Saturday, September 16, 2000

Teachers approve merit-pay system

Cincinnati first public district in U.S. to pay for performance

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers approved a revolutionary new pay system Friday, meaning Cincinnati's will be the first public school district in the nation to compensate its teachers based on performance rather than seniority.

        The 3,100-member union voted 1,255 to 1,046 — or 54.5 percent in favor to 45.4 percent against — to approve the new system, which will go into effect immediately. The Cincinnati Public Schools board approved it earlier.

        “Now we have to do it the right way,” said CFT President Rick Beck. “We have to do this so carefully, and so precisely and fairly that we can become the example for the entire country.”

        The vote was held in each of the district's schools Thursday and Friday, and the votes were counted Friday evening.

        The system will be implemented over the next five years. All new teachers and a fifth of existing teachers already scheduled for performance reviews will enter it immediately.

        Teachers will first be paid based on evaluations in the 2002-2003 school year.

        In May 2002, teachers may vote, by a “super-majority” of 70 percent, to reject the compensation plan if they find serious problems. Those with 26 years or more experience can choose to opt out of the system, which grades teachers on a scale of 1-4 on 16 criteria grouped in four “domains.”

        A review score is put up against a corresponding pay scale, with teachers eligible for five different rankings — apprentice, novice, career, advanced and accomplished.

        Teachers receiving the accomplished ranking must receive the highest score in all four domains. Both school administrators and trained peer evaluators will conduct the reviews.

        Teachers also have the right to ask for another review if they disagree with the first one. But they face the possibility of losing pay if a second review results in the same ranking.

        CPS Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski was traveling Friday night and could not be reached for comment. But district spokeswoman Jan Leslie said the administration was “very proud of the work of the federation and all its members to get this passed.

        “There will be no turning back in this process,” Ms. Leslie said. “This profession alizes teaching locally, and that we feel is a big step.”

        During several teacher forums leading to the vote, union members worried about whether the system would be implemented fairly and whether teachers would be graded on how well their students did as opposed to how well they taught.

        “We have to be able to look those 1,000 teachers in the eye and say we did this the right way,” Mr. Beck said. “That's our challenge and our focus from now on.”


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