District 97 teacher salary model could change

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

With teacher contract talks set to begin sometime next spring, District 97 faculty, the board and the administration are looking seriously at creating a new salary structure to compensate teachers.

The district conducted a compensation study this spring and presented its findings May 28 during the D97 Board of Education meeting.

District officials stress that the study only looked at compensation models in other school districts that could help form the basis of talks next year. They stress that no new compensation model has been settled on at this point. The study team included D97 Supt. Albert Roberts, school board member Peter Traczyk, and members of the Oak Park Teachers Association, including the president, teacher Tom Kanwischer.

The study group did some preliminary research on compensation policies and models from schools districts in other states. As far as specific salary scales, the group looked at three school districts in Illinois that have implemented new salary structures in the past few years or made significant tweaks to their existing salary scale.

Schaumburg District 54, Evanston District 65 and Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 were the local schools chosen.

D95, for example, revamped its salary structure in 2010. Many school districts, including D97, have "steps" and "lanes." Steps award pay increases based on time spent teaching in a district, and lanes award increases based on additional academic degrees.

D95 got rid of steps but kept the lanes, which reward a teacher's advancement in education. But a "goal-based' compensation scale was also created. Teachers, for instance, can receive $1,000 bonuses every two years if they successfully complete goal-based evaluations.

Schaumburg has a model similar to D97's, except that yearly increases are based on student growth, both district-wide and by building. D65 also rewards every staff member, from teachers to custodians, when specific yearly targets are reached. Schaumburg, the study group noted, has a 65 percent success rate in hitting its yearly targets.

In Evanston, the district has a pretty standard salary scale built on a "tier model," which looks similar to steps. But that model is built around professional development credits and not just on longevity.

At last week's D97 meeting, the study group and board discussed its findings. The general view was that some of those models could be used in D97. Some general themes emerged from the district's study. Buy-in and active participation from faculty on any changes made in D97 is essential. Other stakeholders also have to be brought into talks and actively engaged.

Another major theme was having a compensation model that is easily understood and explainable to the general public. Traczyk noted that during D97's referendum campaign, many voters simply had no idea how teachers are compensated and why.

A compensation model also has to be sustainable for the future, the study group found.

Roberts added that D97 needs to make sure it's rewarding the right things.

"We can have the greatest compensation system in the world, but if we're not clear about where we want improvement so that we're better tomorrow, we can achieve our goal and still fall short of what we want," he said.

Roberts noted that there also needs to be multiple measures built into any model. Currently, too much emphasis is on test scores in education, particularly standardized testing, he said.

There also needs to be emphasis on cooperation and not competition among faculty in any model, Roberts added.

"If we're going to do this, we want our teachers working together to help each other become better, not that one is better than the one next door," he said.

Other themes from the story included an emphasis on rewarding teacher expertise and improvement, as well as appreciation for the work already being done in the classroom.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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O from Oak park  

Posted: September 14th, 2013 11:43 PM

...factors - quite often surpasses elementary ed degreed teachers who are given primary classrooms. Masters or not. Elementary ed is too broad and early childhood classrooms, which are classrooms up to 3rd grade, require teachers specialized in early childhood. And frankly principals ought to be required to be educated in early childhood ed because they often dont get what is required and appropriate in the primary grades and therefore do not raise their expectations of good teacher quality

O from Oak park  

Posted: September 14th, 2013 11:33 PM

Heres my experience: got my masters in child development and early childhood ed from a specialized school in chicago, erikson institute. I can teach up to grade 3. Been teaching 15 years now including now teaching college early childhood ed. The teachers i have come to know or work with who have a masters in early childhood ed/development tend to be not just a little advanced in their practices when working with young children - but way advanced. Knowledge, understanding, ability to look at many


Posted: June 5th, 2013 8:32 PM

My favorite was the Mann PhD art teacher who was made over 100K and specialized in pinch pots. She makes a tidy pension, too. So glad they are thinking of making a change. The rubber stamp master's obtained by Northeastern is pretty worthless. Other universities provide a more rigorous curriculum with a value add to the students, the ultimate goal.


Posted: June 5th, 2013 5:47 PM

@Community Voice - but, but, how is it possible that a D97 teacher isn't perfect?! C'mon, they have a Master's from Northeastern IL in "reading specialist!" Here's what I recall, almost ALL teachers rush to get their Master's while in their 20's - in order to maximize their pay. And then they are mostly done. Sure, there is still the +60 thing, but it's ed stuff is mostly over. And why would "big box retail" care about "Master's in Education Admin"? What job responsibility did you have?

Community Voice from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 4:16 PM

Someone needs to dig into this. I believe this is only surface scratching when it comes to incompetency in D97. Our tax dollars increase while the level of teacher competency decreases. Just saying.....

