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Five-Year-Old ProComp Competes for Reform Attention, Awaits Final Evaluation

Denver’s Professional Compensation System for Teachers has received a great deal of attention through the years from those interested in education policy and reform. (Just Google “ProComp” if you want to see what I mean.) So it’s certainly no surprise to see the Denver Public Schools celebrate ProComp’s fifth birthday. Somehow, ProComp has caught up to become the same age as me: This may mean a challenge to my self-proclaimed position as Colorado’s #1 Education Reform Five-Year-Old!

Anyway, not long after the system went into full effect in Denver, my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow wrote an issue paper titled Denver’s ProComp and Teacher Compensation Reform in Colorado. He took the opportunity to credit the district for the extent of improvements made, given the binding power of a union bargaining contract, while pointing out areas where improvements could be made. As Charlie Brennan noted in today’s Ed News Colorado story, DPS’ leading partner in developing and implementing ProComp has more doubts now to express about how the pay reform has turned out — but not for the same reasons:

[DCTA president Henry] Roman, who attended Monday afternoon’s event, offered a tempered endorsement of the program – in which he also is a participant….

“We still have concerns about how ProComp builds permanent salary increases. I think it has a good set of one-time incentives, but I think we still have concerns about how it builds salary increases over time.”

Much more recently, ProComp was included in DeGrow’s issue paper-length investigation of K-12 educator pay innovation in Colorado. While the star of the report — which highlights nearly 20 different district and charter programs — clearly is Harrison School District Two’s Effectiveness and Results program, the new paper notes some promising signs for ProComp from a 2010 evaluation:

…Teachers hired after ProComp demonstrate greater impacts on students’ tested math and reading growth—especially at the elementary school level—than do their counterparts. At the same time, veteran teachers who opted in to ProComp have a mixed record compared with peers who have not subscribed to alternative compensation. DPS’ overall student academic growth has improved since ProComp’s implementation, but researchers warn against drawing any causal effects.

The Ed News story notes that clearer answers to questions surrounding ProComp’s effectiveness may be available soon from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s evaluators:

A second part is outstanding and the research contract has been extended through August. Ed Wiley, chair of research and evaluation methodology at CU’s Boulder campus, could not be reached Monday for an update.

Researchers from the University of Colorado at Denver’s School of Public Affairs also are working on an evaluation which has yet to be completed. Paul Teske, the school’s dean, said by email Monday that some parts of the evaluation are finished but not the full report.

While I may be the only 5-year-old (other than ProComp itself) awaiting these results with bated breath, I think it’s important to remember that compensation reform is not just for large urban districts named Denver. I look forward to seeing more — and more successful — teacher compensation innovation continue to emerge in Colorado in the near future.