Frequently Asked Questions about OPE's Reform Model
- How can value-added assessment, combined with the sort of accountability system that OPE recommends, help my state or school district?
- Isn't student performance influenced by factors that are largely beyond the control of schools and teachers, thus making it unfair to hold them accountable?
- How does the Operation Public Education accountability model benefit teachers?
- What is the downside? What are the risks of implementing value-added assessment as part of an accountability system?
- Why has the OPE approach attracted the attention of progressive union leaders?
- How does the OPE system address the alarmingly high rate of teacher turnover nationwide?
- Doesn't the OPE's accountability, especially when linked to a career ladder, amount to a merit pay system?
- Won't introducing a new salary schedule be unfair to current teachers who entered the profession believing their salaries would increase with length of service?
- How do value-added ratings distinguish among teachers in an evaluation process?
- What have value-added studies shown about the impact a single teacher can have on student performance?
- How much can we expect improvement to accelerate if there are several high performing teachers in the same school? Are good teachers penalized because they don't have other good teachers around them?
- There is a presumption that good teachers are doing something that can be replicated, and therefore it is intrinsically fair to assume that other teachers can do those things too. However, if there are only a few teachers who are making substantial gains, does this suggest that the value-added measure will only be identifying superstars and not raise everyone's performance across the board?
- If a teacher has 25 students and a number of low-performing students drop out during the beginning of the year, won't his or her ratings be raised?
- What does the observation portion of a teacher's evaluation entail?
- Under the OPE system, teachers are made partly responsible for evaluating other teachers. Doesn't this put the foxes in charge of the henhouse, resulting in "soft" evaluations of teaching performance?
- How does the system protect good teachers from being mistakenly or unfairly required to enter remediation?
- How does the system ensure that truly ineffective teachers will be removed?
- How would OPE's accountability system work for teachers in grades K-3?
- How will this be fair to teachers of art, music, physical education, i.e., subjects in which progress is not easily quantified by standardized tests?
- What affect will building principals have on a teacher's value-added score? Would a good instructional leader produce teachers with high value-added scores and likewise would the scores of teachers stuck with an ineffective principal be lower?
- How are administrators evaluated and compensated?
- Under the OPE system, administrators can meet all their AYP requirements, meaning that a sufficient number of their students are succeeding academically, and yet still be classified as needing remediation because of low value-added scores. How is this fair?
- How does student mobility affect the ability to determine value-added progress?
- What if there are anomalies such as statewide testing inconsistencies, public health problems or other unforeseen variables that could influence a value-added score in ways that are currently unforeseeable?
- Would a district have to gut its existing testing program in order to implement value-added assessment?
- Won't more accountability lead to teaching to the test?
- Will the new career ladder advanced by the OPE accountability system cost school districts more money?
- What if a district has its own plans for accountability?
- How will OPE's accountability system be implemented?
How can value-added assessment, combined with the sort of accountability system that OPE recommends, help my state or school district?
Value-added assessment and a comprehensive accountability framework can serve as a model for states and districts to:
- Establish a politically viable and economically feasible system for evaluation, and compensation for individual teachers and administrators. By following individual students over time, value-added accounts for student background characteristics over which schools have no control and that tend to bias test results. This enables educators to identify not only the progress made by students, but also the extent to which individual teachers, schools and districts have contributed to it. OPE's accountability system uses a teacher's value-added score for half of his or her evaluation. The other half of the evaluation is done through observation conducted in a peer review process. By combining empirical value-added measures with observation, this comprehensive accountability plan offers a fair and effective method for evaluating and compensating educators based on performance.
- Provide much needed professional development and support for educators. The OPE accountability system expands professional development to 12 days per year so teachers have ample time to gain new knowledge and to develop new skills. It also provides new teachers with mentors for several years, a much-needed reform given how little value new teachers currently add, and creates a new category of teacher coaches to work with their colleagues to improve their craft. Mentors and coaches will be drawn from the ranks of Advanced and Distinguished educators, but in the start-up years of the OPE system recruits will be drawn from the Career category until enough teachers move into the Advanced and Distinguished ranks.
