Duquesne school fact-finder rejects achievement as a salary measure

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A state fact-finder's report shows that Duquesne City School District teachers are being asked to agree to something no other district has: salary increases based on an improvement of 10 percentage points in student achievement.

The report by fact-finder Thomas L. Hewitt, made public Tuesday, sided with the teachers and threw out the requirement for the 10 percent achievement increase in his proposal to end the 2-year-old contract dispute.

"Salary based upon test scores is an issue which has been approached in contract negotiations statewide without any acceptance in any of the school districts in the state," the report said. Instead, Mr. Hewitt proposed a wage freeze retroactive to the 2012-13 school year along with a $900 "off-scale" bonus for all teachers, and step increases and $500 off-scale bonuses for teachers at the top of the scale for 2013-14 and 2014-15. The previous contract expired in June 2012.

The teachers unanimously accepted the report last Wednesday, the same day state-appointed receiver Paul Long rejected it. Both sides must take a second vote on the issue and it is on the agenda for a receiver's meeting called for today by Mr. Long. Teachers plan to take their second vote April 24.

According to the report, there are 35 teachers for the 369 students in grades K-6 at Duquesne Elementary School. Students in grades 7-12 attend either West Mifflin Area or East Allegheny school districts.

The report said the district, which is in financial recovery, and the receiver insisted on a compensation plan linked to a 10 percent performance increase in proficiency in reading and math scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams -- and other indicators. The report does not say what the other indicators are.

Duquesne, which is among the poorest districts in the state, has consistently had PSSA scores among the lowest in the state. Results from the 2013 PSSAs show that of students in grades 3-6, 19 percent scored proficient or advanced in math and 21 percent scored proficient or advanced in reading.

Mr. Hewitt's report said Duquesne teachers are not opposed to "an additional bonus system tied to performance" but would not accept an agreement where achievement increases are tied to their basic wage scale.

Dan Carey, regional field director for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, called the district's demand that teacher's raises be tied to achievement increases "offensive."

"To me that's sending a message that they aren't motivated enough. Those people are incredibly dedicated and everyone is putting their hearts and souls into the educational plan down there," Mr. Carey said.

He said the teachers are further offended by the fact that Mr. Long gave raises to administrators in the past year and they were not tied to achievement increases.

Under the salary scale included in the fact-finder's report, a teacher on step 1 of the contract with a bachelor's degree earned $42,319 in 2012-13. The salary for a teacher at the top of the scale, step 15, with a master's degree was $79,909 that year.

Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590.

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