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Iowa Four Tiered Model Looks Much Like A-PATH
September 23, 2011 – The Breaking Story
Iowa Proposes Four Tiered Compensation Model 

Iowa public school teachers would move to four-tiered compensation based on how they perform in the classroom as part of the state’s education reform package expected to be released this fall.  Key among the ideas is doing away with the current system that pays teachers more based on how long they’ve been in the profession and what degrees they’ve obtained  in favor of a system of apprentice, career, mentor and master teachers.  Under the proposal, teachers would start as apprentice teachers at $40,000 a year — compared with a minimum of $28,000 per year now— and serve as apprentices until they can prove themselves as a career teacher. Then they would get a boost to about $50,000 a year. Career teachers could then become mentor teachers or master teachers if they take on extra responsibility, but master and mentor designations would be limited to about one-quarter of a district’s teachers.

Untold Consequences
Open Letter from ECI President Jim Carlson
March 9, 2011
Click here to print

By now, every lucid person in the country is aware of the building crisis here in Wisconsin.  Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to strip collective bargaining from the workers of our state has created the type of passionate reaction never before witnessed in this great state.  At a time when we should be engaged in an open and honest debate about the state’s next biennial budget, we are instead embroiled in sixteen recall elections, consumed with the necessity of protest, and mired in a fight that should not have been picked.  In just a few short weeks, we have become more polarized than at any time in our history.

Wisconsin has a long tradition of successful and productive collective bargaining.  Public employee unions and collective bargaining have served this state well.  We have enjoyed labor peace, labor-management cooperation and collaboration, and outcomes that have benefited our citizenry.  Wisconsin, for example, has one the best public education systems in the nation, in large part because of the contributions made by unions and collective bargaining.

All of these contributions are now under attack and genuinely threatened.  This attack by the Governor has instigated a fight that will consume our state for many months to come.  The many consequences of this attack and the resulting fight have been nightly documented on virtually every national news broadcast.  Indeed, the whole world is watching.

There are consequences of this attack on collective bargaining, however, that have gone largely unnoticed.  Among the untold victims of these attacks are the types of progressive education and compensation reform that can only be achieved through collective bargaining.  For the last four years, the Educator Compensation Institute has tracked, promoted, and crafted teacher compensation reforms that attract and retain the highest quality talent, enhance the delivery of instruction to kids, and improve the science and profession of teaching.  In the model promoted by the Wisconsin Governor, all of these progressive reforms are at risk.

For more than a decade, I have promoted, examined, and bargained teacher compensation reform in Wisconsin and in at least twenty other states.  Among the hundreds of alternative compensation systems I have examined or bargained, the only ones that have proven effective and sustainable, without exception, are those that were collectively bargained.  Those that are imposed by a state or school system fail with each attempt.

Successful compensation reform requires the kind of collaboration, compromise, and broad-based acceptance that can only be achieved through collective bargaining.  This assertion is not a supposition; it is rooted in years of advising, examining, and successful bargaining.

What is happening in Wisconsin makes me sad and angry.  These attacks on collective bargaining are an affront to the working men and women in our state.  They are an affront to the valuable contributions made by our unions.  And, they are an affront to efforts of positive, productive, and progressive education reform.

It is a tragedy.

Jim Carlson, President

Projects on Incentives in Teaching or POINT
National Center on Performance Incentives
September 21, 2010

The results of a recently released three-year study indicate that merit pay does not work.

In an effort to explore the impact of performance incentives in education, the National Center on Performance Incentives (NCPI) partnered with the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to conduct the Project on Incentives in Teaching, or POINT. The study examines the effects on student outcomes of paying eligible teachers bonuses of up to $15,000 per year on the basis of student test-score gains on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP).

POINT was a three-year study from 2006-07 through 2008-09, in which middle school mathematics teachers voluntarily participated in a controlled experiment to assess the effect of financial rewards for teachers whose students showed unusually large gains on standardized tests. The experiment was intended to test the notion that rewarding teachers for improved scores would cause scores to rise. POINT was focused on the notion that a significant problem in American education is the absence of appropriate incentives, and that correcting the incentive structure would, in and of itself, constitute an effective intervention that improved student outcomes.

