Harrison: More About Real Performance Pay than Former Presidents

What kind of a holiday is Presidents Day anyway? For many kids, it’s just a great excuse to stay home from school. Speaking of which, yours truly decided to dig up eight little factoids about Colorado public schools named after former U.S. presidents:

  1. Hardly a shock, “Lincoln” is the most popular presidential school name with 10 across the state.
  2. The most recent president so honored is John F. Kennedy, for which a Denver high school is named.
  3. Denver also has high schools named after George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, which come in as the next most popular choices.
  4. Colorado Springs 11 has a slew of elementary schools named after former presidents: James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Woodrow Wilson.
  5. Speaking of Wilson, you can also find a north Jeffco charter with that appellation, near neighbors to Jefferson Academy and Lincoln Academy (with a Coolidge Classical Academy looking to open in the area in the near future).
  6. Rounding out the crew are a James Madison charter in Colorado Springs, a (James) Monroe elementary in Thompson, a Johnstown-Milliken high school named for Theodore Roosevelt, and a Boulder elementary classified as Eisenhower.
  7. Less clear are whether the following have a direct connection to former presidents, or are just mere coincidences: Van Buren Elementary (Thompson); Buchanan Middle School (Wray); and McKinley Elementary in Canon City.
  8. There are no examples of any Colorado schools being inspired by the presidential examples of Millard Fillmore, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester Arthur, or William Howard Taft — perhaps less shocking than the fact the same can be said of World War II’s Franklin D. Roosevelt or Harry S Truman.

Interestingly, the U.S. has had two presidents named Harrison (and one didn’t last very long in office). For our purposes, though, much more noteworthy than the connection with the 9th or 23rd president is the Harrison School District in Colorado Springs.

My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow recently completed another one of those insightful innovative school district reports on Harrison’s Effectiveness and Results (E&R). His issue paper Performance Pay Pioneers offers a close and careful representation of the program.

While no one yet has drawn a direct link between the leading-edge, genuine performance pay program and the numerous indicators of improved student success, the report calls for a careful look and encourages other Colorado school districts to follow the example:

Moving forward from SB 191’s push to identify effective teaching on to the practice of paying educators accordingly is a step many local Colorado K-12 agencies can and should take. While another district would have some share of technical challenges, the larger hurdle to overcome is one of political will. K-12 agencies would have to decide the extent they want to develop and rely on student assessments and how committed they are to robust evaluations rather than union contract demands, among other factors.

In the end, though, if Harrison can demonstrate the source of its success, and continue the pattern of improvement, following the path of performance pay will prove harder to resist.

Certainly a lot harder to resist than naming a school after Taft or Fillmore.