Naperville School District 203 is working to get the word out about its new method for compensating teachers.
District officials made an appearance recently before the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation to talk about Career 203, a new approach to pay teachers that seeks to reward them for specific achievements that directly relate to their teaching duties.
The common practice among public school districts has long been to reward teachers with a yearly cost of living increase, along with a “step increase,” which meant only that the individual had served another year.
Raises were also awarded for a specific number of education hours completed beyond a certain degree, whether or not the courses actually related to the teacher’s duties in the district.
That’s about to change in D203. Career 203, being implemented over the course of the current three-year teachers contract, will continue the cost of living raises, but begin to tie any step increases to activities that contribute to student development.
Teachers will still be candidates for tenure after four years, after which they will be encouraged to embark on career paths, some of which might be titled “expert, master or research” educators.
The activities undertaken to enhance their skills, and their compensation, could be serving on or chairing an education committee, helping to develop curriculum or earning a second master’s degree or doctorate in education leadership.
Depending on the activity undertaken, extra compensation could be either permanent or on a one-time basis, district officials said.
If a teacher doesn’t continue to improve his or her skills in accordance with district policies, they might remain at the same level of compensation and only receive cost of living increases as negotiated by contract.
District 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges sees the effort as an improvement over the old system of rewarding teachers only for years of service, and thinks the new model might have ramifications beyond District 203.
“It really has the ability to set a standard for how teachers are compensated,” he said, noting the the program could be applied regionally or nationally.
Also changing is the criteria for laying off faculty due to an “RIF,” or reduction in force. Previously, layoffs of this sort were made strictly by seniority. In future faculty reductions, the district will be allowed to consider student growth and development as a factor in layoffs.
At the meeting, City Councilman Grant Wehrli asked how the total expenditures for teachers’ salaries would compare with the new system to the previous system.
Bridges acknowledged that, due to the new system being phased in over the life of the contract that ends in 2016, the total figures would probably be very similar.
Also at the meeting, Bridges acknowledged the financial challenges facing all school districts, adding that pension costs being shifted back to local districts from the state is a big concern.
One step taken by District 203 in its new teachers contract is to begin to phase out both early retirement enhancements and the practice of bumping up faculty salaries in the years leading up to retirement to sweeten pensions.