The results did not confirm this hypothesis. While the general trend in middle school mathematics performance was upward over the period of the project, students of teachers randomly assigned to the treatment group (eligible for bonuses) did not outperform students whose teachers were assigned to the control group (not eligible for bonuses).

A Blue Print for Reform
The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
March 23, 2010

President Obama recently released his proposed blueprint for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  The Blueprint identifies five priorities:

  1. College and Career-Ready Students
  2. Great Teachers and Leaders in Every School
  3. Equity and Opportunity of All Students
  4. Raise the Bar and Reward Excellence
  5. Promote Innovation and Continuous Improvement

Read a perspective from the Center for American Progress or the full text of the blueprint below.

Center for American Progress
Education Reform 101
A Primer on the New ESEA

A Blueprint for Reform
The Reauthorization of the ESEA
U.S. Department of Education

ECI Marks 3rd Anniversary

10 Reasons to Support the Educator Compensation Institute

The Educator Compensation Institute is now three years old.  During that time, has experienced nearly 400,000 unique visitors.  It's been an interesting run.  To mark this anniversary, ECI is announcing plans for its first national conference to be held later this year.

To support this conference project, ECI is now launching a fundraising effort that will run through the end of February.  The success of this effort will determine the size and scope of the conference.  The conference announcement will be released on March 1.

Smaller or state organizations that utilize ECI are asked to contribute $1500.
Larger or national organizations that utilize ECI are asked to contribute $3000.

The National Education Association and the Wisconsin Education Association Council have already made significant contributions toward this effort.

Click Here to Contribute 

Thank you for your support over the last three years.  This has been a tremendously interesting project and the prospect of a first ever national conference is exciting.

Ensuring Every Teacher Succeeds with Every Child
Dr. Jack Dale, Superintendent 
Fairfax County Public School

Dr. Jack Dale sent this piece to ECI with permission to post.  He concludes his two page observation as follows:

"We cannot be satisfied with only 10-20% of our teachers being highly successful.  That will be the consequence of merit pay or pay for performance.   We must completely overhaul the teaching profession and align it with the demands in today’s world, align it with what we know about very successful schools, and align the profession with what works.  Now is the time to ensure 21st Century Teacher Leaders are in every school, working for everyone of our nation’s youth. The only question is whether we have the courage and conviction to make that change!"

Click Here for the Full Report

Texas Educator Excellence Grant (TEEG) Program: Year Three Evaluation Report
National Center on Performance Incentives
August 31, 2009

Texas committed $300 million to the Texas Educator Excellence Grant, or TEEG, merit pay program over three years. The National Center on Performance Incentives has now released a study about the impact of the TEEG program.

According to the report, there is no evidence that schools in the TEEG program experienced any systemic reduction in teacher turnover.

The report also indicates that there is no strong evidence of a systemic TEEG effect on student achievement gains.

The program is now-defunct and replaced by District Awards for Teacher Excellence, or DATE.  State legislators have provided DATE, another merit pay program, nearly $200 million annually.

Full Report


Eight Reasons Not to Tie Teacher Pay to Standardized Test Results
Issue Brief from the Century Foundation
October 29, 2009

In an issue brief released today, Gordon MacInnes from the Century Foundation challenges Arne Duncan’s plan to compensate teachers in part on how well their students perform on standardized tests.  MacInnes advances eight reasons not to tie teacher pay to standardized test scores.

Details Here

Teacher Compensation and Teacher Quality
A Statement by the Policy and Impact Committee of the Committee for Economic Development (CED)
Fall 2009

According to a new report from a committee of the CED “Traditional compensation policies for teachers (salary schedules that reward only longevity and academic credentials and pension policies that penalize mobile teachers and those who do not spend a lifetime career in teaching) are not structured to encourage talented individuals to enter the teaching profession and reward them for strong performance.”

