D.C. schools unveil teacher-pay bonus plan

By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010

D.C. schools officials detailed for the first time Friday how teachers can qualify for the performance-based pay increases that could vault them into the ranks of the country's best-paid public school educators.

The increases, which come in two forms, are targeted toward teachers who receive the best evaluations. The programs are voluntary, and teachers who participate give up certain job protections.

Those ranked highly effective may be eligible for as much as $25,000 in one-time bonuses, with the amount determined by student performance and other factors. Those ranked highly effective for two years in a row could see their base pay rise by as much as $26,000 a year.

Sixteen percent of the city's teachers were ranked highly effective last school year.

The increases come on top of a contract signed in June that raised average teacher pay to $81,000 a year.

Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced earlier this year that she had lined up $31.5 million in private foundation support to help pay for the performance bonuses and base pay increases. Officials said Friday that they expected to spend $6 million on the bonuses in the first year. By fiscal year 2013, D.C.'s government will shoulder the burden.

"Our teachers, individually and collectively, are the most powerful and important resource in this school district," Rhee said in a statement.

The one-time bonuses will depend on a number of factors. How can teachers receive the maximum amount?

First, they must qualify by ranking in the top tier in the school system's new evaluation process. Qualifying teachers who work at a school where 60 percent or more of students are eligible for free- and reduced-price meals earn an extra $10,000 right off the bat. (Teachers at lower-poverty schools receive half the money. But four-fifths of D.C.'s schools meet the high-poverty guideline.) Teaching a hard-to-staff subject is another path to higher pay: secondary math, secondary science, special education, bilingual and ESL teachers garner $5,000. Then there's teaching in grades four through eight: Students in those grades take the standardized exams in math and reading, and improved scores can earn teachers as much as $10,000 more.

School systems across the country have adopted performance-based bonuses in the past few years, but Washington's bonuses are among the biggest. Teachers in Prince George's County can receive as much as $10,000 in annual performance bonuses. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has encouraged school systems and states to adopt performance pay, and he made them a factor in decisions for Race to the Top, a $4 billion competitive grant program.

Both D.C. and Maryland won grants. The District's share was $75 million.

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