The Ripon teacher compensation model was designed around three basic concepts: 1) individual annual improvement; 2) peer collaboration; 3) professional environment. As compared to the traditional step and lane salary schedule based on years of experience and graduate credits or the merit-pay system based on competitive ranking of teachers, the Ripon model is intended to build a collaborative, professional environment which supports each teacher in building his/her craft as an effective instructor. We firmly believe that five years from now our schools will be better places to work and learn than those schools where teachers are compensated by the other systems.
Let me explain why I can make that statement.
First, we focus on individual annual improvement. If we hire the right people, support them with appropriate staff development, and evaluate them with a research-based coaching model (we use the CESA 6 Teacher Effectiveness Program), then our goal is to help these teachers grow and improve each and every year. Rather than having them compete with each other, we want them to compete with themselves like a runner or swimmer trying to better his/her time with deliberate practice. If every one of our teachers is better next year than this year, and better in two years than next year, and this cycle of annual improvement continues, then our students will be receiving better instruction every year which will result in higher student achievement. Just imagine five years into the future after five continuous years of every teacher improving (or removed if performance is not up to standard). We’ll put that future against the result of any other system because they either create complacency or winners and losers in a competitive ranking.
The RASD Teacher Salary Plan was designed in the 2011-12 school year by a joint committee of Ripon teachers, administrators, and school board members. Modeled loosely on the collegiate promotion system in use at Ripon College, the driving vision was to reinforce quality instruction by fostering a culture of professionalism through peer review, accountability through a job-embedded salary structure, and continuous improvement through lifelong learning. This compensation system recognizes that there are significant differences between business and academic organizations, public and private sectors, and the development of people and products. A goal of the RASD Teacher Salary Plan is to promote a positive and collaborative learning environment in which teachers are compensated for their professionalism.
A single-lane, career ladder is used as the basis for salary advancement (see Appendix I). There are five distinct levels through which a typical teacher will pass through during a career spanning 2-3 decades of employment with the RASD. Teachers typically move from one level to the next level every six years through a promotion process based on peer review. Instead of the promotion process, the top level uses an evidence-based, professional growth model with financial incentives in the form of annual bonuses. Advancement requires collaboration, professionalism, and evidence of continuous improvement based on personal reflection and ongoing feedback from peers, administrators, students, and parents. In addition to the salary amount indicated on the salary structure, annual stipends are provided throughout a teacher’s career for advanced degrees and National Board certification.
III. Career Levels
The single-lane salary structure is based on a sequence of six-year career levels (Beginner, Intermediate, Associate, Lead) which were loosely based on collegiate levels (e.g., Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Full Professor). The final career level is the much-respected Veteran status, similar to the collegiate capstone of an endowed chair. It is very important to note that these levels are stages in a career for all teachers and are not based on proficiency or skill level. Just as the collegiate system does not equate a full professor rank with a higher teaching proficiency rating than an assistant professor rank, the RASD Salary Plan does not contain any proficiency ranking of teachers. Promotions from one career level to another are based on evidence of professional improvement in a multi-faceted review process. This is a professional advancement career ladder and not a merit-based or performance-based pay system.