Teachers have been won over to a landmark pay deal
IN the first new pay system for American educators since the 1920s, teachers in Cincinnati have voluntarily consented to a salary scale determined solely by performance.
Agreed between the school department and the teachers' union, the contract will provide for teachers to be evaluated on 16 specific standards, and their salaries to be based on the outcome.
It is the first time teachers have consented to such a system, though some states have begun to offer financial bonuses for teachers whose pupils improve their standardised test scores.
Pupil scores will not be the primary factor in determining teacher pay and promotions. Instead, salaries will be dependent on teacher competency, skills, and knowledge, as determined by an evaluation committee of fellow teachers and administrators.
While other American school districts offer some financial incentives for teachers to earn graduate degrees or undergo additional training, all of them base pay and promotion almost exclusively on seniority under a system called the single salary schedule, adopted in the 1920s.
"No high-performing organisation in the world can operate that way, and we're not going to anymore either," said Steven Adamowski, who heads Cincinnati's 44,000-pupil school district.
The most striking development in Cincinnati is that the teachers' union leadership has backed this new contract. Teachers elsewhere have resisted such a model, complaining that the evaluations might be biased. But the Cincinnati Federation o Teachers came around after it was allowed to help determine what standards would be used in the evaluations.
"The committee that determined and identified these standards was dominated by teachers, so we really created our own evaluation system," said Rick Beck, president of the union.
"We should be doing more about controlling our own profession, including induction and intake and who becomes a teacher and who stays a teacher. We can't say we shouldn't be held accountable."
From the school department's point of view, involving teachers in the development of the salary system "improves not only the quality of the product, it gives an easier chance for teachers to buy in, rather than forcing them to do something they're going to resist," said Kathleen Ware, associate superintendent, who helped negotiate the contract.
Under the plan, teachers will rise through five career levels, beginning with "apprentice" and moving to "novice", "career", "advanced" and finally "accomplished", based on the outcome of evaluations. If teachers in the lowest categories do not advance after two years, they can be sacked.
While ratification is expected when the union rank-and-file votes on the contract in September, Mr Beck admits that some members remain wary. But he said it was better to be proactive than to have such provisions imposed from without.
"We're being assailed by all these structural changes: charter schools and other things we think may or may not improve education," he said.
Teachers have been won over to a landmark performance pay deal.