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Details of D.C. Performance-Pay System Unveiled

Leaders in the District of Columbia today announced details of the performance-based-pay program enshrined in its recently inked contract. Under the system, deemed "IMPACTplus,"—a reference to the IMPACT teacher-evaluation system upon which the pay decisions will be made—teachers deemed "highly effective" stand to earn annual bonuses of up to $25,000.

In addition to these one-off bonuses, teachers will have the opportunity to qualify for permanent base-pay raises as well.

But given the district's hotly charged political environment, payouts under the new program could already be in jeopardy. The fate of the teacher-evaluation system and the performance-pay program is likely to be contingent on the victor in this fall's mayoral election.

A longstanding priority of D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee, the performance-bonus system was formally instituted in the collective bargaining contract approved earlier this year. The contract left most aspects of the system to the district to work out in the future.

Under the details released this morning, highly effective teachers who work in schools in which 60 percent of students qualify for federal free or reduced-price meals can earn $10,000, and teachers in grades and subjects with "value added" data based on student test-score growth can qualify for an additional $10,000. Teachers of "high-need subjects," finally, will receive an additional $5,000.

For teachers in schools with lower concentrations of poverty, the bonus amounts are $5,000, an additional $5,000 for the subset of teachers with value-added data, and $2,500 for those who teach high-need subjects.

District leaders also announced a new system for increasing teachers' base-pay raises. Those who receive two sequential "highly effective" ratings would earn the salary bonus now reserved for teachers who hold master's degrees, if they don't already hold such a degree. Finally, they would also be eligible to move forward several "steps" on the salary schedule. Step increases are normally granted automatically for each year of service.

Those teachers at schools with 60 percent or higher populations of poor students would advance five steps forward, and those teaching in schools with fewer such students would advance three steps forward.

The announcement comes right before many of the district's 500,000 members will vote in the primaries for the upcoming mayor election, next Tuesday. (In D.C., the winner of the Democratic primary usually wins in the general election.) The outcome of the vote could have significant implications on how or even whether bonuses are ever paid out under the system.

The private foundations that pledged to help finance the bonuses have made their donations contingent on the continuation of Ms. Rhee as chancellor. But that position is appointed by the mayor, and the key opposition candidate to incumbent Adrian Fenty is Vincent Gray, current chairman of the City Council.

Gray is considered to have a closer relationship to the Washington Teachers' Union, a critic of the IMPACT evaluation system and of the use of value-added data for decisions involving teachers.

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