Strategic Pay Reform: A Student Outcomes-Based Evaluation of Denver???s ProComp Teacher Pay Initiative

There is much opposition against teacher
merit-pay programs today. But one such venture stands largely outside that
debate: Denver’s ProComp program enjoys teacher-union support and is partially
funded by a voter-approved tax. ProComp offers individual and school-based
incentives to participants based on both input measures (acquisition of higher
degrees, etc.) and output measures (student performance and progress, etc.).
Under the ProComp contract, new teachers are automatically ushered into the
program—which offers rewards for a variety of input- and output-based
achievements, including advanced degrees, higher than expected student test
scores, and working in hard to staff schools—while veterans must volunteer,
creating unique conditions for research. Five years into the program (which
enrolls 80 percent of DPS teachers), Dan Goldhaber and Joe Walch offer some
perspective on its effectiveness. Their findings are promising, but with caveat
(notably because of the convoluted statistics done to ascertain results). The findings?
Student achievement did increase (notably at the secondary level in reading)
since implementing ProComp, and students of participating teachers fared better
than those not in the program. That said, even veteran teachers not partaking
in ProComp saw positive residual effects from the system. Yet, the researchers also
found that advanced-degree or professional-development bonuses had little
effect on student achievement. The upshot? Merit-pay programs can lead to
better results—if designed and implemented thoughtfully.

Dan Goldhaber and Joe Walch, “Strategic
Pay Reform: A Student Outcomes-Based Evaluation of Denver’s ProComp Teacher Pay
Initiative
.” (Seattle, WA: Center for Education Data & Research, 2011).

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