Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Wayne Teachers On Merit Pay: 'No One Got Into Education For The Money'

    Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

    Teacher Wes Upton helps a student with an assignment in his social studies class at Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center in Indianapolis.

    State law requires schools to evaluate teachers annually and tie those assessments to pay but doesn’t spell out how individual districts should award effective educators.

    That leaves district administrators to design a merit pay system that complies with state law but also satisfies local teachers.

    “Our teachers are used to earning more money every year,” says David Marcotte, the chief personnel officer for Indianapolis’ Wayne Township. “I’m sure the ones that aren’t happy with the new system — well, our expectations have ramped up, and we’re expecting them to perform at a higher level.”

    Teachers in Wayne Township used to earn annual raises based on years of service and level of education. But this year the district switched to what Marcotte describes as a “delayed increment system.” Now educators earn units based on things like attendance and participation, up to seven a year. It takes 18 units to advance to the next pay grade.

    Here’s how those units break down:
    • Experience. Teachers earn a unit each year they’re employed by the district.
    • Continuing education. Teachers working towards advanced degrees or completing professional development to keep their license current earn one unit.
    • Attendance. Teachers must have 97 percent attendance to earn this unit, though Marcotte says the district makes some exceptions, like jury duty, bereavement leave and absences approved through the Family and Medical Leave Act.
    • Service. Teachers who spend at least 15 hours participating in committee work, tutoring students or otherwise engaging with the school community earn one unit.
    • Evaluation. Teachers can earn two units for an effective evaluation or three units for a highly effective evaluation.

    There’s one catch, says Marcotte. Teachers rated as “ineffective” or “needs improvement” can’t earn any units, though they can “bank” them for the future. That suggestion came directly from the Wayne Township Classroom Teachers Association.

    “The negotiating team said, ‘We realize if you have a bad evaluation those two or three units are gone, but if you banked the four they would have received, wouldn’t that be an incentive to improve their practice next year?'” Marcotte says.

    In other words, a teacher rated “needs improvement” this spring earns zero units for the 2012-13 school year. But if that same teacher has been active in the school community and goes on to get an effective rating next year, he or she would get six points for 2013-14 as well as the four points from the year before, for a total of ten units.

    Marcotte says teachers are still dismissed after one “ineffective” rating for new teachers or three “ineffective” or “needs improvement” ratings within five years for veteran teachers. That’s state law.

    Why Wayne Teachers Supported The Salary Schedule Change

    Not every Indiana school district is taking the same approach as Wayne Township. Some kicked the can down the road, signing three-year contracts with their teachers unions just before the new law took effect in 2011. Other districts are offering top teachers a one-time bonus as a performance incentive.

    Kristen Dawn, a German teacher at Ben Davis High School and president of the local teachers association, doesn’t like that approach.

    “We weren’t so keen on the merit pay system the state was putting forth because we felt like it advanced the idea of competition between teachers, it wasn’t necessarily going to be productive for students and it would encourage students to not share best practices and not cooperate in improving student outcomes,” Dawn told StateImpact.

    Her colleague, Wes Upton, a social studies teacher at the Ninth Grade Center, puts it more bluntly. If state law is going to dictate schools adopt a merit pay system, he’d prefer one like Wayne Township’s.

    “I know no one got into education for the money, but you work really hard, have amazing numbers and show student growth, then here’s $500 and next year you start over where you started before? That almost seems like a slap in the face.”



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