Earlier this month, the city of Houston, Texas, became the largest city to enact merit pay for its teachers when the school board approved a $14.5 million plan that will pay teachers a bonus of up to $3,000 for raising student achievement levels.
“It’s a real departure from business as usual, in that it takes [bonuses] to the individual teacher and classroom, and it’s also based on a ‘value added’ model that looks at how effective a teacher is in moving the [achievement] needle by the end of the year,” Dianne Johnson, the president of the Houston school board, told Education Week.
The new plan is expected to pay out more in bonuses than the previous reward system, which paid teachers higher salaries if they worked at a school that placed high in Texas’s school accountability ranking system. The new plan will continue to reward teachers based on school ranking, but it will also offer bonuses to teachers when their individual students show improvement on standardized tests. Under the old plan, about 2,100 of the district’s 13,000 teachers received $1,000 each last year, for a total of over $2 million. According to district estimates, more than 6,800 teachers would have earned rewards, totaling over $6.6 million, had the new plan been in place last year.
The new plan consists of three different strands of incentive pay. The first strand will continue to reward teachers based on how much their school improves on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) in reading and math when compared to other schools around the state with similar demographics. All teachers and noninstructional staff members on the campus are eligible for this performance pay. However, only core teachers are eligible for bonuses on the second and third strands. The second strand will reward teachers who teach in the core subjects tested on the Stanford or Aprenda tests if their students make more progress from the previous year than students in similar classrooms around Houston. The third strand will only reward core teachers whose students improve from one year to the next in reading and math on the TAKS test.
As an additional bonus, teachers with perfect attendance will have their performance pay bonus increased by 10 percent, and teachers who have missed no more than 2 days will have their earned performance pay increased by 5 percent.
Previously, Denver, where voters gave approval to a $25 million pay for performance plan in November, was the largest city to have a merit pay system for teachers in place. Denver has about 70,000 students, while Houston has more than 210,000.
The press release from the Houston Independent School District is available at http://www.houstonisd.org/.