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Houston Independent School District
New Report Shows Teacher Retention Improved
News Release
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

HISD teachers who earned performance bonuses under the school district’s bold new pay plan stayed on the job longer, a new report shows.

Researchers caution the program is too new to make final judgments about its effectiveness, but HISD’s new teacher performance pay program that pays teachers thousands of dollars in bonuses based on the academic growth of children may be helping convince teachers to stay on the job.

In a new report to the HISD school board, administrators said 88.8 percent of the classroom teachers who earned performance pay bonuses last January stayed on with the school district for this school year. That’s higher than the 2005-06 overall teacher retention rate at HISD, which was 86.4 percent.

HISD has launched the largest program in the country to pay teachers performance bonuses based on how much academic progress children make from one year to the next. The program has attracted millions of dollars in support from The Broad Foundation, and educational and government leaders all across America are watching HISD’s effort closely to see if it helps to improve academic achievement.

“For the first time we are paying teachers large sums of money based on how much progress children make in the classroom,” Dr. Saavedra said. “Now we see that teachers who earn those bonuses this year stayed on the job at a higher rate than in the past. It’s too early yet to tell if this higher teacher retention rate is directly related to performance pay – we’ll need several years of experience to make that determination. But certainly we like what we see so far.”

HISD’s academic achievement also has improved at a faster rate than the state or national averages since the school district first announced the teacher performance pay program. The program includes an attendance bonus for teachers, and reports show that teacher attendance also has improved.

HISD is by far Texas’ largest school district, with nearly 200,000 students and about 12,500 teachers. Its bold effort to change the way teachers are paid already is helping spark similar efforts around the country, including in New York.

Three years ago, before HISD announced its new plan for performance pay, the teacher turnover rate at HISD was 15.2 percent, which matched the state average for teacher turnover. The next year, the year the performance pay program was first announced, HISD’s teacher turnover rate improved to 14.4 percent, two tenths of a percentage point better than the state’s average. Now, the new numbers from the 2006-2007 school year show that, at least among the classroom teachers who earned the performance pay, the turnover rate has improved to 11.2 percent.

Last January more than 7,000 HISD teachers earned more than $15 million in performance bonuses, with an average of more than $1,800 each and the highest earner making more than $7,000.

This year, a new and improved HISD teacher performance pay plan that will reward teamwork in the classroom and pay more teachers more money than ever has drawn praise from teachers. Teachers could earn up to $7,300 in bonuses next January under the new “ASPIRE Award” program.

“Performance pay is a concept that’s the standard in virtually every other industry,” said Eli Broad, founder of The Broad Foundation.  “It makes sense that we pay teachers for their performance and reward those who are the most successful at improving student achievement.  HISD is leading the nation by embracing a concept that will ultimately help attract and retain the very best teaching talent.”

HISD hired nationally known student achievement measurement expert Dr. Bill Sanders to provide a more sophisticated analysis of the test data used to determine academic improvement. Dr. Sanders’ system measures individual student growth over three years and gives HISD a more sophisticated way to track the true progress being made by teachers with students.

Last school year, the first year that teachers earned bonuses under the new system, HISD students set record highs on the TAKS test. Across HISD on the English-language TAKS test, 75 percent of schools improved in math and social studies passing rates, 70 percent improved in reading, and 60 percent improved in science.

HISD has 84 “Exemplary” or “Recognized” schools this year, a record number of high-rated schools for the district since the start of the new Texas education accountability system. According to the Texas Education Agency, 94 percent of HISD schools rated met or exceeded the state standard for performance, earning a rating of “Academically Acceptable” or better. The number of “Academically Unacceptable” schools in HISD was cut nearly in half this year, from 33 in 2006 to 15.

Scores of HISD students on the important college readiness test the SAT also improved strongly while national and Texas averages fell. HISD’s average SAT reading score increased five points while the Texas average score fell two points and the national average score fell five points. In math, HISD’s average SAT score was up five points, while the national average fell two points and the Texas average rose four points.

And a record number of HISD students took and passed college-level course exams in 2007. The number of HISD students taking Advanced Placement tests soared 11 percent in 2007, a larger increase than the Texas or national average. And the number of AP tests at HISD scoring a passing grade of three or higher climbed 12 percent, also beating the Texas and national averages for improvement.

HISD officials said they will continue to closely study the improving academic achievement at the district and that it will be some time before any definitive links between teacher performance pay and academic achievement can be made.

The new performance pay system will pay the most money – up to $7,300 -- to teachers of core academic subjects like English, language arts, math, science and social studies for their individual success in helping children improve academically over three years. But the new plan also will reward groups of teachers for their successful teamwork and all instructional staff on a campus when a school makes the highest amount of comparable improvement or earns the highest ratings under the Texas accountability system.

New ASPIRE Award will pay more teachers more money  

The three components of the new performance pay program

1. Campus-wide improvement

This component rewards every teacher and staff member on each campus if the average academic improvement of students is in the top half of all schools in the district. Schools are ranked in quartiles by academic level and teachers and staff at those schools in the top two quartiles of academic improvement would earn the money. 

Teachers earn a $1,000 bonus if students at their school make greater academic improvement than students at 75 percent of HISD’s schools of the same academic level. A teacher earns a $500 bonus if students at that campus made more progress than students made at least 50 percent of HISD schools.  Non-instructional staff rewards would be $500 for the top 25 percent or $250 for the top 50 percent of school improvement. 

The progress will be determined by an overall campus “composite value-added score” that is based on student improvement across grades and subjects on the TAKS test and the Stanford and Aprenda tests. The new “value-added” score will represent how much teachers helped individual students grow academically. 

2. Individual core teacher performance

This component of the ASPIRE Award will reward core teachers (English, Language Arts, math, science and social studies) whose students make the most academic progress. Teachers can earn the biggest rewards under this component of the plan, up to $5,000. 

Elementary and middle school teachers will be rewarded if their students make more academic progress than most other students across the district. A teacher earns up to $5,000 if the students in his or her classroom outperform students in 75 percent of other teachers’ classrooms. The teacher would earn $2,500 if the students in his or her classroom improve more than 50 to 74 percent of other teachers’ classrooms. Early Childhood through second grade teachers will also now be recognized as core teachers, receiving a portion of the award based on campus-wide reading and math improvement.   

High school teachers will earn the money if the students in a teacher’s department made more academic progress than students in the same departments at other high schools.  For example, teachers in the math department at a high school would each earn a $5,000 bonus if their students improved more than students in math departments in at least 75 percent of the other high schools in HISD. All teachers in the math department at a high school would earn a $2,500 bonus their students had more academic improvement than students in math departments of at least 50 percent of the other high schools in HISD. Individual teacher analysis at the high school level will be added when the state’s end-of-course testing program is in place. 

3. Comparative campus improvement and achievement

This component of the ASPIRE Award pays bonuses to teachers and all instructional staff based on how much a school improves overall compared with demographically similar schools around Texas, and also based on the school’s accountability ratings. 

Under this strand of the plan, teachers could earn up to $1,000 if their schools are in the top 25 percent of the TAKS test improvement results statewide in reading and math. In addition, teachers and other instructional staff would earn an extra $300 if their school is rated by the state as “Exemplary,” or an extra $150 if it is rated as “Recognized” under the state’s accountability system.

ASPIRE, “Accelerating Student Progress Increasing Results & Expectations,” is a comprehensive educational improvement model for the district. ASPIRE is not a new initiative, but rather an effort to align all of the district’s educational improvement efforts to make the most of their impact on students. The model encourages ongoing teacher and campus collaboration and recognizes HISD’s many highly effective campuses and teachers.

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