- Bolsters the morale of effective teachers working in low-income schools. Because value-added accounts for socioeconomic and demographic differences, its outcome measures reveal the extent to which educators have succeeded in helping their students move forward, regardless of where they started. When schools are ranked by their value-added scores rather than on the basis of raw test scores which are greatly influenced by family income, teachers can be defined as successful by virtue of having "stretched" their students beyond what could be reasonably expected based on their past academic achievement.
- Strengthen school leadership. Because value-added helps identify outstanding teachers, it makes possible the recruitment of teacher coaches and mentors who can play a vitally important role in improving the quality of classroom instruction.
OPE's accountability plan is symmetrical - it treats administrators the same way it treats teachers. The OPE system evaluates administrators according to how effectively they promote high achievement for all students, use student-learning data to make decisions, and build a school culture of high standards and continuous professional development.
Under OPE's accountability system, administrators will be compensated according to a career ladder that recognizes their skills and accomplishments, their success in meeting Adequate Yearly Progress goals, and the value-added scores of their school or district. School leaders begin as Interns with a mentor administrator, then progress to Career stage and, if they demonstrate excellence, reach Distinguished status.
Isn't student performance influenced by factors that are largely beyond the control of schools and teachers, thus making it unfair to hold them accountable?
Most Americans, lay people as well as K-12 educators, think that the level of academic achievement is determined largely by factors beyond a school's control. The origin of this belief can be traced back to James Coleman's 1966 report - "only a small part of [student achievement] is the result of school factors, in contrast to family background differences between communities;" and the work of Christopher Jencks in 1972 - "the character of a school's output depends largely on a single input, namely the characteristics of the entering children." This understanding is reinforced for the public at-large when their metropolitan newspapers issue their annual "Report Card on the Schools," revealing that wealthy communities almost always have the highest test scores. The implicit conclusion of these analyses, is that when it comes to student achievement, teaching doesn't matter very much.
But a spate of new studies now proves empirically that teaching matters enormously. To understand this new conclusion, it is vital to grasp a fundamental distinction in the measurement of student learning. Achievement describes the absolute levels attained by students in their end-of-year tests. Growth, in contrast, describes the progress in test scores made over the school year. And here is the most important implication of this difference: high absolute scores on assessments such as the SAT are best predicted by family income. But if we are predicting student growth - progress made over the year - emerging research demonstrates that good instruction is 15-20 times more powerful than family background, income, race, gender, and other explanatory variables.
How does the Operation Public Education accountability model benefit teachers?
OPE's system creates a new pathway to deliver what most teachers have long wanted - improved school leadership, better working conditions, more valid evaluation, meaningful professional development, higher student achievement, and increased salaries. The system has several critical advantages in that it:
- Allows teachers to rise as fast as their talent and efforts permit. The OPE system calls for career ladders - with compensation built into their rungs - so that teachers compete only with themselves and never with each other as they progress in their career. In most states and districts it now takes teachers about 25 years to reach the top of the salary scale. But under the OPE system, teachers who succeed in the classroom could earn the maximum pay in less than half that time.
- Creates a more intellectually stimulating and rewarding environment in which to work. In the OPE system, teachers spend more time working with each other on ways to improve the quality of their instruction and increase student achievement. When teachers are engaged in joint study to these ends, schools become learning communities, teachers are no longer isolated, and the profession provides greater satisfaction as teachers see the results of their efforts in higher student achievement.
- Provides new opportunities for leadership. In the current system, teachers who are looking for leadership opportunities have only one option - to leave teaching and become administrators. Under the OPE system, teachers have new opportunities for growth and leadership, as well as higher pay by becoming coaches or mentors.
- Establishes a fair evaluation system. Currently most teachers are judged by their superficial behaviors, rather than by what they know and how much they help their students achieve. By analogy, imagine if we were judging auto mechanics by the tools they own and the organization of their garage, rather than by their track record in fixing cars. Of course, we may give our mechanics some credit for having the right equipment, and behaving in a professional manner, but the real question is how well their work holds up over time.
