Pay for performance begins next fall
Deserving teachers in Forest Lake schools soon will be eligible to receive an extra $2,000 in merit-based pay as District 831 begins its participation in Q Comp in the 2014-2015 school year.
The voluntary alternative pay program was started by the Minnesota Legislature in 2005 to enhance teacher training and financially reward effective teachers.
The program is funded from two sources. Local taxes raise $91 per student, and the state adds $169 per student. The total, an extra $260 per student, adds up to a $1,715,000 annual cost: $600,000 from the school district and $1,115,000 from the state. The local portion is board-approved and does not require a referendum.
Of the $1.7 million annual cost, the teachers will receive at most $1,151,500 in performance pay, or 68 percent of the total cost of the program.
The other $548,500 (32 percent) will go to salaries for new hires to run the program and other administrative expenses.
The Q Comp coordinator will receive his or her current salary and benefits, plus payment for three additional weeks of duties beyond the school year.
Peer coaches will receive their usual teacher salaries and benefits, plus payment for two additional training days before the start of the year.
Site facilitators will be paid a $1,000 annual stipend with release time as needed.
The nine peer coaches (or more, if some choose to hold the job half-time and also teach half-time) will be supervised by the Q Comp Coordinator, who will report to Director of Teaching and Learning Jennifer Tolzman.
Teachers who complete certain requirements and demonstrate proficiency while being observed will earn $1600 in performance pay.
Additional money will be earned by teachers who reach student achievement goals ($200) and site achievement goals ($200).
To make more time for staff training, the school calendar will have four additional professional development days.
To establish a Q Comp program, a school district needs approval by the teachers union, the school board and the Minnesota Department of Education.
The district was motivated to develop a new Q Comp proposal partly by the Teacher Development and Evaluation law set to take effect in the fall of 2014.
Q Comp provides a means for meeting the requirements of that unfunded mandate, but with funding and pay incentives in place.
The Forest Lake Education Association, working with district staff, wrote the new plan last year. The Q Comp team consisted of Chair Diane Giorgi, Heidi Errickson, Paul Iwaszko, Kathy McMorrow, Joe Mueller and Kim Vanneste. All are District 831 teachers.
Giorgi presented the plan to the school board on April 18. The board voted in favor on May 2, and on May 9 more than 80 percent of the teachers voted to submit the plan to the Department of Education for assessment.
After minor changes requested by the state were made, the school board voted unanimously to approve the final plan at the Sept. 5 meeting.
The last step was ratification by the teachers. On Sept. 26, the new Q-Comp plan was approved with 85 percent support, 299 in favor and 56 against.
Implementation of Q Comp requires annual approval of the teachers union, the school board and the state.
The Q Comp coordinator will be hired early in 2014, and that person will be part of the team to hire peer coaches. The district plans to hire the coordinator, coaches and other positions from existing staff.
Giorgi was considered a logical choice, but she does not plan to apply for the position of Q Comp coordinator.
Currently a Title I Math and Curriculum Coordinator with an office in the Central Learning Center, Giorgi is a 30-year district employee. She worked 15 years as a teacher at Lino Lakes Elementary and another 15 as a technology specialist. In 2007 Giorgi was awarded a $2,000 grant for antibullying efforts, in 2009 she brought in a $7,460 grant for a science project, and in 2011 she received a $2,000 grant to support the STEM program.
“I like what I do right now, supporting teachers through the curriculum,” she said.
Shortly after Q Comp was established in 2005, District 831 gave it a try, in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years. But the teachers union decided not to continue.
“The first time our district implemented Q Comp, the program was in its infancy in Minnesota. Since then we have learned from other districts and incorporated some of their components into our own plan,” Giorgi said.
“In particular, the opportunity for monthly professional development and meeting time will positively impact teachers’ ability to collaborate on strategies and best practices that support student achievement,” she added.
School board member Dan Kieger said teacher groups disliked the process of gauging success in the first Q Comp plan.
Now that other school districts have refined the process, “we’ve got a good working tool for evaluation,” he said.
This time, evaluations will be performed by fellow teachers, an important issue.
“We spent a lot of time getting feedback from the members. They want the peer coaching position to be fresh from the classroom,” Giorgi explained.
Former school board member Eric Langness served during that first Q Comp experiment.
“I supported it because it gives teachers the incentive to put in extra effort,” he said. “It was the only tax increase I ever voted for.”
Langness has reviewed the new plan and agrees with the changes made. Shifting teacher training from three days before the school year to spread throughout the year is one positive change, he said, and added that the high percentage of teacher support is particularly impressive.
“I believe it will motivate teachers and ultimately improve student achievement,” he said.
Giorgi said that student achievement is at the heart of the program. “Q Comp supports teachers in becoming better educators by providing time for collegial collaboration and more meaningful professional development. By reflecting on their own classroom teaching and sharing best practices, teachers will develop a strong support structure to help them move toward attaining student achievement goals,” she said.
“It will help kids get the best education possible,” Kieger concluded.
Q Comp feedback comes only from other teachers. The program has no mechanism to involve student or parent information on teacher effectiveness.
In August each building will set a school-wide site achievement goal based on standardized test scores. A teacher whose building meets its site achievement goal is eligible for $200 of performance pay.
If a site does not meet its goal, the money goes to that site for professional development to help meet the goal the following year.
Teachers set individual student achievement goals by October. Teachers who reach their individual student achievement goal are eligible for $200 of performance pay.
Teachers meet in professional learning communities throughout the year to share instructional strategies. A professional learning community is a team of educators with a common area of interest: grade level, department or shared students.
Teachers are observed every three months by peer coaches and/or administrators, for a total of three observations per year.
Teachers who complete their professional learning community requirements and demonstrate proficiency in their observations are eligible for $1600 of performance pay.