DC Evaluation System Brings Rewards for Good Teachers

Some teachers in Washington, D.C. have been on the receiving end of a massive 38 percent jump in pay if they are rated “highly effective” two years in a row under the state’s new teacher evaluation system, writes Sam Dillon at the New York Times.

“We want to make great teachers rich,” said Jason Kamras, the District of Columbia Public Schools’ chief of human capital.

This fall, the District of Columbia Public Schools gave sizable bonuses to 476 of its 3,600 educators, as part of the nation’s most advanced merit pay system for public school teachers.

With low starting salaries and a “step-raise structure” that rewards years of service in the classroom rather than success, the profession is notorious for having a high dropout rate of its young teachers within the first few years.

But now, cities like Washington are seeking a fundamental overhaul of teacher pay that includes a bonus-and-raise structure that aims at enticing talented people to the profession and persuading the best to stick with it.

“The most important role for incentives is in shaping who enters the teaching profession and who stays,” said Eric A. Hanushek, a professor of economics at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

“Washington’s incentive system will attract talented teachers, and it’ll help keep the best ones.”

The system is called Impact Plus, and it rates teachers up to “highly effective”. Through this system teachers are able to earn bonuses ranging from $2,400 to $25,000, and teachers that get this rating for two years in a row are then rewarded with a large permanent pay increase.

This increase makes their salary equivalent to that of a colleague with five more years of experience and a more advanced degree, writes Dillon.

Washington is the largest of several cities that have developed merit pay programs. The plan was first promoted by emphasizing that a teacher could earn about $130,000 annually in salary and performance bonuses, if rated right at the top.

However, some have pointed out that to hit this target would require most experienced teachers, with the most advanced degrees, to have the best possible performance. To ensure many of the best stay in the profession Mr. Kamras believes the most important aspect of Impact Plus is to ensure outstanding teachers receive permanent increases early in their careers.