In the balanced OPE approach teachers are evaluated using value-added assessments to measure students' yearly progress and observations through a peer review process. Value-added assessment, which measures progress rather than absolute achievement, does not favor teachers who work in affluent schools. While observation is unavoidably subjective, teachers place greater trust in the judgments of their colleagues. Moreover, review by peers rather than by administrators increases the likelihood that evaluations will be conducted by those recognized for their knowledge of content, standards, and pedagogy.
- Provides additional support for all teachers. By increasing the number of days regularly available for professional development, all teachers receive extra support and coaching. For teachers who have difficulties, the system provides remediation to help them improve their performance and, in turn, raise the achievement levels of their students. In addition, new teachers are paired with mentors for several years instead of being thrown into a classroom to sink or swim.
What is the downside? What are the risks of implementing value-added assessment as part of an accountability system?
There are a number of statistical safeguards built into the value-added methodology to ensure that educators will be judged fairly. Most important is the use of multiple years of data, so that educators are not penalized because they've had a personal crisis or temporary difficulty. Additionally, test score data are coupled with observation of their classroom skills and knowledge, further reducing the possibility of an unfair assessment.
As a final layer of protection, when a teacher's evaluation shows that he or she is below proficient in either the value-added or the observation portion of an evaluation, that teacher is referred for Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) to check for inconsistencies or consider extenuating circumstances to ensure that the teacher is an appropriate candidate for remediation.
Why has the OPE approach attracted the attention of progressive union leaders?
The OPE system greatly expands the position of teachers and their unions by creating a new "quid pro quo" where teachers accept accountability as individuals in return for a significantly expanded role in public education. First, since the classroom rather than the negotiating table will determine career advancement, teachers get an equal say in all major issues that affect classrooms such as curricula and professional development. Second, teachers rather than administrators are given responsibility for the observation portion of a teacher's evaluation. Finally, when either through observation or value-added scores, a teacher is identified for remediation, no decisions about this process can be made without the agreement of teachers, who constitute the majority of the review panel. This ensures fair treatment while making it possible to remove teachers who are unable to improve their practice and whose ineffective instruction undermines the ability of children to achieve.
Since the introduction of collective bargaining 30 years ago, teachers have made enormous improvements in their salaries, benefits, job security and working conditions. But these gains are a mixed blessing. The unintended consequence was to treat teachers as "labor" and allow them to negotiate on "bread and butter" issues, but all policy decisions regarding the educational content of schools was given to management. The challenge of reform now requires teachers and administrators to work as partners as they would under the OPE system.
How does the OPE system address the alarmingly high rate of teacher turnover nationwide?
A high level of attrition already characterizes the teaching profession. According to the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 2 million of the 3.4 million teachers currently in the professions will need to be replaced over the next decade - three times as many through attrition as through retirement. In addition, forty-six percent of beginning teachers drop out in the first five years, many of whom are the most talented of our new educators. Given the far broader career choices that women now have than they had 30 years ago, to attract and retain the "best and the brightest" we need to transform the teaching profession.
The OPE system achieves this by differentiating compensation, creating a more satisfying and rewarding experience in the day-to-day life of teachers through the building of "learning communities," and by providing teachers with expanded professional development activities to increase their knowledge and develop new skills.
Survey data clearly demonstrates that new teachers are more welcoming of differentiated compensation systems than veteran teachers. As a result, we expect that those who enter the OPE system as first-time teachers will enter willingly. If teachers discover after 10 years that they cannot move up to advanced levels, they will still have a secure job with cost-of-living increases and benefit-accruing pension plans.
This accountability model is unlikely to create an uproar among teachers in the classroom today - because while all teachers would be evaluated under the new system, a "grandfather" clause would give those already teaching the option of remaining under the existing compensation system. But even if existing teachers elect to remain in the old compensation system, OPE's accountability still offers benefits to veteran teachers. The strong focus on effective classroom instruction creates a more intellectually stimulating and rewarding environment in which to work.
Doesn't the OPE's accountability, especially when linked to a career ladder, amount to a merit pay system?
OPE's career ladder is very different from traditional merit pay. It is not a bonus or something to be tacked onto the existing salary schedule but, a whole new way of thinking about compensation that draws on a teacher's entire evaluation, including observation, rather than on test scores alone.
