Green Dot Public Schools (GDPS), a charter school network operating in inner urban Los Angeles, announced earlier this month the approval of a contract with its teachers that includes a pay-for-performance evaluation tool. Though the agreement does not “make the critical link between teacher compensation and student performance,” it does position the charter group to do so in two years.
Right now, teachers are getting their regular step and column advancement, but both labor and management is working to perfect the evaluation process with the expectation of formally incorporating it as a component for setting teacher compensation. This agreement is unique among public (both charter and traditional) schools, because not only has a pay-for-performance plan been agreed to, but it has been agreed to with the support of the teachers’ union.
“We’re working very collaboratively with the teachers,” Marco Petruzzi, CEO of GDPS said. “They’ve really put a lot into this – in fact, nearly 30 percent of our teachers participated in focus groups and other activities. I think that’s really important – that it has been a group effort and not top-down, and we really worked through the details with the union.”
Though GDPS has always had a contract that includes performance evaluations, the new system makes the process more formalized. For starters, administrators will be required to get specific training before they are allowed to conduct classroom evaluations. They will also have to follow a specific process for conducting the evaluation, including transcribing a minimum sequence of at least 45 minutes of instruction.
In the meantime, GDPS has implemented an element of pay for performance in their compensation structure. For the next two years, high performing teachers will be eligible for bonuses from $500-2,000. “What we are doing is piloting teacher bonus on top of the step and column increases,” said Arielle Zurzolo, a teacher in GDPS and president of the union. “So teachers are guaranteed their money until we can feel confident to say that we trust this system – that is, when the system can say that you are an effective teacher, you are an effective teacher.”
Petruzzi said the administration is very sensitive to concerns about moving ahead too quickly. “We know that there are a lot of kinks that need to be worked out,” he said. “We want, number one, for the credibility of the system to be very high.”
The progress made by GDPS vis-à-vis teacher evaluation has largely come from grant money from the Gates Foundation and the US Department of education over the past three years. The uncertainty of how the system might continue to be funded once the grants have ended has led GDPS to consider how they may continue to make significant steps forward. California’s struggling economy has decreased state education funding, and it is hard to predict when it might recover. “In our mind, if we can get funding back to where it was [in 2008]—we have a path to make all of this work,” said Petruzzi. “And it’s something that is highly repeatable by all districts.
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