The issues: Changes rankle some teachers

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While some Douglas County School District teachers have publicly said they embrace recently introduced district-level changes, many have expressed frustration and anger to the school board.

Statistics reflect only a 2 percentage point increase year-over-year in teacher turnover. In total, about 12 percent of the Douglas County School District's teachers left their jobs this year, according to the district. In 2011-12, that number stood at 10 percent.

Of those 413 teachers leaving the district this year, about a quarter retired; the remainder resigned.

The changes are many, and include a shift in teacher methodology, new curriculum and an increased emphasis on technology.

The greatest controversy has centered around was the district's pay-for-performance plan, introduced in the 2012-13 academic year.

District officials acknowledge their system is not yet perfect, but say its introduction was overall a success. In the long run, they say, a program designed to emphasize and reward teacher performance will benefit both teachers and students.

Based on those evaluations, teachers are assigned a rating of highly effective, effective, partially effective or ineffective — with the highest pay raises awarded to the most effective educators.

Raises are further determined by a teacher's placement on the market-based pay scale, which sets salary based on the ease of hiring for specific positions.

Many teachers said the new evaluation tool was introduced too hastily, faulting it as confusing and time-consuming. Rankings calculated against the market-based pay scale meant some highly effective teachers received minimal raises.

Statistical anomalies emerged at both ends of the scale, with a handful of schools having disproportionate numbers of teachers rated high or low.

Overall, more than 71 percent of the district's teachers fell into the “effective” category.

The 2012-13 pay-for-performance program is not the first of its kind in the district.

The Douglas County Federation of Teachers and the district together implemented a pay-for-performance plan — one of the first in the nation — in 1994.

In 2011, the district and teachers' union created a performance pay redesign committee, a joint that project ended when the relationship between the union and district fractured in mid-2012.

Senate Bill 10-191 requires new evaluations statewide, with full implementation during the 2013-14 school year.

The amount of each teacher's raise also is based on where the teaching position falls on DCSD's market-based pay scale, which sets salaries according to the ease with which the district can hire for a specific teaching assignment. For instance, a social studies or business teacher is offered a lower starting salary at DCSD than a science or Chinese language teacher.

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