Merit pay systems have failed for several valid reasons. They were considered highly subjective when based solely on observation, particularly when teachers distrusted the judgment of administrators. Those that relied on student achievement scores, which are strongly influenced by family income, were unfair. Finally, by whatever measure districts ranked teachers, they were always competing with each other for a fixed number of dollars, a practice that undermines the need for close cooperation among educators to improve teaching and learning.
The OPE system avoids these pitfalls. First, it's a balanced approach, using both observation and empirical data. Second, though the observation of teachers remains subjective, it is done by their colleagues in a process of peer review using sophisticated protocols developed by Charlotte Danielson for the Association for Supervision and Curricular Development. Third, student performance data do not bias the results because value-added scores (growth) rather than absolute test scores (achievement) are used. Finally, teachers compete only with themselves and not with each other in climbing the career ladder.
Won't introducing a new salary schedule be unfair to current teachers who entered the profession believing their salaries would increase with length of service?
Yes, that would be unfair, which is why OPE includes a "grandfather" clause that offers all current teachers the option of choosing to remain under the same compensation with which they began their careers. All teachers who enter the profession after the OPE system is in effect would fall under the new compensation system. Veteran teachers would, however, be subject to the new evaluation system.
How do value-added ratings distinguish among teachers in an evaluation process?
Under the OPE system, teachers fall into three broad categories - "highly effective," "effective" and "ineffective" - that correspond roughly to more than, equal to and less than a year's worth of growth in a year. Although the percentages of teachers falling into each category will vary by subject and grade - for example, there is greater variation in math than reading instruction because the learning of math is influenced more by classroom instruction - approximately 15 to 20 percent of teachers will be "highly effective and another 15-20 percent will be "ineffective." Keep in mind, however, that empirical measures are only part of an educator's evaluation. Observation of classroom practice using the Danielson protocols constitute half of the evaluation that determines in which of these three categories teachers appear.
What have value-added studies shown about the impact a single teacher can have on student performance?
By implementing a value-added approach, states can ensure that their students receive the quality teaching they need to increase their odds for success. William Sanders' research in Tennessee indicates that fifth grade students who had three very effective teachers in a row gained 50 percentile points more on the state's assessment than students who had three ineffective teachers. A similar study in Dallas, using a different test and a different value-added methodology, found identical results. Additional research conducted by Dr. June Rivers, associate director of EVAAS® distributors of the Sanders' value-added model, the indicates that the chances for fourth-graders in the bottom quartile of performance to pass the state's high-stakes exit exam in ninth grade were less than 15 percent if their fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade teachers were drawn from the bottom 25 percent of the teacher pool (as measured by value-added), but a 60 percent chance of passing if they had four teachers drawn from the top 25 percent.
How much can we expect improvement to accelerate if there are several high performing teachers in the same school? Are good teachers penalized because they don't have other good teachers around them?
Based on Tennessee's experience where value-added has been used in all schools for over a decade, peer influences have not been shown to have a significant influence on a teacher's value-added score. In other words, good teachers excel regardless of where or with whom they teach.
We do know that good teachers are not penalized for having ineffective colleagues because the past effects of these teachers are considered in calculating current value-added scores. In addition, our plan calls for extensive professional development; assistance from mentors and coaches and other support to help all teachers improve their craft.
And remember, value-added is only part of an evaluation in the OPE system. Because multiple measures are used to evaluate educators, factors such as peer influences that could have some impact on value-added scores will not significantly affect a teacher's or an administrator's overall evaluation.
There is a presumption that good teachers are doing something that can be replicated, and therefore it is intrinsically fair to assume that other teachers can do those things too. However, if there are only a few teachers who are making substantial gains, does this suggest that the value-added measure will only be identifying superstars and not raise everyone's performance across the board?
If ordinary students can learn how to achieve at much higher levels, then it should be reasonable to expect all teachers should be able to achieve at much higher levels. Value-added provides rich diagnostic data allowing all teachers to see the impact and the focus of their individual instruction. Once teachers understand where and why they have been effective they can begin sharing best practices with their colleagues. Understanding areas of strength can correct areas of weakness and help all educators improve their craft. Ability is differentially distributed among adults just as it is among children. Everyone can perform at higher levels if they are provided appropriate resources and instruction.
