Hooray! Mike Miles and Harrison Taking Bold Step on Merit Pay Reform

While Colorado’s governor and state officials have created a 15-member Council on Educator Effectiveness and Denver Public Schools has received a $10 million Gates Foundation grant to study and develop a new teacher evaluation system, Harrison School District in Colorado Springs is moving forward on a truly bold merit-pay reform.

So reports Nancy Mitchell in today’s edition of Education News Colorado:

Incentives play no part in the plan created by Miles, the superintendent here since 2006. There are no bonuses for teaching in struggling schools. Teachers don’t pocket a couple thousand bucks more if their students do better than expected on state tests.

Instead, teachers in Harrison will soon have their entire salaries based on a combination of their annual evaluations and their students’ academic progress.

No longer will teachers get annual raises for another year on the job or for taking more college classes – the way most districts in Colorado and across the country pay their instructors.

These changes are made easier by the fact that Harrison teachers do not have collective bargaining rights.

Once the new plan launches, Miles estimates only about 20 percent of teachers will get a raise every year. But starting pay will be higher and those raises, when they come, will be bigger – $3,000 to $4,000 initially and then $6,000 to $10,000.

“In almost any district in Colorado, even if your evaluation is not satisfactory, unless you are removed from the classroom, you will get a raise,” Miles said. “That is the key question – if you’re not proficient, why should you get the same exact advancement as a proficient teacher?”

There is much more to this story, and I hope you get a chance to read it all. Strangely, what Harrison is set to do sounds a lot like what the state of Georgia is proposing as well. Maybe some enterprising Georgia legislator or official can take note of what’s happening in our neck of the woods.

In any case, teacher performance pay has taken a major step forward since my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow wrote his 2007 issue paper Denver’s ProComp and Teacher Compensation Reform in Colorado (PDF). Ben also has compiled some more updated information on Colorado teacher pay reform on this PowerPoint presentation.

A big “Hooray” to Superintendent Mike Miles, for without his leadership Harrison almost certainly wouldn’t be making bold steps forward like the new merit-pay program for the sake of better students and better schools.