REL 2005 Policy Forum
Teacher Quality and Compensation Models

Richard Rothstein

Jeff Buck
Denver Public Schools


Richard Rothstein

Judy Jeffrey
Iowa Department of Education

Richard Rothstein

Dr. Lewis C. Solmon
Teacher Advancement
Program Foundation

This panel session, and small group discussions with the speakers following this session, provided participants information on three teacher compensation models, including their strengths, limitations, and processes. Participants learned about similarities and differences across the models, how they were instituted, obstacles to implementation, and research on their effectiveness. Anthony Milanowski moderated this session, providing discussion points and questions for each of the presentations.

Denver Public Schools ProComp Model

Jeff Buck discussed Denver Public Schools’s voluntary Professional Compensation System (ProComp) for teachers. ProComp has received teacher union and NEA support and will go before the voters in November for a $25 mill levy. He described Denver Public Schools with its approximately 4,300 teachers in 142 schools. Denver has around 72,000 students, 80 percent of which are non-White with a large immigrant population. In the late 1990s, Denver Public Schools (DPS) initiated a four-year pilot project in 15 schools wanting to link teacher pay with student performance. The objective for this project was set on student achievement growth rather than achievement goals. As the project progressed, DPS experienced data issues which precluded them from making high-stakes pay decisions. They put together a Joint Task Force on Teacher Compensation and hired an economic modeler to further develop their approach, resulting in ProComp.

Buck emphasized three of the ten elements comprising ProComp. The first element is an objective setting process that includes a tool to inform teachers how to measure student growth. This process is a collaboration between the teacher and school administrator and is attached to a $330 bonus. The second element is a professional evaluation system based on five standards with numerous benchmarks. The third element is professional development in which teachers are expected to study, demonstrate, and reflect on what they learn. Buck noted that the professional development is not founded on how much time is spent, but rather on what is learned and how that is applied. Other elements upon which pay is connected in the ProComp system include marketing incentives, student growth measures, education and certification levels, and a group incentive for distinguished schools. Teachers in the ProComp system have uncapped earning potential and can realize an on-going longevity increase while in the program. Currently teachers have seven years to opt into the system.

To learn more about ProComp, go to

Iowa’s Student Achievement and Teacher Quality Program

Judy Jeffrey presented on Iowa’s statewide approach to teacher compensation and teacher quality. Iowa has 365 school districts with approximately 33,000 teachers. The State Board of Education has authority over PK-16, as well as twelve Area Education Agencies (AEAs). The AEAs, similar to regional centers in other states, provide support services such as professional development, database management, and special education services. Jeffrey cited Iowa’s strong cooperation between their teacher unions, administrator organizations, state department of education, and AEAs. She also noted having effective pre-service education in the state in which performance-based assessments are used.

In 2001, Iowa’s legislature established the Student Achievement and Teacher Quality Program that provides a structure for teacher mentoring and induction, professional development, evaluation, and career levels. The program is designed to increase student achievement by increasing teacher quality, i.e., improving instructional practices and attracting and retaining high performing teachers. Jeffrey gave examples of the eight teaching standards and 42 objectives used to determine teacher effectiveness. One standard is for teachers to show the ability to use and analyze student achievement data, as well as to incorporate the results into their classroom practice. Another is that teachers must engage in professional growth. Teachers are evaluated based on evidence they bring forth regarding the standards and criteria. Persons performing the evaluations must go through a 10 day training and receive certification, good for five years. Districts are awarded $1,000 when an individual completes training. Jeffrey stated that administrator preparation program professors also had to attend the state’s evaluator training to be eligible as trainers and evaluators.

