Cincinnati approves merit pay plan for teachers


September 16, 2000

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati teachers approved a merit pay plan to make the city's public school district the first in the nation to replace a seniority system with one based on performance, union leaders said Saturday. 

Teachers in the 3,100-member Cincinnati Federation of Teachers approved the plan, 55 percent to 45 percent, in votes taken on Thursday and Friday.

Allen Odden, a University of Wisconsin professor who designed the plan, said several school districts across the country offer bonuses to teachers for good performance but Cincinnati will be the first to implement a systemwide merit-pay system. 

The new system, previously approved unanimously by the seven-member Cincinnati Board of Education, will be phased in over a five-year period in the 47,000-student enrollment district. It takes effect immediately. 

Union president Rick Beck, who strongly supported the change, said the plan will stand as an example to the rest of the country if it is administered fairly. 

He said the close union vote reflected doubt among some teachers about whether the school administration will act in their best interests, based on a long history of labor-management tensions. 

School Superintendent Steven Adamowski said the new system would have "a profound effect not only on our district, but on urban education in general." 

Every teacher in the Cincinnati system will be evaluated by principals and master teachers in 16 scoring areas at least once every five years. 

Based on their scores, they will be placed in one of five categories -- with the lowest level called "apprentice. From there, the categories move up to "novice," "career," "advanced" and "accomplished." 

The pay scale will be aligned with each teacher's evaluation category, ranging from $30,000 to $62,500. The scale will match the pay range under the existing seniority system, which will remain in effect for the next two years. 

Beck said the teachers union will vote after two years on whether to continue or reject the plan.