Among the reforms recommended by the report:

  • Performance-Based Pay based on improving student outcomes.
  • Career Paths that could be a “means of significantly raising pay for high-performing teachers while not resorting to inefficient and expensive (but all too often used) across-the-board pay increases.”
  • Labor Market Incentives
  • Pension Plan Changes

Full Report Here


August 20, 2009
ECI President Carlson on Wisconsin Public Radio

Yesterday, ECI President Jim Carlson appeared as a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's Kathleen Dunn Show.  Topics during the hour-long show included teacher compensation, Race to the Top, and the relationship between student growth and teacher evaluation.  You can listen to the WPR Audio Archive by clicking the link below.

Jim Carlson on the Kathleen Dunn Show

Exploring the Possibility and Potential for Pay for Performance in America's Public Schools

The American Association of School Administrators recently released its findings from a member survey about pay-for-performance.

Details and Full Report Here

ECI President Appears on School House Talk

On Wednesday, May 20 at 3 p.m. ET, ECI President Jim Carlson appeared on School House Talk, a new Internet radio show created by Communities for Quality Education (CQE).  School House Talk, at, brings together people from around the country who care about public education.  Chelsea Hedquist from CQE and NEA Deputy Director John Stocks co-host the live weekly broadcast.  A rebroadcast is now available at 

Accomplished Teaching Pathways
April 6, 2009


The Educator Compensation Institute has released Accomplished Teaching Pathways, or A-PATH - a comprehensive and systemic change to teacher compensation.  Click the link below for the full story.

A-PATH Press Release

United for DC Kids

Under Washington D.C. School Chancellor Rhee’s proposal, teachers would be paid more if they gave up tenure.  The Washington Teachers Union has responded with “United for DC Kids.”  "United for DC Kids" is WTU's bold and progressive teacher contract proposal to District of Columbia Schools.  Highlights include:

  • High-quality professional development and induction programs for new teachers.
  • A plan to make sure D.C.'s students are taught by the most effective teachers.
  • A fair and expedient dismissal process for teachers.
  • Sustainable teacher pay increases.
  • The most expansive performance-pay program in the country.

Read more about this story at

Tucson Values Teachers

Arizona Group Works to Retain Best Teachers, Guest Editorial

Launched on October 1, Tucson Values Teachers is a partnership built on the premise that the Tucson community should place a much higher value on the central role of teachers in the civic and economic prosperity of the region.  Tucson Values Teachers has focused on building the central elements of the partnership, which include industry internships that place teachers in the work force and pay them. Also, building a large number of discounts designed especially for K-12 teachers on a variety of goods and services, and securing the educational resources to allow the region to pay competitive teacher salaries.

Tucson Values Teachers Website



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Dear President Obama: 

Congratulations on the overwhelming mandate issued by the American voters on November 4.  In the months and years ahead, I look forward to your leadership and vision, and those of your Vice President, Joe Biden.

Over the past several months, issues related to teacher attraction, retention, and compensation have been discussed by the candidates and campaign spokespeople.  In addressing these issues, Senator McCain espoused the concept of providing bonuses for teachers based on the standardized test score gains of their students.  Your campaign platform recognized the need to attract more teachers into the profession and proposed to pay them more once they arrive.  The respective campaigns touched on ideas and initiatives that are central to the growing national debate over these complex and controversial issues.

As you and Vice President Biden formulate your agenda in this arena, please consider the following perspectives.  The ideas and assertions that formulate these beliefs are the product of more than a decade researching, analyzing, and bargaining teacher compensation.  These suggestions are not intended to promote any political agenda or ideology.  They are intended to advance the profession of teaching and learning in America.  Among the things recent research has indicated, effective teaching is the single most important school-related factor in determining student success.

Much has been said and written about the need to reward the Nation’s “best” teachers.  While such an idea may seem logical, understandable, and worthy, it is but a simplistic attempt to address very complex issues.  Even if we were to set aside the profound difficulties in defining the “best” teachers, such an approach will not provide the type of systemic changes needed to effect positive advances in the teaching profession.

The effectiveness of a population of teachers, like that all other workers, tends to fall along a continuum or “bell curve.”  A handful will be underachievers, a handful exemplary performers, and the vast majority will be found clustered in the middle.  Those clustered in the middle are hard-working teachers doing what they can to deliver high-quality instruction to students.