If a teacher has 25 students and a number of low-performing students drop out during the beginning of the year, won't his or her ratings be raised?
The level of student performance is not an issue in an individual educator's value-added score because what is being measured is growth, not absolute achievement. Value-added assessment measures the difference between a student's projected score - which is based on past performance - and his or her actual score. Therefore, it doesn't matter what the mix of students is at the start of the year or if any specific students (whether they are previously low achievers or high achievers) drop out.
What does the observation portion of a teacher's evaluation entail?
Under the OPE system, the observation portion of a teacher's evaluation is based on frameworks for best practices developed by Charlotte Danielson for Association for Supervision and Curricular Development (Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching. ASCD, Alexandria, VA). Mirroring performance standards for students in various subjects, teaching practice is broken down into four domains and a rubric determines where a teacher is performing along four different levels of attainment. The four domains are: planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and completion of professional responsibilities. For more information, go to ASCD's website: www.ascd.org
Under the OPE system, teachers are made partly responsible for evaluating other teachers. Doesn't this put the foxes in charge of the henhouse, resulting in "soft" evaluations of teaching performance?
To the contrary, communities such as Columbus, Ohio, and Rochester, N.Y. that use peer review, discovered that teachers are actually tougher on each other than administrators. Teachers can readily assess their colleagues' command of subject matter and their capacity to teach rigorous content and help all students achieve high standards, and they place greater trust in evaluations done by their colleagues. Giving teachers the responsibility for measuring the performance of their peers also helps build teacher leadership and promotes greater professionalism in how they interact with each other.
How does the system protect good teachers from being mistakenly or unfairly required to enter remediation?
Teachers are well protected under the OPE system. The first thing the Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) panel considers is whether the evaluation has registered, to use a medical analogy, a "false positive." In other words, they check for anomalies or consider extenuating circumstances. Only after determining that the observation and value-added portions of the evaluation are accurate does the panel proceed with the design of a remediation program.
Bear in mind as well that the OPE evaluation system relies on "multiple measures" that include value-added data and classroom observations, and that the observation portion of the evaluation is conducted by other teachers who are experts in content, standards and teaching methods.
How does the system ensure that truly ineffective teachers will be removed?
Currently, few such teachers are required to leave the profession. Teachers' unions have made clear that forcing ineffective teachers from the classroom is management's responsibility, but add that it the union's responsibility to provide each of their members with a spirited defense in due process hearings following a decision to terminate. Since an airtight case requires so much careful documentation, most administrators have given up, concluding that it costs too much and it takes too much time to be worthwhile. As a result, teachers are forced to leave the profession only if they are guilty of criminal or ethical misconduct, but rarely because they fail to provide children with effective instruction.
In the OPE system, an evaluation of ineffective instruction requires such teachers to undergo remediation through a process of peer assistance and review (PAR). It is based on the model that has been used in Columbus, Ohio for over 25 years. The PAR panel consists of teachers and administrators, where the number of teachers exceeds that of administrators by one and a two thirds majority is required for all decisions. If the panel concludes that the teacher has not improved sufficiently after one or in some instances two years of remediation, the teacher leaves the profession. The individual teacher remains free to challenge the decision, but the union, in return for its key role in the PAR panel, relinquishes its right to challenge the conclusion in a due process hearing.
How would OPE's accountability system work for teachers in grades K-3?
Currently, NCLB does not require districts to give standardized tests in grades K-2. Since value-added scores for teachers require at least three years worth of testing data, this means that teachers in grades K-4 will require special value-added calculations. This has been accomplished in some states and districts using value-added by utilizing the results of reading and math inventories commonly given in the K-2 years. These can be put on a common scale with other standardized tests and used to make projections with as little as one year's worth of testing data. The details should be discussed with your chosen value-added provider.
How will this be fair to teachers of art, music, physical education, i.e., subjects in which progress is not easily quantified by standardized tests?
Teachers in these subjects will have the opportunity to move up the career ladder based on agreed upon standards created by their national associations and adopted at the local level. We encourage a value-added approach wherever possible, even if the variables involved were not as straightforwardly quantitative.
