Five things we’ve learned about Jeffco’s new teacher pay, evaluation system

Some of the best Jefferson County teachers will be able to earn more money sooner in their career under the district’s new compensation system, but most new teachers will likely earn less in their first 10 years, according to an analysis of teacher salaries by Chalkbeat Colorado.

Tonight, Amy Weber, the district’s human resources chief, will report to the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education that every teacher’s salary has been adjusted to a new and controversial compensation system.

The new system bases raises on teacher evaluations which rates teachers on a variety of factors like classroom management. It’s a stark departure from the status quo that based a teacher’s salary on how much time he spent in the classroom and his continuing education. The change prompted a vote of no confidence in board chairman Ken Witt and was a contributing factor to a series of teacher sickouts that forced the district to cancel class at four high schools this fall.

Witt and his colleagues believe the new system is better because all teachers have the same opportunity to earn raises every year. The teachers union raised objections to the system because it relies entirely on teacher evaluations that a fact-finder determined were not fair and were not used uniformly across the school system.

The district has also paid $1.5 million in back pay to teachers dating back to the start of the school year. That’s because the compensation system — which in the past has normally been settled in the spring or summer — wasn’t approved until the start of the school year.

Under the new plan, which the was approved by the board’s conservative majority, the base salary for teachers, which was about $33,000, has been raised to $38,000.

Teachers still in the first three years of teaching who received a partly-effective rating received a 1 percent raise. Teachers who received an effective rating will received a 2.43 percent raise. And teachers who received a highly-effective rating will receive a 4.25 percent raise.

Teachers with more than three years of experience in Jeffco who earned a rating of partly effective did not receive a raise.

The new system was conceived initially by Witt. His proposal came after the board’s majority rejected an independent report that suggested the district provide salary increases to some teachers that were rated as partly effective on their evaluation. Witt said at the time paying partly effective teachers did not align with the district’s goals of having an effective or highly effective teacher in every classroom.

During her presentation, Weber will also review feedback she gathered from a teachers focus group and ask the board for more and specific guidance than they have already provided district staff in order to finalize the compensation system.

“I need [the board] to understand those broad strokes are not sufficient to start the recruitment season,” she said in an interview with Chalkbeat. “I need them to begin to understand some of the complexity that needs to be delineated very quickly in the next six to eight weeks.”

That will include determining where to place new teachers with multiple years of experience and education on the salary spectrum, whether the district will monetarily reward teachers for furthering their own education, and how to streamline and enhance the hiring process.

Jeffco will begin looking to fill vacancies in February.

Before tonight’s board meeting — which will be the last one for the calendar year — here are a few things we learned from analyzing teacher salary data we obtained through an open records request:

1. New and highly effective teachers can reach top salary in under 20 years.

Under the new salary model, the highest paid teacher in Jeffco will earn as a base salary $81,000. Assuming nothing changes, a teacher who begins in Jeffco this school year and receives a highly effective rating every year will be a top earner in 19 years.

However, if that teacher earns only an effective rating it would take her 32 years before she reached the summit of the salary schedule. That’s four more years than under the previous system. Under the previous system, teachers who stayed in the classroom for 28 years and earned a masters degree and working toward a doctorate could earn $81,000.

2. But in their first 10 years, most new teachers will make less under new system.

While some teachers might be making more money in 20 years under the new system than they could have in their entire career under the old, during their first decade in Jeffco they’ll probably be making less under the new system.

Again, if the district makes no changes to the salary system, a teacher rated effective who begins in Jeffco this year will make a little more than $47,000 in her tenth year. If the district still operated under the previous system of rewarding teachers based on time and education, that same teacher would be making nearly $50,000, so long as she was on her way to a masters degree. If she had already achieved a masters degree within her first 10 years, she’d be making nearly $10,000 more.

3. Few teachers were rated ineffective, but they made a lot of money.

Last year, just four of the more than 5,000 teachers in Jefferson County were rated ineffective. But those teachers’ salaries ranged from $53,916 to $72,944. That means the highest paid teacher that was rated ineffective made $16,391 more than the average effective teacher.

4. The pay gap between teachers rated effective and partly effective grows.

Last year, the average teacher who was rated effective made about $5,000 more than an average teacher rated partly effective. At the same time, a teacher rated highly effective, on average, made about $5,500 more than a teacher rated effective.

This year the average teacher rated effective will make about $6,300 more than her average peer that was rated partly effective. That’s compared to the average teacher rated highly effective teacher will make about $6,700 more than her peer who was rated effective.

That means the pay spread between highly effective and effective teachers grew by about $1,200 dollars while the spread between an effective and partly effective teacher grew by more than $1,300.

The average Jefferson County teacher who earned an effective rating on his or her annual evaluation last year will make about $58,000 this year. That’s about $1,500 higher than last year,

Meanwhile, the average highly effective teacher will earn about $2,600 more this year for an average salary of about $64,600.

5. Most partly effective teachers were veteran teachers

Last year 109 full time teachers received a partly effective rating. Of those, only 36 were in their first three years of teaching in Jeffco. The rest have taught for more than three years in Jeffco. Meanwhile, 69 teachers, who are still considered new to Jeffco, earned a highly effective rating. Most of those teachers appear to be veteran teachers because most of their salaries are above the previous starting salary of $33,000.