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UW–Madison teacher pay study informs policymakers

October 11, 2016 By Janet Kelly
Photo: Education Building

UW-Madison School of Education. Photo: Bryce Richter

School districts and policymakers across Wisconsin exploring teacher pay alternatives have new information to help guide them: a recently released study from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) in the UW–Madison School of Education.

The study, based on 25 of Wisconsin’s 424 school districts, is the first to document teacher pay changes implemented or considered locally by districts following the 2011 passage of Act 10, which allows new flexibility for compensating public school teachers.

Photo: Steve Kimball

Steve Kimball

“There has been considerable talk about compensation changes in Wisconsin, but very little solid information on what was happening,” says Steve Kimball, a principal investigator of the Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative (WEC) and Consortium for Policy Research in Education. “We hope the study fills an information gap in the state and provides guidance for school districts and other stakeholders.”

Teacher compensation reform often is controversial, according to Kimball. “While many believe new forms of teacher pay can provide powerful incentives to improve teacher performance and student achievement by enhancing recruitment, development and retention efforts for effective educators, others believe pay changes are unsettling and can be counterproductive to those important goals.”

The study summarizes various pay approaches, such as changing the single salary schedule, creating career ladders and compensation levels, and using salary increases or bonuses to recruit and retain high quality teachers in hard-to-fill positions. It also raises several topics for consideration by school districts, including engagement and communication about the changes, pay and total compensation satisfaction, quality monitoring and measurement, point systems, sustainability and administrative complexity.