Jeffrey described the various career levels: Beginning Teacher (0-2 years), Career Teachers I and II, and Advanced Teacher. Beginning teachers are provided a salary minimum, obtain an initial 2 year license, have a comprehensive evaluation, and receive state-funded mentoring ($1,300 per teacher mentored). Jeffrey noted that Iowa’s mentoring program is in its fourth year, with most beginning teachers moving from having an initial license to a standard license. However, if the beginning teacher is unable to demonstrate competence on all eight teaching standards after the second year, they are no longer eligible to teach in Iowa. There is one exception to this policy. A district may fund a third year of additional assistance to enable the beginning teacher to meet the standards. Jeffrey commented that anecdotal evidence indicates that beginning teachers who do not meet the standards generally leave before being told they are no longer eligible to teach.

Once a teacher enters the Career Teacher levels, pay increases are determined through evidence of competence. Jeffrey noted that teachers are required to develop a career plan tied to the state standards, student achievement goals, and district plans. The teacher’s professional development is addressed in the plan. Iowa offers research-based professional development, supported by Iowa Content Network Team reviews of research. Jeffrey pointed out that Iowa’s program is still scaling up and a comprehensive evaluation of the program is due in 2007.

For learn more about Iowa’s Student Achievement and Teacher Quality Program, go to

Teacher Advancement Program Foundation

Dr. Lewis C. Solmon discussed the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) and commented that its effectiveness is based on the fact that it is a systemic effort not just a performance pay program. TAP, initially established by the Milken Foundation and in a number of schools across the nation, was designed to increase student learning through quality teaching. Solmon described TAP as a comprehensive reform to attract, develop, motivate, and retain high quality teachers. States working with TAP generally have an assigned director or coordinator who monitors the program’s progress and collaborates with the TAP national office. 

Solmon explained the four elements of TAP: 1) multiple career paths, 2) instructionally focused accountability, 3) on-going, applied professional growth, and 4) performance-based compensation. TAP’s career ladder enables teachers to move up, with added roles and responsibilities, yet stay in the classroom. Teachers are held accountable for their instructional practice and for the achievement growth of not only students in their classroom but for the entire school. Solmon described that accountability is measured through a comprehensive evaluation system, using research-based instructional standards and rubrics. Each teacher is evaluated 4-6 times per year. The evaluations are an aspect of each teacher’s on-going professional growth. He pointed out other avenues TAP teachers have for professional development, including meeting in daily 90 minute cluster groups, participating in pre- and post-conference testing sessions, receiving coaching, and attending off-site training. Solmon stressed the need to immediately provide teachers with feedback and professional development as needs are identified, not only to allay their fears of evaluation but to provide them with the necessary tools for their improvement.

In regard to teacher compensation, Solmon stated that pay increases are based on the teacher’s performance as measured by their evaluations, functions and duties, and student achievement gains. Teachers are also eligible for bonuses. For example, the TAP model includes a bonus for teachers who score well on skills assessments and/or when student scores improve. Generally, 50 percent of a bonus is for skills and knowledge and 50 percent for student achievement growth. Solmon emphasized that bonuses have to be significant, i.e., $1,000 or more, if they are to make a difference. In addition to teacher pay, Solmon described costs associated with the TAP model being mostly incremental and may include, for example, specialists for teachers while they are in training. He suggested redistribution of funds by local sites to implement TAP and looking into federal funds, such as the Teacher Incentive Fund.

Solmon ended his presentation with information about some of the results from research on TAP:

  • Teachers voluntarily move from low poverty schools without TAP to high poverty TAP schools
  • Sixty-eight percent of TAP schools outperformed similar schools without TAP
  • Increased collegiality in TAP schools.

Solmon mentioned that research on TAP and other information about the program are the focus of their annual TAP conference, this year from November 11th-14th.

For more information about TAP, go to

Following the three presentations, Anthony Milanowski, Consortium for Policy Research in Education, praised all of the efforts and stressed the systemic nature of the three programs. He commented on the need for additional research and asked a pointed question about each of the programs.

  • About ProComp, “Are they sure that what they are paying for is going to what the districts goals and/or needs are?”
  • About Iowa, “Will they be able to do targeting of pay?”
  • About TAP, “Can TAP work in average school districts that are not voluntary?”

Judy Jeffrey's Presentation (PPT)
Dr. Lewis C. Solmon's Presentation (PPT)