New Denver KIPP School Performance Pay Plan Latest Charter Innovation

With a variety of programs and greater flexibility from state laws and district policies, public charter schools can provide a great alternative for parents and students looking for something different. Because of that same flexibility, charter schools can serve as great laboratories of innovation for different practices that work.

A couple months ago, while school was still in session, my Education Policy Center friends visited KIPP-Sunshine Peak Academy, a charter middle school located in west Denver. The national KIPP network of 82 charter schools has been made famous recently by the book Work Hard Be Nice, written by Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews.

KIPP (“Knowledge Is Power” program) certainly is not a top-down organization. So while the national organization was available as a resource, the teachers and leaders at Colorado’s KIPP-Sunshine Peak have worked to develop their own teacher performance pay program that would promote professional growth, high standards, and retention of quality instructors.

Principal Kurt Pusch explained the four components of the sustainably-funded program that offered teachers a chance to earn as much as an annual 7 percent bonus (with relative weights of each component in parentheses):

  • Growth in assessed student achievement (50%)
  • Demonstration of professional competencies (20%)
  • Commitment to excellence (10%)
  • Overall school performance on the Denver Public Schools (DPS) framework (20%)

If you want to learn more detail, feel free to contact my friend Ben DeGrow. A couple years ago he wrote about Denver’s ProComp and Teacher Compensation Reform in Colorado (PDF). While ProComp has improved somewhat since its first iteration, there are likely more lessons for DPS to glean from KIPP-Sunshine Peak’s experience with performance pay (especially the weight and prominence given to rewards for measurable classroom results).

The charter school compensation plan is set to unfold in the new 2009-2010 school year. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in driving further advances in teacher quality and student achievement at a school that has already demonstrated innovation and success.