Janesville16.2°

Panel recommend new system for rewarding teachers

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
July 23, 2011
— Teachers and their bosses will sit down to map a new way of evaluating and rewarding teachers, if a Janesville School Board initiative moves forward.

The board’s personnel committee discussed a possible “employee incentive and evaluation plan” this week.


Key to such a plan would be finding a fair way to identify good teachers and pay them for their performance, said personnel committee Chairwoman Kristin Hesselbacher.


Finding the money for incentive pay is an open question, Hesselbacher said.


“That’s down the road. We’ll look at that after we’ve studied the issue a bit.”


The full board will be asked Tuesday to endorse the personnel committee’s idea of setting up a study committee.


The new system would have to wait two years because the current contracts for teachers and other unionized employees are in effect until July 1, 2013.


The newly created state law that strips public employee unions of the ability to bargain for working conditions will take effect once the contracts run out.


Hesselbacher said she wants teachers, administrators and school board members on the study committee so a system is created that is fair to employees, students and administrators.


Teachers union President Dave Parr gave a cautious thumbs-up to teacher participation.


“It’s going to be affecting our jobs, so we would like to be involved,” Parr said.


The district has a teacher-evaluation system that relies heavily on a review of teaching materials and a principal’s classroom observations, Parr noted.


Parr said a key teacher concern is how the system would measure teachers-union members who do very different jobs.


“How would an English teacher be judged against a social studies teacher? How are they going to determine the factors to measure that?” Parr said.


The system also would have to accommodate teacher jobs such as counselor and librarian, Parr noted.


Parr agreed that fairness has to be a goal.


“I’d just like to see how they’re going to approach it.”


Parr said he has studied teacher incentive plans in districts around the country and would be glad to share his research.


“To my knowledge, there are not a lot of models that work, but we’d certainly like to see what they have in mind,” Parr said.


Hesselbacher said she’d like a system that identifies good teachers and rewards them.


“I don’t want to call it merit pay, because I don’t think that’s accurate, but how do we reward good performance?” she said.


Hesselbacher noted that the governor and state superintendent of public instruction recently set up an education task force to look at a related topic—a new accountability system for schools. The state teachers union announced Friday it would not participate.


Hesselbacher said the local effort would pay attention to what happens at the state level. She acknowledged that recent political developments strained teacher-state relations and raised issues of trust.


“I hope we can get past that locally,” she said.


Hesselbacher suggested the study committee could take six months to investigate possibilities and come up with a recommendation. The school board would have the final say.



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