Denver Teacher Compensation Brief
ProComp: A History
ProComp, Denver’s teacher compensation system, was collaboratively designed by DPS and DCTA. It was developed to incentivize and reward teachers who set and reach high learning expectations for students, creating a differentiated compensation structure that moved beyond teacher tenure and level of education by providing a pay-for-performance incentive system. Under ProComp teachers receive additional compensation for the following:
Knowledge and Skills
Base salary increase for completing professional development
Base salary increase for Advanced Degrees and/or Licenses
Reimbursement for tuition and student loans
Base salary increase based on satisfactory evaluation (for probationary and non-probationary teachers)
Incentive to work in hard to serve school
Incentive to work in roles with high vacancy and high turnover (i.e. math, science, and special education)
Base salary increase for meeting student growth objectives
Incentive for teachers whose students’ test scores exceed district expectations
Incentive for teachers in a top performing school
Incentive for teachers in a high growth school
ProComp was first implemented in 2005 after receiving funding through a $25 million mill levy (tax increase)approved by Denver voters. The compensation plan grew out of the Pay for Performance Pilot, a project from 1999-2003 that measured the impact of teacher objective setting on student growth. ProComp Changes in 2008 included limitations to the amount of increases to base salary which could be earned by teachers after their 14th year of service.
10 years later, DPS and DCTA are seriously reflecting on ProComp and have been in renegotiations throughout Fall 2014- Spring 2015. The district proposed changes to the compensation structure such that monies would be reallocated to further incentivize teaching in a high-needs school:
– Teachers at the highest-need would be eligible for a $5,800 bonus if they had earned one of the top two scores on their evaluations the previous year and $4,000 if they earned the third-highest score, a significant increase from the current incentive of $2,481.
– Expand number of teachers eligible to earn the $2,481 bonus for teaching at a “hard-to-serve” school by expanding schools that are classified as hard-to-serve.
– Funds for these incentives at highest-need and hard-to-serve school would be reallocated from the current bonus for teachers at top-performing schools, who could earn $1,000 instead of the current $2,481
DCTA’s proposal by and large preserved the current compensation structure, extending the master agreement between DCTA and DPS until 2019. DCTA addressed the challenges of the incentive structure given data ambiguity due to the assessment changes in the 2014-15 school year. To address this DCTA proposed:
– 2015-16 incentives for reaching student learning objectives would be awarded using the current rubric
– Ensuring teachers not on a remediation plan are deemed “satisfactory”
– Aligning incentives to the annual cadence of teacher evaluations
– Negotiating how to determine the Exceeds Expectations incentive given data constraints
– Pending the passage of legislation that would reduce DPS’ employer contribution to the state pension system, using funds to expand the hard-to-serve inventive and raise starting teacher salaries.
The current agreement, which extends ProComp until September 2015, aligns incentives for gaining a satisfactory professional evaluation rating to new annual cadence of teacher evaluation, and makes accommodations given data constraints in 2014-2015 by delaying payments until Spring 2016 and combining the Top Performing and High Growth incentives into a combined High Growth Incentive for the 2014-2015 school year only.
In the National Council of Teacher Quality’s ranking of teacher compensation (adjusted for cost of living), Denver Public Schools ranks 100th out of 124 districts in lifetime earnings for teachers. Teachers in Denver Public Schools receive $1,574,436 lifetime earnings. This is compared to the first ranked district, Pittsburg Public Schools, with lifetime earnings of $2,738,691 and the second ranked district, DC Public Schools with lifetime earnings of $2,641,592. In terms of other districts in Colorado, Jefferson County is 37th out of 124 districts with lifetime earnings of $1,966,895.
Denver Public Schools is one of 27 schools systems (including districts, states, and CMOs) that is implementing a non-traditional compensation system.
An initial evaluation of ProComp by University of Colorado—Denver in 2011 finds that while DPS’s ability to attract and retain teachers, and improve student achievement across ProComp’s implementation improved, there is little evidence to support that the compensation system drove this. There is also little to conclude about the system’s ability to impact teacher effectiveness; specifically, Professional Development Units, Advanced Degrees, and the achievement of student growth objectives (SGOs) were not correlated with higher student test scores. Positively, the researchers do find that ProComp influenced the district in spurring capacity improvements and efficiencies across departments, guiding the development of the SPF, and creating new data systems.
University of Colorado’s Denver ProComp Evaluation Report (2010-2012) finds little impact of ProComp on student achievement, or on teachers’ professional practices, including their teaching practices or retention. The study did find that ProComp generally impacted teachers’ salaries positively but minimally, with the average teacher earning $456 more than they would on a traditional salary schedule. That said, some teachers experienced large variation, earning either $6,000 more or less than they would have on a traditional salary schedule.
A report by a Task Force in Fall 2014 reviewed ProComp and developed design principles that any revamp of ProComp should incorporate including a) improving the ease and ability to understand and navigate, b) target effective and distinguished teachers, particularly in hard-to-serve schools, across teachers’ entire careers, c) create career progression and substantial compensation increases for teachers both in and out of the classroom, and d) support teachers as they pursue opportunities.
A study by Harvard’s Strategic Data Project found that ProComp does not establish a differentiated compensation system as it originally set out to do. Salaries under ProComp largely mirror salaries from traditional compensation systems. Further, the signals ProComp sends are somewhat mixed. That is to say, incentives are not necessarily rewarding the most effective teachers, as measured by teacher’s median growth percentile (MGP). While it’s true teachers with higher MGPs receive more performance-based ProComp bonuses, it is also true that teachers with lower MGPs are slightly more likely to receive position and school characteristic bonuses.
Resources on Teacher Compensation
For more information on the development of ProComp, see Gonring, Phil, Paul Teske, and Brad Jupp Pay-for-Performance Teacher Compensation: An Inside View of Denver’s ProComp Plan (2007).
In Shortchanged: The Hidden Costs of Lockstep Teacher Pay (2014), TNTP argues compensation is critical for recruiting top talent, driving retention of the right people, encouraging high performers to teach in the schools that need them most. TNTP calls for compensation systems to move beyond lockstep pay systems to drive recruitment and retention, avoid inefficiencies, target high performing teachers, and incentivize teaching in high-needs schools.
In Pittsburgh Public Schools, the career ladder salary schedule, a performance pay system, determines teachers’ salary mobility based on student performance factors with bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $13,000.