The ProComp teacher incentive-pay system at Denver Public Schools has improved teacher retention and may have contributed to increases in student achievement, according to the findings of a three-year study by researchers from the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Education & Human Development and School of Public Affairs as well as the University of Washington Bothell.
The study was released Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at a press conference at Skinner Middle School in Denver Public Schools.
ProComp, a $25 million project approved by voters, was implemented in 2006. It has received nationwide attention as efforts to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement have been tried across the country.
“The key message of this evaluation is that innovation begets innovation,” said Robert Reichardt, research team director at the Buechner Institute for Governance at the School of Public Affairs.
The research team, which also included Diane Proctor, senior evaluator, and Bonnie Walters, executive director, of the Evaluation Center at the School of Education & Human Development; and Dan Goldhaber, PhD director at the Center for Education & Data Research at the University of Washington Bothell, used both qualitative and quantitative methods to determine the effects of ProComp on the district.
They found that the incentive-pay system improved operations in the district, reduced teacher attrition, improved recruitment somewhat and that implementation of it coincides with improved student achievement across the district.
Recommendations were made for improvements in ProComp, including increased communication about its details, additional training of administrators in how to implement it and greater standardization of student growth objectives, which are an important element of the program.
“A key finding was that teachers accept ProComp,” said Proctor. “They think it is at least as fair as the old compensation system.”
She said many of the support systems that were created to implement ProComp effectively have been phased out by the district due to budget cuts, and the resulting lack of good communication “is a major barrier to implementation.“
Some teachers and principals don’t understand it,” she said.
The researchers also found a lack of awareness of the ProComp system among teacher trainees and potential teaching recruits.
Despite those problems, DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said the taxpayers’ investment in ProComp “is paying off.
"Denver Public Schools is a dramatically different place from 2005,” he said. “We have five times more applicants for every available teaching position now and ProComp is one factor.”