Teacher Performance Pay Alive and Well: But Just What Will It Look Like in Jeffco?

Two days ago I commented on the big splash Denver Post story about a new study calling into question teacher performance pay. Today the Post‘s big headline touts that “Jeffco schools to increase some teachers’ pay to more than $100,000”:

Top-level teachers in select Jefferson County schools could be paid more than $100,000 a year under a pilot program funded by a new $32.8 million federal grant….

Jefferson County and Colorado Springs District 11 learned Thursday that they were among 62 winners in 27 states of the federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants, which support performance-pay plans in high-need schools. [link added]

More excellent coverage is available from Nancy Mitchell at Ed News Colorado, which proclaims “Jeffco launches teacher performance pay.” So given the previous news, is the state’s largest school district barking up the wrong tree?

Of course not. Besides the reasons I pointed out in Wednesday’s commentary, odds are that the details of the Jeffco proposal — which will be piloted in some of the district’s higher-poverty schools — will be different than the Nashville program challenged in the study. It also remains to be seen just how different Jeffco’s performance pay will look from Denver’s ProComp, even as the local union leader told 9News (H/T Complete Colorado):

“Jeffco will pilot an entirely different kind of system,” said Kerrie Dallman, president of Jefferson County Education Association.

The idea is to reward teachers based on student performance. But teachers will also be assessed on teamwork, their yearly evaluations, and for taking on leadership positions.

This system will reward teachers up to an extra $20,000 a year if they meet certain goals.

Just reading the description makes it sound like Jeffco is pursuing something somewhat different (not entirely different) than Denver — which also provides some rewards based on student performance and yearly evaluations.

What should we make of all this right now? As usual, it makes sense to go forward with some cautious optimism combined with a “trust but verify” attitude. Further investigation (both of Jeffco and Colorado Springs District 11) is warranted over the coming weeks and months.