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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Good Grades = Higher Teacher Pay: Compensating Teachers for Student Achievement

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association agrees to award educators for student progress.
By James Daly

What to do about the low pay of teachers? Denver has an idea: Reward them for the academic progress of their students.

Recently, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association approved an overhaul of its salary structure that rewards educators for the progress of their students. Under the pay-for-performance plan, teachers and other school employees would earn raises if their students met or exceeded clearly specified academic targets. Teachers are typically compensated based on a number of factors, including years of service and the extent of their education.

Denver residents will be asked in 2005 for a property-tax increase to pay for the $25 million annual cost. The 70,000-student district has about 4,500 teachers.

The Denver plan also proposes rewarding teachers for getting advanced certification, as well as working in high-poverty schools or teaching subjects such as math and science, for which qualified instructors are hard to find. If approved by voters, Denver's new salary structure would take effect in January 2006.

Other cities have adopted limited measures linking extra pay for teachers with improved student performance, but none have attempted anything as ambitious as Denver has. Two years ago, Minneapolis began supplementing teacher salaries by up to $2,000 a year more if they successfully completed district-sponsored training courses. In Florida, all school districts are required to create salary systems tied in part to student progress. Nationwide, numerous districts offer incentives to teachers who volunteer to work in poor neighborhoods.

James Daly is the former editorial director of Edutopia.

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