Community Voice from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 4:13 PM

A "bird" told me that there are shady things going on in D97. Apparently there is an HR shakeup. The ex HR manager is back after the person that replaced her missed deadlines regarding teacher dismissals and re-hires. Because of this all teachers that were to be let go this year must come back due to union contract guidelines. Furthermore as a result, some of them will be tenured on the first day of next school year. How does this happen, especially when the HR person sits by Dr. Roberts?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 3:55 PM

JPS ?" When I joined the corporate world in the 1960's, employees at all levels had "duties" and there were layers of management observing work throughout the day. When I left the corporate world in 2000, employees at all levels had "responsibilities." that were not rigorously observed weekly, much less daily. Performance was monitor by strong and clear corporate, departmental, team and individual goals. In fact, as with teachers, each employee was a practitioner, experts in their profession, working mostly unsupervised. That includes the janitor and CEO. The measure was largely evaluations, when the responsibilities were difficult to quantify. The evaluations were based on a joint discussion and agreement on the employee's responsibilities between the boss and worker. Both had to sign the agreement. That led to a detailed annual evaluation that determined performance, potential, training needs, salary, etc. That document also was signed by both parties. For most of my career, I was on both sides of the evaluation fence. I evaluated those reporting to me, and my boss evaluated me. Smart employees asked for a quarterly informal verbal evaluation on a quarterly basis. That was always agreed to. The big difference between corporations and schools is that there was no unions where I worked. Seniority was meaningless; we could be fired, retired, or bounced at any time. You could appeal but you did not have a contract supporting you or a lawyer by your side. In my original post I said that performance and potential should outweigh advanced degree. I did not say it worked in schools. Different worlds completely.


Posted: June 5th, 2013 3:43 PM

@Sarah-Bragging about your kids' teachers' advanced degrees?! What's next, comparing whose teacher has the bigger thesis? I suppose it's better than discussing the Kardashians...but not much...

JPS from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 3:00 PM

Butch: I agree in principle, but how do you measure performance and potential, especially in a school setting, where the teachers are effectively individual practitioners, experts in their profession, working mostly unsupervised?

JPS from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 2:32 PM

DeJordy: The assumption, built into the lanes model is that getting a master's degree does make you better at your job. In the education field, if you have more than just a few year's experience, you probably have a master's degree. 74% of D97's teachers have one. If you want to get rid of the "bump" for master's degrees, then be prepared to bump everyone's salary up, because in District 97, a master's is effectively mandatory, unless you're a beginning teacher.

D97 parent  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 2:30 PM

Most of my teacher friends have to get their Masters degree eventually...the pay is better, it opens up more job opportunities, the best schools require it, and it makes them look more professional and dedicated to their field. And most of them come away better at serving their students and stay connected to those resources long after they graduate.

Sarah Corbin from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 2:27 PM

One more thing. My son's preschool teacher has a Master's in Early Childhood development. I love that. I like to brag about it. My daughters 3rd grade teacher last year was completing her Master's in Reading Education. I love that. I like to brag about it. Parents like me really do care about advanced degrees.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 2:25 PM

I agree 100% with Sara that performance and potential, not degree, is the measure for advancement and salary. A master or doctorate is not a guarantee of success in any profession. I worked with some brilliant MBA's and doctors in business who had outstanding work skills. I also work with many who showed little advanced ability or knowledge as a result of advanced degrees.

Sarah Corbin from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 2:24 PM

I have a Master's Degree in Education Administration. When I worked in big box retail I made more money because of having that degree. Frankly, I think folks who have committed more time and energy, have passed a rigorous curriculum, and are continuing to learn new methods in education should be compensated. Most professionals ARE rewarded for having advanced degrees. In fact, I can't think of one field that doesn't reward for that.

JPS from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 2:18 PM

rdglnd: Look at iirc.niu.edu. It lists a lot of characteristics of characteristics of school districts all over the state, including average teacher salary. D97 doesn't actually compare that badly. Uncommon: Can you show some evidence that the education field is "known for rewarding teachers with pseudo graduate degrees from diploma mills." I, for one, do not "know" that. The state has a list of acceptable (accredited) institutions from which it will recognize a master's degree.


Posted: June 5th, 2013 2:10 PM

Most fields do not give you a salary increase simply because you pick up a master's degree. If it makes you promotable, or better at your job--maybe. But in public-school land it's simply something in the contract, and everyone gets the raise just for putting in the time to get the degree.

D97 parent  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 2:07 PM

@Sarah Yes, teachers with more education should be paid more, IMO. But aside from that, one of the main things that attracts parents to advanced degree teachers is that they have more up to date training in the field and the latest information. Esp considering performance measurement these days is so controversial and poorly done. Teachers with more Masters degrees is something that will attract families...at least it's what we're looking for when it comes to who we let teach our kids.


Posted: June 5th, 2013 1:30 PM

how do D97 teachers' salaries rank compared to other districts?

Sarah Toga  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 1:28 PM

Who says most parents would prefer a teacher with advanced degrees? You would think performance would be the preference over degree. If an art teacher has an advanced biology degree should she be compensated more?

D97 parent  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 1:06 PM

Let's not forget that most parents would prefer to have the most teachers possible with advanced degrees.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 12:50 PM

JPS. Only to a point. Private employers value quality as well. However, the individual's experienec is what matters most. You just don't get a pay bump because you got an MBA from University of Phoenix. However, as Dejordy points out, the education field is known for rewarding teachers with pseudo graduate degrees from diploma mills.

JPS from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 12:33 PM

Increased pay for a master's degree is common practice in all kinds of fields, not just education. In fact, a MEd gives one of the worst paybacks of all master's degrees (google "master's degree best paying"). I applaud D97 for attempting to improve on lanes and steps as a compensation system, but ultimately, it comes down to market conditions. If a good teacher can get paid more elsewhere, guess where they'll go?

4 Freedom  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 11:54 AM

When looking for an example model why not look for a high performing school - public or private - of similar size that has a consistantly low teaching expense cost per student? Wouldn't that give better results than looking at near random ones?


Posted: June 5th, 2013 10:47 AM

Giving a raise for getting a master's in education is a waste. Most of those degrees come from glorified diploma mills and don't improve the quality of education at the school.

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