First Major ProComp Evaluation Shows Positive Results for Compensation Reform

Years after changing the way they pay teachers with ProComp, Denver Public Schools finally has the first round of research in showing how well it has worked. Ed News Colorado yesterday reported on the University of Colorado evaluation:

– Student growth on state reading and math exams was higher after the implementation of ProComp in 2005-06. Researchers used a measure similar to the Colorado Growth Model to analyze DPS test results from 2002-03 through 2008-09. They found all teachers’ median growth percentiles – essentially, how much teachers are moving students – increased about 4 points after ProComp.

– Teachers hired after ProComp appear to outperform those hired before ProComp. Teachers hired after Dec. 31, 2005 are required to join ProComp; it is voluntary for those already employed by DPS. Those hired under ProComp demonstrate higher first-year achievement, between 2 to 4 points in median growth percentiles, and the differences persist through the first three years.

– High-poverty schools with high levels of ProComp participation are seeing fewer teachers leave. Retention rates in schools designated “hard to serve,” which yields a $2,344 annual bonus, are still not as high as retention rates in more affluent schools. But those high-poverty schools where most teachers are in ProComp have seen a sharp increase in retention since 2006-07.

A long, long time ago — like almost three years ago!! — my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow published a paper titled Denver’s ProComp and Teacher Compensation Reform in Colorado (PDF). It’s a handy reference, a milepost if you will, because much has happened since Ben wrote things like this:

No one has played a more active and ongoing role to develop and promote ProComp than Brad Jupp, DPS Senior Academic Policy Advisor and DPS/
DCTA ProComp Project Coordinator.

It’s true that no one had more of a hand in ProComp than Brad Jupp. What’s different now? He’s a top adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. His thoughts on the new evaluation, recorded at Ed News Colorado, truly carry a great deal of weight. After highlighting four areas that he has been touting as the main measurable factors of ProComp’s success, Jupp notes:

The Wiley report shows progress being made towards success in at least three of these four areas: an increase in the number and percentage of teachers meeting district expectations for the CSAP, overall district performance and changes in teacher behavior.

You really need to read all Jupp’s thoughts to get the full picture, but most valuable I think is his perspective on where Denver Public Schools needs to look for the future:

Had the Wiley report been less optimistic, the right response would not have been to return to the single salary schedule because that is the best way to drive improvements in student learning or to pay teachers. It would have been to go back to the drawing board and re-tune ProComp so that it would get better results.

And, in fact, that is how we should approach the further refinement of ProComp as well as the other aligned reforms I outlined above, especially because we still have such a long way to go in Denver.

And, as he notes, the rest of the nation has a long way to go, too. Few have gone as far as Denver to improve how we pay our teachers, and almost nobody else is on the vanguard with the Harrison School District’s Effectiveness and Results program.