Eye on Education

Cleveland School District Moves Towards Performance Pay

Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact Ohio

Cleveland Teachers Union President David Quolke, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, and Cleveland Schools CEO Eric Gordon joined forces to pass the Cleveland Plan to Transform Schools. Much of the current tentative contract stems from the Cleveland Plan.

Last night the Cleveland school board unanimously agreed to what city and union officials are hailing as a groundbreaking teacher contract for Ohio. Union members will vote later this month.

The contract spells out a new basis for teacher pay hikes. Raises merely for lasting another year in the job are out; so are automatic bumps for an extra degree. Instead, “pay for performance” is in.

Currently, only three-dozen of the state’s 600 school districts have any sort of pay-for-performance system in place.

Cleveland schools’ CEO Eric Gordon insists this version goes a lot further than any of those.

“We’re the only school system in the state of Ohio that actually has a true differentiated compensation system,” he says. “We’re one of the few in the nation, frankly.”

Other Ohio districts use performance to give teachers raises but those come on top of seniority based pay hikes they get anyway. The radical move in Cleveland would be the abandonment of what are known as “step increases” where the longer you teach the more money you make – regardless of how much students are learning.

Cleveland teachers would have to earn so-called “achievement credits.” Fifteen achievement credits gets you a pay bump.

“It is not years of experience and masters,” Gordon says. “That’s exactly what we’ve set aside.”

Instead, Gordon says teachers will be rewarded for doing things that improve teaching. For example, a physics teacher could get an achievement credit for taking a college physics course, but not for history classes that don’t directly apply to their physics class.

Cleveland’s not completely abandoning the old ways. The new contract would still give all teachers an automatic 5 percent hike over three years, plus a one-time payment of $1,500 dollars. Gordon says the extra pay is an exception to the new rules and warranted because teachers will have to work 40 minutes a day more, and they’ll have to undergo training to make the switch to the new evaluation system.

Some key details in the contract are yet to be worked out – what, exactly, counts toward an achievement credit, for example. That’ll be written by a committee by early next year.

“It’ll be an interesting piece to watch,” says David Dolph, chair of the educational leadership department at the University of Dayton. He says it makes sense that not everything is figured out yet, and that teachers will still get some pay raises regardless of performance. It’s a way to ease into the new system.

“When you think of organizational changes such as that to go from A to Z in a heartbeat can be a bit of a challenge,” Dolph says. “Having a transition period where people begin to understand the entire system can make some sense.”

Performance pay for teachers is gaining popularity across the state and country. It’s also something the Obama Administration incentivized with hundreds of millions of dollars to states in Race to the Top grants.

Performance pay “makes some intuitive sense to folks,” Dolph says. “American values, they value hard work, they always have and it seems to be something that’s accepted in a lot of other ways of doing business.”

Union President David Quolke says it’s a good deal, and he’s working to convince his members of that.

“Like with any agreement, you know, any sort of uncertainty causes concern and raises questions,” Quolke says. “What we are doing is we are out there in the buildings educating our members.”

Cleveland looked to Baltimore to develop their performance pay model. Now, if the contract is approved, other districts may look to Cleveland to see what works – and what doesn’t.

Read the tentative contract between the Cleveland teachers union and the district below (split into two parts for size).

Part I:

Part II:


  • Criminals

    If atleast 70% overall of each teachers students aren’t passing their course then they aren’t good teachers and should not get a raise, they should be rated just like students are.. they need a passing score of atleast 70 percent of all their students and teachers must take a proficiency test themselves in all course subjects in order to continue receiving those raises – it may not seem fair but really it is. The City of Cleveland Employment Connection, Cuyahoga Community College and even employers require testing no matter what level of education you have, You maybe degreed yet they still require you to test so why should school personnel get any special treatment, they should be required to complete written, oral and presentation test. Their classes should be monitored because teaching styles mean something and have an effect and affect on learning. Certain test should also be giving to students to observation should be done by officials to try and place each child with teachers that teach according to that child’s learning style because one size/style does not fit all [that is the biggest problem with Cleveland Public Schools]

    Since schools are in urban areas with an ethnic mix it should be important to teach languages that match all ethics that they are teaching to be it an black, white, latin, arab, indian or other ethnic group, languages should cater to all groups be it their native tongue or not. Since some anyone on US social should be required to learn English that should not count towards a degree for foreigners, they should be required to learn another language in addition just as if I was in Africa I should learn an African language and also be required to learn another.

    I think it’s extremely racist how Public Schools cater to English [Britons Language from the thieves/tyrants who left Europe to escape Royal rule, they cater to South American Languages, they cater to Arab Languages, Russian, German, even Asian Languages but seem so hell bent on teaching African Languages, Even Cleveland Public Library caters to other ethnics than they do African I WONDER WHY???????????

    And you wonder why black kids aren’t doing so well in school. Because they are being denied their own history while being forced to learn mostly lies about someone else’s heritage and historical lies.. it’s sad really

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