(KCPW News) State lawmakers on the Education Interim Committee heard results today from a two-year pilot program that compensates elementary school teachers for student performance gains. Teachers in the five schools that participated were offered financial incentives for improvements in student learning, instructional quality and parent, student or community satisfaction. Kristen Swensen, Research Associate at the Utah Education Policy Center, says the program had really good elements, especially allowing teachers to create their own plan.
“They bought in on it. They thought about what was fair, what was going to work for them and they discussed things like what is good teaching, what makes a good teacher and how can we measure that,” she said. “And I think just the process of self-reflection, besides the collaboration, made them develop good plans.”
Swenson adds, however, that she’s not ready to say it should be implemented statewide.
Republican Senator Aaron Osmond, who’s crafting his own bill on performance compensation, says the pilot program gave the legislature some context.
“What it got for us was the feedback that teachers really enjoy working collaboratively together, that compensation isn’t really the motivating factor,” says Osmond. “It’s the sense of achievement and the professional development of working together to solve a problem. The issue for me is that I really want to be able to recognize financially these great teachers and reward them for everything that they’re doing.”
Swensen says schools vied with each other to participate in the program, so the ones that did had fewer low-income and minority students than average, and higher test scores.