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Three New Pay Elements in Pittsburgh Teacher Pact

The Pittsburgh district and its American Federation of Teachers-affiliated local union have reached agreement on a five-year contract that contains three significant new pay elements: a school-based performance-pay plan, a pilot individual performance-pay plan, and a salary schedule that puts much more emphasis on student results rather than teacher credentials.

The school-based bonus plan will award bonuses to staff at schools that make the most progress in lifting student achievement (within the top 15 percent in the state).

The individual performance-pay element, a voluntary pilot program, will be based on two factors: a mandatory demonstration of student growth through value-added measures or other yet-to-be-determined growth measures, and a "choice" component giving teachers credit for high performance on the teacher-evaluation system, demonstrated leadership, and providing professional development to others. Teachers could earn up to $8,000 additionally through this program. And participating teachers could choose to opt out of the program when the pilot ends.

One interesting provision says that teachers at the top of the salary schedule who elect to participate in the individual performance-pay program would forfeit the raise at that step in exchange for an increase in their base salary equal to 40 percent of the bonus amount.

Various members from the union and district will meet to work out all the details in these plans, with both the schoolwide and individual programs to begin in 2011-12.

Finally, beginning July 1 of this year, new teachers will no longer enter the system on the old salary schedule but on a new one that's a bit of a hybrid between a traditional schedule and a performance-pay plan. Teachers would still earn "step" increases each year, but master's degree pay bumps would be a thing of the past.

Big pay boosts would come by satisfying a periodic review based on a combination of evaluation score and proof that a teacher's advanced student growth. (Just how this will be measured has to be determined by yet another committee.) It works like this: After meeting the four-year tenure mark, and each third year thereafter, teachers would be placed into one of four "professional growth" levels, the highest of which tops out at $100,000 annually. And after a certain number of years, they could qualify to earn between $10,000 and $14,000 in extra pay for taking on additional responsibilities for working with the highest-need students and working longer hours.

If this sounds complicated, it really is. Think of it as a bit of a cross between Cincinnati's defunct pay program of the mid-2000s, and this pay plan in Harrison School District Two, in Colorado Springs, Colo. In any case, the plan would offer beaucoup bucks for teachers who perform well, participate in the individual pay plan, and take on additional roles.

And as an aside, it's interesting to note that this contract went through relatively quietly compared with some of the other big contracts of late, as in D.C. And so far, AFT national has refrained from promoting the heck out of it as it did in New Haven, Conn., and elsewhere, even though this contract seems to reflect AFT Pres Randi Weingarten's favorite theme, collaboration.

In any case, Pittsburgh is one of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's sites for its Intensive Partnerships for Teacher Quality, which has required a lot of relationship-building and commitment from both district and union. Perhaps that made all the difference here.

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