Most school districts and unions have negotiated systems to address the underachievers.  If attempts to help them improve fail, they are escorted out of the profession.

The exemplary performers will remain such with or without the promise of a bonus. Instead of offering bonuses, the money is better spent building systems that put these highly effective educators in positions of teacher leadership.

For systemic change to occur, however, we must build systems that provide the majority of teachers clustered in the middle the ability and opportunity to further advance and improve the effectiveness of their teaching.  The enticement of a bonus, limited and fleeting in nature, will not give them the additional skills and knowledge they need to become even more effective teachers.

With the above serving as the foundation, I respectfully request that you consider the following five point plan:

1.  $40,000 Minimum Starting Salary
As proposed by Governor Richardson and others, we must provide economic incentives to encourage the best and brightest to consider teaching as a viable professional option.  

2.  Teacher Residency
In cooperation with institutes of higher learning, school districts and their teacher associations would be encouraged to implement teacher residency programs, similar to that used for training physicians, for first year teachers.  These programs would assign a full-time first year teacher with less than a full-time student caseload.  Such an approach would permit the new teacher time and opportunities to reflect on their practices, model and observe exemplary teaching from more experienced colleagues, and work closely with a mentor.  In fact, Title II of the recently enacted Higher Education Opportunity Act authorizes a teacher residency program.  One quick way to demonstrate your support for this program would be to include $300 million for Title II, it’s new authorized level, as part of the Fiscal Year 2009 education appropriations bill as well as in your proposed Fiscal Year 2010 budget.

3.  Teacher Leadership
It is not enough to build systems designed to attract new and talented people into the profession; we must devise systems to retain them once they arrive.  Studies have indicated that up to 50% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years, at an estimated cost of nearly $3 billion annually.  Leadership opportunities would permit alternatives for highly qualified teachers.  Currently, educators either remain in the classroom, move into administrative roles, or leave the business altogether.  Teacher leadership would provide economic incentives and alternatives to those not wishing to move into administration, while providing extremely valuable contributions to the school district’s mission.   Examples of leadership roles would likely include:

  • Mentoring
  • Peer Coaching and Assistance
  • Curriculum Development
  • Content Specialists
  • Research Coordination

4.  Action Research
Adding to the research-based body of knowledge about effective teaching practices is an imperative component of effective school reform.  Individual teachers and groups of teachers would be provided economic incentives to conduct action research in their classrooms.  Such research would help to discover and promote the most effective teaching practices.  The findings of this research would be warehoused in an electronic database available to teachers across the country.  The outcomes of such a database, for example, would permit a teacher in Maine to learn from the research conducted by a teacher in California.

5.  Professional Growth
There are scores of school districts and their teacher unions that have developed exemplary professional development programs.  Many of these are manifested in intra-district learning communities, where teachers gain the skills and knowledge they need to effectively teach 21st Century skills to an increasingly diverse student population.  These models can and must be successfully adapted and implemented across the country.

Upon implementation of the above-prescribed initiatives, comprehensive assessment measures must follow.  To adequately and effectively measure the impact of these initiatives, measures must include:

  • Classroom and school-based measures of student growth in those competencies identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
  • Graduation rates
  • Student satisfaction
  • Rates of teacher attraction
  • Rates of teacher attrition
  • Participation rates in action research
  • Participation rates in teacher leadership
  • Participation rates in professional development
  • School climate and culture

Comprehensive and effective reform of the Nation’s teacher compensation systems is a highly complex and controversial issue.  Simple prescriptions will not effect the type of systemic change needed to successfully achieve positive school reform.

I encourage you and your administration to avoid the temptations of politically-charged quick fixes.  Please consider the above perspectives.  I am convinced they will result in the type of positive evolution of the teaching profession and resultant improved education results that we all want.

Thank you for your time and consideration.  And again, congratulations.


Jim Carlson
November 10, 2008

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Jim Carlson, President

The Educator Compensation Institute is a non-profit organization founded to serve as the comprehensive information clearinghouse and research organization for issues related to education employee compensation, including teacher compensation, alternative compensation, and "pay-for-performance." 


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