NEW ULM - A merit pay plan is not on the cards for District 88 teachers in the near future, officials are quick to point out.
But the tone of the discussion of this idea - promoted statewide over the past few years as "Q comp" - appears to have changed.
It is now something to "seriously consider" a few years down the road, as a potential response to budgetary pressures, Superintendent Harold Remme recently told the School Board.
Remme and fifth-grade teacher Kevin Kluis earlier this month attended a day-long session at the Minnesota Department of Education, which outlined some parameters of the Q Comp program.
Remme shared highlights of that presentation:
The greatest effect on student achievement, aside from parents, is effective instruction from teachers, the MDE pointed out, quoting recent studies.
Q Comp, the theory goes, is based on professional development and system changes that reflect teacher effectiveness and student achievement.
In part, it is meant to attract people to the profession, to combat a shortage.
The nation will face a future shortage of 1million teachers (out of a total of 2.6 million). Minnesota will experience significant shortages in certain teacher license areas.
Teacher recruitment and retention is crucial for Minnesota, the MDE says. Current state data indicates that 30 percent of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years, with some rural areas experiencing the greatest decline, of around 50 percent.
Forty-four districts and 32 charter schools have joined the program since its full-scale launch in 2005-06. Nearly 240,000 students and nearly 14,000 teachers attend or teach in Q comp schools.
Some $76 million in basic state aid are available this year to implement the program. Q Comp schools receive $169 per student in aid, plus $91 per student in board-approved equalized levy.
Remme said $30 million of the state aid remains unallotted.
Unspent funds remain with the program and are not to be used for general education or other district needs.
Districts are required to align their Q comp program with their staff development program.
The program is structured around career ladders and advancement options. It involves:
Job embedded professional development
Proponents say Q Comp creates opportunities for integrated, ongoing, site-based, job-embedded professional development. These opportunities seek to improve teachers' instructional skills and align learning with student needs. They are consistent with the staff development plan and led, during the school day, by trained teacher leaders, such as master or mentor teachers.
Teachers regularly meet in learning communities to: focus on student learning; work in collaborative groups; engage in results-oriented dialogue; build shared knowledge; and use data to inform decisions.
The MDE says individual teacher evaluations should be aligned with educational improvement and staff development plans. They should be objective, using multiple criteria, and conducted by locally selected and periodically trained teams.
Teachers would be observed by their peers and provided feedback and coaching focused on professional growth.
The process should be evidence-based.
Under Q Comp, 60 percent of teacher compensation is aligned with a performance pay system. Of that percentage:
50 percent is based on professional growth (as documented by classroom observations or lesson evaluations);
25 percent is based on student achievement (measured by teacher assessments or locally designed assessments);
25 percent is based on schoolwide gains (measured by standardized state tests).
Under the Q Comp program, a district negotiates a reformed salary schedule that is not based exclusively on, but modifies, the traditional "steps and lanes" system.
(Steps and lanes reflect years of experience and educational level attained.)
The Q Comp program is meant to be locally designed and assumes teacher union cooperation.
This need for cooperation has been a factor in some districts' decision to join or not to join it.