What affect will building principals have on a teacher's value-added score? Would a good instructional leader produce teachers with high value-added scores and likewise would the scores of teachers stuck with an ineffective principal be lower?
Data from Tennessee has shown that teachers' value-added scores do not change significantly when they change buildings or principals. Effective teachers remain effective and ineffective ones still struggle.
Principals, however, are also ranked by their value-added effectiveness. When the average value-added scores of the students in their buildings show they are not getting a year's worth of growth in a year, principals are required to enroll in remediation and can be removed if the scores do not improve. Recall, again, that value-added is only part of an evaluation in the OPE system. Because multiple measures are used to evaluate educators, factors such as effective or ineffective principals will not significantly affect a teacher's overall evaluation.
How are administrators evaluated and compensated?
The OPE system has designed an evaluation system and career ladder similar to that for teachers. Half of every administrator's evaluation is based on observed practices, as outlined by the Interstate Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards. The other half of the evaluation is based on student achievement results for their designated area of responsibility. For instance, principals are rated based on the aggregate results of their buildings, superintendents on the aggregate results of their districts. Student achievement is broken into two areas for administrators. Half is based on value-added results and half based on NCLB AYP results for the year. Remediation for struggling administrators is also handled through a panel process similar to PAR.
Administrators' compensation is also tied to this evaluation through a career ladder. Instead of four levels, administrators have three ladder rungs and are classified as Intern, Career or Distinguished. Salaries at each level are locally determined.
Under the OPE system, administrators can meet all their AYP requirements, meaning that a sufficient number of their students are succeeding academically, and yet still be classified as needing remediation because of low value-added scores. How is this fair?
AYP measures are simply snap shots of performance from one year to the next, capturing where each cohort of students is in a given year. Value-added looks at the progress of individual students and groups of students over time. For schools and districts that may hit AYP benchmarks in a given year, it is important to also consider how much progress their students are making.
Schools in communities with very different socio-economic characteristics should be expected to add a year's worth of growth each year to their students' learning. In Tennessee, some schools in affluent communities were seen to be "slide and glide schools," meaning they were meeting proficiency standards for the state, but not giving their students a year's worth of growth in a year. As long as the tests being given have sufficient stretch to show the progress of the very high performers as well as the low performers, schools should be able to add value at every level, in every community. Otherwise, we are shortchanging our highest achieving students.
How does student mobility affect the ability to determine value-added progress?
High migration is not a problem for a state-based value-added system because students can be traced from district to district within the state; thus their scores can be attributed to the teachers who taught them for only the proportion of the school year they were in their classes.
What if there are anomalies such as statewide testing inconsistencies, public health problems or other unforeseen variables that could influence a value-added score in ways that are currently unforeseeable?
Test scores, as analyzed through value-added assessment, provide only 50 percent of an educator's evaluation. By including multiple measures such as observation of a teacher's classroom skills and knowledge as well as the checks and balances provided through peer review and the remediation panel the OPE system accounts for any anomalies.
Would a district have to gut its existing testing program in order to implement value-added assessment?
It is important to remember that value-added assessment is not a test. Rather, value-added is a way of analyzing existing test data.
Because NCLB requires annual testing in grades 3-8, the testing programs that are being put in place now will, in most cases, be sufficient for value-added analysis to be implemented. States and districts can maintain their current systems and simply contract with a value-added provider for this additional level of analysis. All that is required is that annual testing be in place, that it be aligned with state standards, and that a unique identifier be available for each student and teacher in the system.
Won't more accountability lead to teaching to the test?
It is important to distinguish between teaching to the test and teaching the test. Teaching to the test, when the test is aligned with the school's curriculum, is what every good teacher does. Skilled teachers know how to teach the curriculum, drill only when necessary and make learning fun. For those teachers who may respond to the pressure of a high-stakes testing environment by reverting to undesirable teaching practices, such as excessive memorization, OPE's system of mentoring, professional development, and peer review should provide ample opportunity to take corrective action and get these teachers the help they need.
Teaching the test is quite different. This means that teachers are using specific questions from last year's test as a means of preparing for this year's test and designing their lessons around these items instead of the broader curriculum. This narrows the type of teaching and learning that is going on in the classroom and sends the message to students that all that matters is the test. The OPE system calls for tests to be given in what is called, "fresh, equivalent and non-redundant" forms each year to eliminate this practice. In other words, teachers who teach last year's test will find that it does not help their students score better on this year's test because the test will be different each year.
