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Teachers 'Tier Up' at Hartland-Lakeside

Teachers make progress in new pay-for-performance model

July 17, 2013

The Hartland-Lakeside School District is continuing to expand on its teacher pay-for-performance model, with plans to partner with Carroll University on specific master's degree courses in the works.

Superintendent Glenn Schilling said the district, which already partners with Caroll University on a teacher's aide program, hopes to work closer with the university on developing "expansive coursework" that specifically meets the needs of its new tier-based pay model.

"There is value in a master's degree, because of the intensity of the classwork, but now we are seeing how it is implemented in the classroom," he said.

Dr. Kimberly White, Chairwoman of Carroll's Education Department, said via email the partnership with Hartland-Lakeside offers faculty and students at the university to stay directly connected with the teaching and learning experience in schools.

The university can in the future offer full master's programs centered around the Hartland-Lakeside tier system through Carroll's Master of Education in Learning and Teaching.

Hartland-Lakeside will also be changing certain aspects of the pay-for-performance model, such as giving teacher's the opportunity to work on "tiering up" throughout the school year.

Cooperation, not competition

The district's pay-for-performance model was created in the aftermath of Act 10, which allowed school districts greater freedom in how teachers' salaries were negotiated. The previous system operated on a single-salary schedule, which provided teacher's incremental raises based on their education and experience.

Under the new system, teachers are placed into one of seven performance tiers based on their instructional, analytical and leadership abilities. Participation in the program is voluntary until 2015, but pay is frozen for non-participating teachers. Schilling said that about 78 percent of teachers are participating in the model, while 22 percent are not.

Quality I, the lowest tier, represents teachers with little experience who make between $35,400 to $38,800. These teachers are able to provide the basics: well organized, consistent and structured instruction, student assessment and parent communication. They are also expected to participate in professional courses, attend district events and collaborate with other teachers and administration.

To progress to Quality II, teachers need to provide evidence to a "Tier Up Team" of continued improvement in key areas. The team is composed of two teachers, a principal and district office administrator.

Schilling said this year second-grade teacher Susan Martz had to show that she was "providing quality learning for all levels of learners through the Service Delivery Model," in order to move to tier Master III.

Martz, who did tier up, presented to the team a reading chapbook she created that included advice for how parents could guide student reading.

Schilling said that other projects initiated by teachers included interactive parent blogs, a K-12 math initiative and global learning via Skype.

"Its a positive experience, where teachers are excited about what they are presenting, something you don't see at a formal evaluation," he said.

The point of the model, Schilling said, is not to punish teachers who don't immediately improve student performance. There could be any number of reasons why students are not succeeding and punishing the teacher does not necessarily solve the problem.

Instead, the model seeks to promote cooperation and communication between teachers, with the hope that those problems can be analyzed and resolved as a team.

"Its easier to collaborate in a council and look at the issue and say, 'Well, the students aren't learning because of X, Y, and Z,'" he said.

Dr. White said that from her perspective effective implementation of a pay-for-performance model demands collaboration between teachers, principals and administrators, something she said that HartLake has done.

Tier progress in 2013

A teacher's goal in the district is to reach "Exemplary" status, the highest tier where teachers can make $75,000 or more a year. An Exemplary teacher is, "a recognized leader in the school and the district by staff, administrators, other school districts and from state organizations," according to a criteria sheet.

So far, no teacher in the district is considered Exemplary. However, 19 teachers are at the Master III tier, 21 are at the Master II tier and 15 are at the Master I tier.

According to the Department of Public Instruction, a teacher at Hartland-Lakeside makes on average $55,575 a year. The average teacher has almost 13 years experience, with 10 years of that experience gained locally.

Schilling said one major change to the tier system in the coming year is that teachers will have more opportunities throughout the year to present to the Tier Up Team.

He said that the new system will allow teachers to identify earlier in the year areas where they struggle and try to improve those areas before the next meeting.

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