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SFPS seeking evaluation-based teacher pay

SANTA FE, N.M. — An agreement between Santa Fe Public Schools and the local teachers’ union that would give teachers a 1.5 percent across the board pay increase is expected to be ratified by the school board today.

But in the future, pay raises for district teachers could be tied to a new state-approved teacher evaluation system the district will begin implementing this school year.

In announcing the tentative agreement for the pay raise at an Aug. 6 school board meeting, Superintendent Joel Boyd said the accord “sets the stage for early negotiations next year where we believe Santa Fe can become the first district with a performance-based contract in New Mexico.”

Asked in an interview last week to elaborate, Boyd said the evaluation system offers several opportunities.

For one, “It begins the conversation to determine how we can connect pay with performance,” Boyd said. “We believe that evaluation is a possible tool that we can use to gauge performance.

“That’s a conversation no other district has had with a union, that we’re aware of.”

National Education Association-Santa Fe President Bernice García Baca said the union is on the same page as the district regarding the new evaluation system, although the NEA doesn’t necessarily endorse all the particulars.

And she added, “There’s a lot that needs to be worked out before it gets to collective bargaining” over how to link the evaluations to teacher pay.

For example, García Baca said, terms such as “performance” and “performance measures” used as part of the evaluations have to be defined.

It’s also important, she said, that whatever system is developed reflect increases that are based on merit, a factor the union doesn’t equate with student test scores.

As it is now, nearly half a SFPD teacher’s evaluation is based on student test scores, a requirement laid down by the state Public Education Department. The PED has refused to approve evaluation plans for other school districts that don’t rely as much on standardized tests.

“That’s exactly what we don’t want,” García Baca said, adding that she didn’t think test scores should account for more than 15 percent of the evaluation.

García Baca said she appreciated that the district seems willing to offer pay teachers for “extra work” they do, “because teachers and every other staff member do a whole lot more than they are paid for.”

Both sides agree that tying evaluations to teacher pay will be an evolving process that could take several years.

Negotiations on next year’s contract are to begin next month.

But with the adoption of the new teacher evaluation system, there’s now a starting point, Boyd said.

“Now we have a plan,” he said. “Now we have an opportunity to implement the system – to gather data and determine how it can be used. The first year of implementation will yield data we haven’t had before, and that data will allow us to gauge (teacher) effectiveness in a concrete way.”

The new evaluation system follows the state Public Education Department’s framework for evaluating teachers, giving student achievement the greatest weight as a means of assessing teacher performance. Santa Fe’s proposal, approved by PED last week, calls for 35 percent of the evaluation to be based on individual student test scores and another 10 percent based on test scores of a group of students. Twenty-five percent of the evaluation is based on classroom observations, 20 percent on planning and professionalism, and the final 10 percent on a student survey.

If the school board ratifies the latest collective bargaining agreement tonight – and it has already taken action to allocate nearly $400,000 for pay raises this year – it will be the first time Santa Fe teachers have received a salary increase in close to six years.

Wage report

Boyd said the idea for tying wages to teacher effectiveness goes back to a report released several months ago by the Competitive Wage Committee he formed shortly after he became superintendent last year.

The committee, made up of representatives from both NEA and the school district administration, was charged with looking for ways to increase wages for teachers and other staff and “to provide direction and information to be used in negotiations over the next several years.”

According to the report, key steps in the process include evaluating strategies to allocate available resources, reconstruct salary schedules with a different compensation approach and develop a system for rewarding desired behavior and performance that tracks student achievement.

The report outlines “key ideas” that surfaced during the committee’s discussions. Among them were:

• Develop strategies for encouraging teachers to staff summer school programs funded by the state Legislature, thus expanding their contracts by 28 days and their compensation by 15 percent.

• Reward staff who work to advance their skills and increase teaching effectiveness by mastering classroom technology, tools and Internet resources.

• Reward staff who take on more challenging assignments in what have been termed “transformational zone” schools, or those in most need of improvement.

• Develop a rewards program that guides and motivates instructional staff.

• Create new stipends to incentivize skills and abilities linked to increased student performance.

In addition, the Competitive Wage Committee recommended the district employ a differentiated approach to the allocation of funds for wages.

The report provided hypothetical models for allocating the funds based on the amount of money available in the compensation pool. Different percentages would be set aside for “across the board” raises, pay increases for those in “less than competitive positions,” and funds to support stipends that “incentivize and reward excellence.”

“This strategy in the opinion of the CWC members is both ‘fair’ to employees and supports a transformation of teaching and learning effectiveness in establishing, incentivizing, and acknowledging the skills and practices necessary to increase relevance, rigor, and student success in the classroom,” according to the report.

The committee said it believes that “moving into unchartered (sic) territory together will be beneficial and productive.”

Boyd said the next step is to explore that uncharted territory to see how that philosophy can be connected to pay.

“When we start to connect it, then it can go to collective bargaining,” he said. “But the conversation is significant.

“The question is can we go beyond the conversation to a contract that rewards excellence in teaching with pay?”

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