In addition to the accountability system described here, OPE is working to increase demand and this build the market for a new suite of tests. This would include a much improved end-of -the-year test that emphasizes higher order thinking skills as well as technology-based formative tests that teachers would give in four to six week intervals and receive immediate feedback on the student's performance and what teaching interventions might help. With the right assessment, test questions will reflect content that excellent teachers teach. With quick and useful feedback, teachers can adjust their instruction immediately and help students meet their learning goals.
In addition to the accountability system described here, OPE is working to increase demand and this build the market for a new suite of tests. This would include a much improved end-of -the-year test that emphasizes higher order thinking skills as well as technology-based formative tests that teachers would give in four to six week intervals and receive immediate feedback on the student's performance and what teaching
Will the new career ladder advanced by the OPE accountability system cost school districts more money?
Two scenarios provide different answers to this question. In the "zero-sum" scenario, the answer is "no" - the dollars currently being spent will cover the full costs of the new compensation system. In the "expanding pie" scenario, the answer is "yes" - an increase of roughly 17 percent is required, but these dollars enter the system as additional funding provided by taxpayers.
Scenario 1. Using actual salary data from several school districts, OPE concluded that current spending would cover the cost of the new salary schedule. As existing teachers retire - virtually all are expected to invoke the "grandfather clause" and remain in the current compensation system since they are guaranteed top salaries through longevity - the funds released would cover the cost of new teachers (at lower salaries) and the cost of Advanced and Distinguished teachers (higher salaries). Recall that in the OPE system the salaries of Career teachers are capped, although they continue to enjoy annual cost-of-living adjustments. All teachers, in other words, no longer receive the highest salaries earned through longevity; these are reserved for the outstanding teachers based the 50/50 evaluation system of observation and value-added scores.
Although the OPE system provides for minimum increases as teachers climb the ladder's rungs, local school districts will still determine salaries through collective bargaining between school board and teachers' unions. At the specified minimum increases, districts can remain in a revenue-neutral condition. Raises cannot fall below the minimum, but they can be increased (and this would cost more).
Scenario 2. In this scenario, salaries for Career teachers remain at current levels - that is, they would earn the same as they do now through years of service - but Advanced and Distinguished teachers would receive higher salaries. Revenue to support these increases would come from a taxpayer-approved referendum through a strategy of "investment with accountability."
The recent decision by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association to support an unprecedented differentiated compensation system provides an example of how this could be accomplished. In the fall, 2005, Denver citizens will vote on a referendum to provide $25 million in new revenue to fund the new compensation system. If the Denver referendum passes, it will suggest that the public is willing to invest more in its schools if new systems of accountability to increase student achievement are adopted.
OPE estimates that the cost of higher salaries for Advanced and Distinguished teachers would require an increase of approximately 17 percent - that is, roughly one teacher in six would move into the top rungs of the career ladder.
What if a district has its own plans for accountability?
The OPE system recognizes the country's tradition of local control. As long as there is adherence to the core characteristics - educator evaluation and compensation, new teacher mentoring, remediation, and professional development - the system provides flexibility to account for differences across states and districts.
How will OPE's accountability system be implemented?
The OPE system contains a multi-year implementation schedule. Because of the data requirements to ensure accuracy and fairness, it will take three years of new data before value-added results can be used as part of teacher and administrator evaluations. This is because states and districts must first allow teachers the benefit of using data to help inform their instruction before holding them accountable through this approach. In practical terms, a district might want to extend the timeline for implementation to give educators an opportunity to grow comfortable with value-added and confident in its fairness.
The plan therefore enacts its accountability provision in stages: first, data collection for use in professional development and instructional decision-making; second, accountability at the school and district levels; and, third, accountability for individual educators. Student accountability begins when students who are entering Kindergarten in the first year of the system reach 4th, 8th, and 12th grades - the gateway years. This implementation schedule allows time to ensure that appropriate support and training systems are in place by the time full accountability takes effect.