Tuesday, September 9, 2003
Strawberry Park Elementary School teachers and support staff will not receive a disputed portion of their pay-for-performance bonuses if recommendations approved by the District Account-ability Committee on Tuesday are accepted by the Steamboat Springs School Board.
DAC members voted Tuesday night not to round Colorado Student Assessment Program test scores in tabulating pay-for-performance awards for district teachers and support staff for the 2002-03 school year. The recommendations mirrored those given to the DAC by the district's administrative team.
The recommendations, which must be approved by the School Board before the end-of-year bonuses can be distributed, will result in an average loss of $192 for Strawberry Park employees. However, each teacher will receive an overall pay-for-performance bonus equal to 4.25 percent of his or her base salary. Total bonuses at the school will range from $285 to $2,509.
Strawberry Park Principal John DeVincentis, who is a member of the administrative team, said he supported the recommendations though he was sorry to see his teachers lose money.
"It's hard," DeVincentis said. "You never want to see your teachers lose money. That's the way the cookie crumbles. Still, they ought to be proud of what they did."
The DAC's recommendations came about one month after it reached an impasse as to whether to round up the percentage of Strawberry Park students who tested advanced or proficient on the writing portion of the CSAP test. DAC Chairwoman Deb Jansen approached the School Board in August with the dilemma, and the School Board refer-red it back to the DAC.
District staff is awarded pay-for-performance bonuses based largely on whether students in each school meet CSAP test goals set at the beginning of each school year. Bonuses can be as high as 5 percent of an employee's base salary. The DAC meets each year after the state releases CSAP scores to determine which school goals were met.
According to CSAP scores released this spring, 79.67 percent of tested Strawberry Park students are advanced or proficient writers; the school's goal was 80 percent proficiency. The administrative team, in its recommendation to the DAC, recalculated all CSAP scores for each district school using an identical formula. The revised figures dropped the percentage from 79.67 to 79.54. Regardless, the administrative team said figures should be taken out to two decimal places and not rounded.
Strawberry Park teacher Christine Russell, who is the school's representative on the DAC, argued in favor of rounding the scores.
"We passed pay-for-performance to get money into teachers' pockets, and this isn't doing it," Russell said. "I think the whole thing is very frustrating."
DAC members and the administrative team said the decision to not award the writing portion of the bonus was a difficult one but was done to protect the integrity of the pay-for-performance process. They also agreed the issue reflects problems with the troubled system.
"You guys did an awesome job, and you're an awesome school," Jansen said, referring to Straw-berry Park staff. "I think these recommendations hurt all of us."
"Everybody values the hard work that goes on at each school, and everyone values the exceptional job of all the teachers," Superintendent Donna Howell said. "It was a very, very difficult decision to come by. It's an emotional issue."
The DAC also followed an administrative-team recommendation to use first-release CSAP scores instead of the revised scores the state uses when it calculates school grades in annual School Accountability Reports. At last month's School Board meeting, DeVincentis said the district should revise its CSAP scores to exclude the scores of students who enrolled in the district after Oct. 1, as the state does.
The administrative team and the DAC, however, agreed first-release scores should be used, as has been the case for the three years the district has awarded pay-for-performance bonuses.
The DAC rejected a Steamboat Springs High School School Accountability Committee re-quest to grant high school teachers their full bonus for the math portion of the CSAP test even though the scores fell short of school goals.
The high school committee said the goal it set was an educated guess because of changes to the CSAP math test scoring system. The school still ranked in the top 10 percent of the state in math performance, the committee said.
Upon approval by the School Board, Soda Creek Elementary School staff will receive bonuses equaling 4.75 percent of base salaries, Strawberry Park staff will receive 4.25 percent bonuses, middle school staff will receive 4.55 percent bonuses and high school staff will receive 4.2 percent bonuses.
The DAC likely will not have to deal with pay-for-performance issues next fall -- widespread discontent with the way the system operates led to a decision earlier this year by the Education Fund Board's Educational Excellence Commission not to fund the bonus system for the 2003-04 school year.
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