Career Ladder Opportunity Act

Career Ladder Opportunity Act

Career Ladder Opportunity Act


Both merit pay and career ladder systems have at their roots the larger idea of a performance-based reward system, a concept of rewarding teachers in some manner for performance. The performance measured could be that of an individual teacher, a group of teachers, or the meeting of school-wide or district-wide goals. The reward is usually defined in dollars, but could include tuition assistance, sabbaticals, or other bonuses. Currently, many states and localities claim full implementation of career ladder/teacher incentive programs on a state level through teacher salary increases based on improved student performance, or by taking on additional teaching assignments or instruction-related responsibilities.

The most common complaint about performance-based reward systems is that teacher performance, a key component of such systems, is difficult to measure, and tends to rely on subjective judgment. In fact, many merit pay plans have failed because of poor evaluation processes and the mistrust they generate. The solution seems to lie in a well constructed evaluation plan for teacher performance.
In this regard, there are three important components to teacher evaluation:

(1) the purpose of the evaluation, and how its results will be used; 

(2) the criteria used for judging teacher performance; and

(3) who will conduct the evaluation.

Objections have been raised to decisions concerning these components more than any other inherent in teacher evaluation. Consequently, a performance-based reward system will only be effective when these issues are thoroughly addressed. 

Generally speaking, the purpose of an evaluation is to judge the worth and measure the degree to which specified tasks are accomplished. In program or personnel evaluation there are two basic divisions:

(1) evaluations that examine efforts to provide assistance in the developmental process; and 

(2) evaluations which examine the final product.

In regard to teaching, this means that a reward system can be based on either evaluations to help individuals improve their teaching, or evaluations that simply identify individuals with effective teaching abilities. A performance-based reward system should be aimed at recruiting and retaining good teachers; those who instruct, guide, and direct better than most. Seniority, a good attendance record, and extracurricular activities are important, but not as crucial to student achievement as instructional effectiveness. Policymakers and educators must not be afraid to create standards and/or criteria to determine and reward the masters of the profession.

The Career Ladder Opportunity Act requires school districts to adopt extraordinary performance pay plans for elementary and secondary public school teachers who demonstrate success in the classroom. The local school district must design the plan in consultation with teachers and administrators. Since reward systems in the past have often failed because of premature abandonment, the district must keep the plan for three years and make improvements on it when necessary. Moreover, the instrument used for evaluating a teacher’s performance in the classroom must clearly define evaluation criteria and give more.

Model Legislation

Section 1. {Short Title.} This Act may be cited as the Career Ladder Opportunity Act.

Section 2. {Purpose.} The legislature recognizes the importance of rewarding educators who strive to improve the quality of education, of providing incentives for educators employed by the public to continue to pursue excellence in education, of rewarding educators who demonstrate the achievement of excellence, and of properly compensating educators who assume additional educational responsibilities.

Section 3. {Authorization.} In order to achieve these goals and to provide educators with increased opportunities for professional growth, school districts are authorized and encouraged to develop career ladder programs.

Section 4. {Definitions.} As used in this Act:

(A) “Career ladder” means a compensation system developed by a school district, with advice and counsel from teachers and school administrators who represent the various schools throughout the district, which is in accordance with provisions of this Act and applicable policies and guidelines adopted and approved by the state board of education.

(B) “Evaluation system” means a procedure developed by a school district, with advice and counsel from teachers and school administrators who represent the various schools throughout the district, which provides for periodic, fair, objective, and consistent evaluation of educator performance.

Section 5. {Components of career ladders.} Career ladders may include the following components:

(A) an extended contract year for teachers, providing for additional paid non-teaching days beyond the regular school year for curriculum development, in-service training, preparation, and related activities. School boards may approve individual exceptions to the extended-year contract.

(B) at the option of the local school board, an extended contract year for teachers, providing for additional paid workdays beyond the regular school year for teaching assignments in summer school, remedial, handicapped, specialized, vocational, gifted and talented, and adult education programs.

(C) a fair and consistent procedure for selecting teachers who will be given additional responsibilities. The selection procedure shall incorporate clearly stated job descriptions and qualifications for each level on the career ladder.

(D) a program of differentiated staffing that provides additional compensation and, as appropriate, additional extensions of the contract year, for those who assume additional instruction-related responsibilities. Additional instruction-related responsibilities may include:

(1) assisting students and beginning teachers;

(2) developing curricula and lesson plans;

(3) helping established teachers improve their teaching skills;

(4) training volunteers;

(5) improving in planning, facilities, and productivity; and

(6) accepting educational assignments directed at establishing positive relationships with the community, businesses, and parents.

(7) Administrative and extracurricular activities shall not be considered additional instruction-related activities under this Subsection.

(E) a well-defined program of evaluation and guidance for beginning teachers, designed to assist those teachers during provisional years of teaching to acquire and demonstrate the skills required of capable, successful teachers. Continuation in teaching from year to year shall be contingent upon satisfactory teaching performance.

(F) a clear and concise explanation of the evaluation system components, including the respective roles of teachers, administrators, and the school board in the development of the evaluation system. The system shall provide for frequent, comprehensive evaluations of teachers with less than three years’ teaching experience, and periodic evaluations of other teachers.

(G) advancement on the career ladder program that is contingent upon effective teaching performance, evidence of which shall include formal evaluation and assessment of student progress. Student progress shall play a significant role in teacher a evaluation. Other criteria may include formal preparation and a successful teaching experience.

(H) an assessment of implementation costs.

(I) a plan for periodic review of the career ladder including the makeup of the reviewing entity, procedures to be followed during review, and the time schedule for the review.

Section 6. {Administration.}

(A) The state board of education administers the state appropriation for career ladders. If the state board of education determines that a career ladder proposal submitted by a school district, as provided in this Act, meets all applicable requirements and that sufficient funding is available in the designated state appropriation, it shall grant approval and provide funding from that appropriation for implementation of the e proposal.

(B) At least 50 percent of the funds appropriated for career ladders shall be directed to advancement on career ladders under Subsection (G) of Section 5, based upon effective teaching.

Section 7. {Severability clause.}

Section 8. {Repealer clause.}

Section 9. {Effective date.}

Sourcebook of American State Legislation 1995