Colorado District May Increase Teacher Pay for Mentoring Rather than Graduate Degrees

Colorado District May Increase Teacher Pay for Mentoring Rather than Graduate Degrees

The Adams County School District 12, commonly known as the Adams 12 Five Star Schools, is a public school district located in western Adams County Colorado.  Adams 12 is considering a pilot to change how teachers get raises, according to Chalkbeat Colorado.

Teachers in at least two Adams 12 schools could earn higher pay in a pilot program – through district-provided training and taking on new school responsibilities – instead of by completing graduate credits, the more traditional route.

About 90% of districts pay teachers more for earning graduate degrees, according to one survey of large districts.

“You don’t have to go out and spend $10,000 on a graduate degree,” said Dave Lockley, president of the teachers union in Adams 12. “We believe in continuing development. We don’t know that graduate credits are the best way.”

The pilot, designed by a team of teachers, union leaders and district leaders, would likely take place at Thornton Elementary School and Thornton Middle School, two schools that have struggled. One goal of the pilot would be to incentivize more teachers to work in and stay at the low-performing schools with high percentages of high-risk students.

As teachers have been informed, there has been some pushback.

Lockley and district leaders said teachers’ main concerns are about what new responsibilities the higher pay requires, whether that money could do more good for more schools in another way, and whether the changes devalue graduate degrees some teachers already earned.

Union and district leaders are discussing the feedback to possibly adjust the plan or decide whether to move forward with it. If they agree in negotiations to the pilot in the next couple of weeks, the school board and the full union membership will have to vote to approve it.

Myla Shepherd, chief human resources officer for Adams 12, said the team that designed the pilot recommended Thornton Elementary and Middle schools for the pilot after the district ranked all schools using five criteria the subcommittee chose, including a three-year teacher turnover average, mobility of students, and how many students qualify for subsidized lunches.

Thornton Elementary has a three-year teacher turnover rate of 38.8%. At Thornton Middle School, that rate is 33.2%. Both schools have more than 40% of their students identified as English learners, and more than 83% qualify for subsidized meals.

None of the teachers at the pilot schools would see a decrease in their salary. Most will see a raise.

Part of the goal is for schools to build a staff that’s a mix of new teachers, intermediate career teachers and some veterans collaborating and helping each other.

Salary raises will also be flattened, so that teachers can reach the maximum earlier in their careers, even though the maximum would be a lower salary than the current schedule.

Under Adams 12′s current salary plan, only one teacher in the district is currently at the maximum, and for most teachers, it’s unattainable. Allowing more teachers to reach a maximum

Researchers say studies have shown that many master’s degrees earned by teachers don’t lead to better student outcomes. Still, there are cases where they do, such as a math teacher in a middle or high school, who earns a master’s degree in math, or special education teachers with specialized degrees for their field.

“There’s a lot to be said positively about the idea of having veteran teachers mentor younger educators,” said  Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute and a Stanford University.

Heather Peske, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, said that districts typically aren’t using money strategically when they pay more for graduate degrees that usually aren’t tied to better student outcomes.

“We need to pay teachers more for working where they’re most needed,” Peske said.

Lockley said, he’d like to see a school improve performance in ways that show in better state ratings.

“We’re trying something different to really honor and recognize the work of educators,” Shepherd said. “It will allow for attracting and retaining people in those challenging environments. And improved student achievement.”

Chalkbeat Colorado

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