.