What school districts spend

Cleveland School Districts

The district has tentatively agreed to use those evaluations only to block raises for the worst teachers - as few as the bottom 1% - while awarding regular increases to most.

The deal reached last week with the Cleveland Teachers Union, a tentative contract that still needs approval from both the school board and teachers, is technically a "merit pay" or "performance-based" pay plan that uses annual ratings of teachers to determine raises.

Instead of giving progressively more or higher raises to teachers with higher ratings, the new plan gives the same raises to all teachers earning the top three ratings - accomplished, skilled or developing - out of the four possible ones.

That means that those teachers, who made up 96% of the district in 2013-14 and 99% in 2014-15, will each receive salary increases every two years.

Only the 1% who are "ineffective, " the lowest rating, will see a pay freeze.

It's a significant departure from the district's first attempt at the "performance-based" pay that's called for in the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools, the district's 2012 turnaround plan. Since signing the last teacher contract in 2013, Cleveland teachers would gain points toward raises with higher evaluation ratings, but were not guaranteed raises for a few years if they had mediocre ratings.

The new deal throws out the point system, after a transition period this school year. Almost all teachers will move up a pay step every two years on a salary schedule.

That schedule that has not been released yet. We'll share it with you when it is available.

"It's more traditional, " said union President David Quolke. "Teachers will move every two years if they're not ineffective. It takes a lot of pressure off the evaluation system."

Teachers, he said, are most bothered by how state law makes testing data a major part of the evaluations. Reducing the power of the rating, he said, reduces how much test scores can hurt a teacher financially.

"To a person, teachers would still rather be back at a traditional salary schedule where you move every year, or two years, " he said.

District CEO Eric Gordon said the deal is still a merit pay plan, if you focus on a few parts of it. But he said dropping the reliance on evaluations makes sense because of unintended problems with the points system of the last plan.

"Reasonable people should learn from their lessons and make improvements, " Gordon said.

Issues with the last pay plan include:

- New teachers, who are expected to be developing as teachers for the first few years, were slow to move up the pay scale when rated as "developing" a lower rating that gave fewer points toward a raise.

"Under the old system, the newest teachers we brought into the system and recruited here were being held back, even though they were where we expected them to be, " Gordon said.

The new plan calls for all developing teachers to have an improvement plan to get better.

"We did not have that in the last contract, " Gordon said.

- Top-rated "accomplished" teachers were receiving large salary increases that were permanent parts of their compensation, even if it was a one-year aberration.

Gordon said strong teachers should be rated as "skilled" and rarely as accomplished, as the evaluations are designed.

"Accomplished is a place you visit, not live, " he said. "It's a very high bar that's hard to clear."

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