Ben DeGrow, Education, Gold Dome, Jefferson County

CEA President on Performance Pay: “All Teachers Do the Same Job”

The leader of the state’s largest teachers union told lawmakers this week that top-flight classroom instructors should not be paid more because “all teachers do the same job,” though she earlier backed a similar bonus pay arrangement in Jefferson County.

Colorado Education Association (CEA) president Kerrie Dallman (pictured) made the remarks while responding to questions during her testimony at a legislative bill hearing Wednesday at the State Capitol. The House Education Committee was convened to decide the fate of House Bill 1200, a proposal created to provide highly effective educators with bonuses to serve in low-performing schools.

Listen to audio of the full one-minute exchange below:

After Dallman dodged his initial question, Rep. Paul Lundeen (R-Monument) directly asked her: “Is there a circumstance under which a more highly effective educator should be paid a higher wage?”

“I do not believe so,” she responded. “All teachers do the same job.” The statement is challenged by an extensive body of research that distinguishes levels of effective teaching, and estimates the real-life impacts those distinctions have on student learning and life outcomes.

Some of that ongoing research is being conducted in Jefferson County, Colo., where the fourth and final year of a federally-funded Strategic Compensation pilot is being tested in 20 district schools. The pilot incorporates sizable financial bonuses for highly-rated teachers in higher-poverty schools.

As president of the Jefferson County Education Association, Dallman introduced the Strategic Compensation pilot with a message for teachers: “This project presents a real opportunity for us to own our profession now and into the future.”

According to the Jeffco Strategic Compensation website, “In the 10 design schools, all licensed staff have the potential to earn additional stipends of up to $15,000 each year for meeting school and team student learning growth goals, and earning an exceptional evaluation that’s significantly above average performance.”

In her Wednesday exchange with Representative Lundeen, Dallman suggested that highly effective educators only should be paid more by shifting some of their responsibilities outside the classroom.

“The circumstance I would see a different compensation working is when those highly effective teachers take on additional teacher leadership roles, or a hybrid role where they are doing some leadership staff development supporting their fellow educators in the building, in addition to teaching,” she added.

The CEA president concluded her response with a critique of Colorado’s new system for rating educators: “But I do not believe that we should be basing salary decisions based solely on an evaluation system that’s yet to proven (sic) itself and that has been implemented with such disparity across the state.”

The state’s 2010 Educator Effectiveness Act, commonly known as SB 191, prompted the creation of a new statewide evaluation system for teachers and principals. Fifty percent of evaluations are to be based on multiple measures of student academic growth, with teacher tenure tied to effective evaluation ratings.

CEA has played a prominent role in the prolonged development of SB 191’s evaluation guidelines and procedures. In a 2014 Denver Post column co-authored with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Michael Johnston, Dallman made the case for a one-year delay in full implementation of SB 191, but noted that “many of the stakeholders have worked together to support and implement the highest quality educator-evaluation system possible.”

A January study released by the Colorado Department of Education shows that 97 percent of teachers were rated effective or higher in field-tested evaluations that used only principal classroom observations, rather than student growth scores.

Most public educators continue to be paid exclusively based on their seniority and extra degree credentials. However, a number of Colorado school districts and charter schools have adopted strategic compensation plans that include rewards for highly effective educators, most notably the Effectiveness and Results Program in Harrison School District 2.

HB 1200 passed the Democratic-controlled House Education Committee by a 7-4 vote, but only after it had been amended so dramatically that sponsor Rep. Kevin Priola (R-Henderson) opted to vote against it.

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