Veteran Teacher Salary Schedule: Cynicism or Blunder?

 

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Will the accountability measures in HO523 make veteran pay out of reach for many veterans, or will schools and districts find a way to get their teachers to attain these measures?

Because the Bill HO523 for “Veteran Teacher” salaries has cleared the House and is now heading to the Senate, I thought I would take a moment to see how the bill would work at my school in order to see how many of my teachers will count as ‘Veterans’ and how the bill will help me improve my school. 

First, a little about the bill: Currently, schools are reimbursed $40,000 for a beginning teacher and $50,000 for someone who has been in the profession for longer than 8 years. The new bill now offers to reimburse ‘veteran’ teachers up to $63,000 rather than $50,000. Sounds great, but veteran doesn’t automatically mean everyone past year 8 in their profession, there are qualifications that must be met. Currently, I have 29 teachers. On average, my teachers have 13 years of experience, and I have only 6 teachers below 8 years experience. 23 potential veterans. Let’s look at the qualifications and how my teachers will measure up. 

First, ‘veteran’ teachers must apply for the additional money and their districts must provide written endorsements for them. It may be irritating for my teachers to apply, but if it means the state reimburses us $13,000 more per teacher, they can apply, self evaluate each year, and I can write them endorsements. So far, I have 23 veterans.

Next, 75% or better of their students must improve academically, either on the ISAT, or on some indicator the school chooses. If I use the ISAT, I have 0 veteran teachers (75% of students must show improvement) so I’m afraid that it’s out; If I choose a different indicator, as the bill allows, hurrah, I still have 23 veterans! I’m sure 75% of my veteran teachers’ students improved on something. The bill does allow schools/teachers to choose the measure of improvement.

Also, veteran teachers must receive a 3 or better on all 22 components of the Danielson Framework they are annually evaluated on. Currently, none of my teachers score less than a 3 on their comprehensive score (average of all 22 components), but I’m a hard evaluator. Currently, the typical eval has some 4’s, 3’s, and 2’s. Very few have no 2’s whatsoever. There are 22 components. If I evaluate as I always have, I now only have about 10 teachers that never got a 2. And some of them don’t have more than 8 years experience. The choice I now face is to evaluate honestly, or make sure that all 23 teachers that have more than 8 years experience no longer get any 2’s. At $13,000/teacher I’m beginning to understand that currently I may evaluate too hard.

Lastly, in order to get ‘veteran’ pay, teachers must be in leadership positions, like mentor, department chair, or something else. All of my department chairs have more than 8 years experience but there’s only 4 of them. We do have mentor teachers, but I often use my department chairs and sometimes other reliable folks. If I include those, I have 6 leadership positions, which also means I have 6 veteran teachers. Conversely, I can create new leadership positions-data coach sounds nice, whatever that means-that somehow magically get filled by teachers with 8 or more years of experience. The bill does give the schools discretion to create leadership positions.

So in summation, if I do things the way I am currently doing them, even though I have 23 teachers who have more than 8 years of experience, I would have 6 veteran teachers-the 4 department chairs and 2 additional mentor teachers. That would earn my school an additional $78,000.00 from the state. Another option is that I create 17 new leadership positions, make sure no one ever scores less than 3 on any of their evals (I am the one doing the evaluating you know), make sure I pick a standard of academic achievement that is not the ISAT, and then I have 23 veteran teachers. That option earns my school an additional $299,000.00. 

Most of our school districts and schools are small, and the same folks that evaluate and decide what leadership positions should be in a school are also acutely aware of the school budget and any shortfalls they are facing. How many “Supplemental” Levy Elections do we run each year? I am still undecided on whether this bill is cynical or just a huge blunder like the Expert Teacher Portfolio pay that came before it.  

Here’s a crazy idea: Just provide the extra money to schools that are already paying many of their veteran teachers more than the $50,000 the state gives them without attaching any accountability measures that beg to be cheated. If you consider how many levy elections we see run every year, you may just come to the conclusion that the schools could use this money.

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