Naked City

AISD Mulls Performance Pay

The Austin ISD board of trustees heard a report by representatives of school districts that had adopted "pay for performance" compensation plans, which link teacher pay to student performance. The discussion was part of a series of panels to prepare the trustees to revamp AISD's pay policy, which currently leaves teachers feeling stiffed.

Pay-for-performance plans often elicit nightmare visions of TAKS scores determining teacher pay. But the districts that briefed AISD have gone beyond test scores to define incentive-worthy "performance." Teaching hard-to-staff schools and hard-to-staff subjects, like math, garnered bonuses in Denver, which instituted a 16-school pay-for-performance pilot program in 1999. In Cincinnati, evaluation involved subjective measures like peer review. However, all warned that these systems are not cheap. Evaluating each teacher and administering widely varying salaries, plus the incentives themselves, cost more than a pay scale based simply on years of experience.

The trustees responded with questions about how the districts built support for such a radical overhaul. Trustee Ave Wahrmund, for instance, noted that Denver does not use the term "pay for performance." Denver representative Brad Jupp said they ditched the term when polling revealed the public didn't like it, even though they liked the substance of the package.

"Those three words were disguising things they liked very much," he said. "So we just got rid of the three words." Of course, disagreements will probably go beyond the "three words" should a similar proposal emerge in Austin.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

pay for performance, Austin ISD, teacher salaries

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