Teacher Compensation

Teacher compensation is more than salary. It is a valuable total package that includes salary, extra pay, benefits, and pension. Combined, they are the single largest expenditure in any school organization. The present structure of the teacher compensation package is “back-loaded,” or organized to reward career service; this is a practice that comes at the expense of entry level salary, which is artificially depressed in order to afford the total compensation packages of more senior teachers. Every decision around compensation—and around education expenditures as a whole—should be focused on improving student achievement. Compensation investments too often are based on factors unrelated to student achievement. States and districts should re-examine compensation structures to better support and drive effective teaching.

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Salary: There are a large and growing number of school districts creating innovative compensation systems. To create sustainable solutions that will have a long-term impact, the structure of the salary system and related incentives must change. Of the efforts underway to revamp compensation, the vast majority are not addressing total compensation or getting at the overall structure. However, these efforts do represent significant steps in the right direction.

  • Denver Public Schools – Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association have designed and implemented ProComp, a new compensation system that replaces the single salary schedule with a system of incentives for specific accomplishments. ProComp includes incentives for school- and classroom-wide student growth, working in hard-to-serve schools and hard-to-staff assignments, acquiring and demonstrating skills and knowledge, and earning a satisfactory or better evaluation. 
  • Harrison School District Two – This Colorado district recently began to implement the Effectiveness and Results plan, which pays teachers based on student achievement data and teacher performance data (primarily teacher observations). To progress from one level to the next, teachers must meet criteria for both performance and student achievement.
  • District of Columbia Public Schools – The District’s relatively new performance-based pay system for teachers, known as IMPACTplus, is designed to reward highly effective teachers with annual bonuses. The plan relies on a teacher evaluation system to identify teachers as highly effective based on value-added data.

Benefits and Pensions: In rethinking the total compensation package, states and districts should not forget about health care and other benefits, such as pensions. Benefits are compensation in the form of prepaid insurance premiums, rather than employee welfare entitlements; and pensions are deferred compensation in the form of managed savings plans—and have large monetary value especially late in a teacher’s career. These are powerful incentives that should be used to reward and motivate the most effective teachers in a manner that does not promote a one-size fits all approach. Increasing awareness of the value of benefits packages and pensions, especially at different years of tenure, is a necessary step in revamping compensation systems, yet efforts across the board have fallen short of achieving this goal. Striking a balance between employee and employer contributions is ideal and can have a lasting impact on overall productivity.

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