Amphitheater school district teachers and the district governing board may finally come to an agreement on the district's new compensation plan at the Oct. 9 board meeting.
But even though an agreement is on the horizon, some teachers and board members still have problems with the specifics of the base plan the board wanted schools to use to create performance pay plans for each school.
"I still have some concerns, but they have fallen on deaf ears with the board," said Amphi Education Association member and Amphi Middle School teacher Hank Rowe.
Teachers and board members have been debating the plans for several months while other Tucson school districts have already implemented their performance pay plans.
Several Amphi teachers have confronted the board at board meetings about their concerns with the plan, saying the goals teachers would have to meet are too rigorous and unfair.
The plans, which were turned into the board Oct. 1 for examination, require schools to meet two goals in order to receive the full amount of compensation.
The first goal requires schools to improve the average of their standardized test scores. If that goal is met, teachers can receive 40 percent of the total compensation amount, which is estimated to be about $2,000, depending on revenue generated by Proposition 301, a voter approved initiative that increased Arizona's state sales tax by 0.6 percent.
But AEA President John Lewandowski said the district's high schools have a problem with the AIMS test being the evaluation measure for the first goal since the test has once again been delayed as a graduation requirement until 2006.
"Rather than relying strictly on AIMS, we're asking for Stanford 9 scores," said Bob Wendel, assistant principal at Canyon del Oro High School and the administration representative on the committee that developed the school's plan.
Wendel said the test, which students currently stop taking in ninth grade, will be administered to ninth through 12th grades beginning in the spring.
"The motivational factor (for AIMS) is going up and down," Wendel said.
Wendel also said he is confident the board will be reasonable in determining what needs to be changed.
"The district may look at it and say make adjustments here and there, but in the meantime we have to follow the plan as best we can," he said.
Amphi High School teachers will also voice their concerns about using AIMS as an evaluative tool to the board when they submit an attached letter of concern with their plan.
"It's not a high stakes test for students, but it is a high stakes test for teachers," said Peggy Woods, AEA vice president and Amphi High's science department head. "Even the state is not happy with what's going on."
Woods, who was actively involved in developing the school's plan, said every teacher would be required to spend 20 minutes per week teaching their students basic skills such as reading and math.
"Every teacher will have to incorporate the objective," Woods said. "The weekly focus will be good for all students."
Dick Beamis, a P.E. teacher at Holaway Elementary School, believes improving standardized test scores should be removed altogether from the plan since elective teachers in P.E., art and music don't teach aspects of the test like reading and writing.
"I've at least gotten copies of the Stanford 9 so I know what kids are doing," he said.
Wendel said at CDO, elective teachers are being encouraged to alter their curriculum to allow for aspects covered on the AIMS test to be covered in their classes.
"We want them to support good writing skills, like in research and thinking of different ways of doing things," he said.
The second goal of the plan, which, if met, would give teachers 60 percent of the compensation, addresses issues of school engagement, such as attendance, drop out rates, graduation rates and suspensions.
Rowe said Amphi Middle School's committee vehemently opposed setting a school engagement goal at first because they believed it was out of the teacher's control.
"If a kid turns around and punches a kid in the middle of class, that is out of our control," he said. "You can have a very positive classroom environment, but if a kid is acting up, it's outside of our control.
"I respect the category (of engagement goals)," he continued. "It is vital and important, but not as an assessment for compensation."
Rowe said the committee decided to address the issue of promotion rates in all three grades, but they did not give a specific amount of improvement they would like to see because it would only create more problems, Rowe said.
"If we haven't met our promotion goal, does that mean we automatically pass failing students?" Rowe said. "We decided just to put the word 'improve.'"
Rowe said after this year, a hard number should be established as to how much of an improvement the school would like to see.
Board member Kent Barrabee, who abstained from voting on the issues at the Sept. 11 meeting, said he plans to make a motion at the meeting to allow for principal evaluations to be the basis for the majority of the compensation.
Barrabee said he believes the current plan is demoralizing to teachers because it sends them the message that they aren't doing their best.
"It is intrinsically counterproductive to tell teachers who are trying their best that they might get a reward if they try harder," he said. "What's the message? The message is that you're not trying hard enough. It's an insult to teachers who are giving everything they can possibly give."
Barrabee said he believes once pay out time comes next November, he anticipates there will be "a lot of angry teachers" whose schools didn't meet their goals.
Board President Ken Smith said he also sees faults in the current plan, but that the board "will do the best we can," he said.
"I'm no fan of the AIMS test," he said. "But we're required by law to have some measurable means of assessment."
Smith also said he disagrees with Barrabee's suggestion about principal evaluations being used as a means for determining compensation and believes teachers would, too.
"If there's anything teachers would object to, it would be just that," he said.
Rowe agreed with Smith and said principal evaluations aren't always as objective as they should be.
"They're completely subjective," he said. "Sometimes teachers and principals just don't click, even if it's a really great teacher."
Wendel said even though he does see faults in the plan, he sees the overall intention as being beneficial to the schools.
"Everyone wants to be reasonable," he said. "The intent of the plan is to strengthen our school."
"The voters and the Legislature just want to make educators more accountable," he said.
Rowe said in talking with other teachers in the district, most schools are sticking to the plan approved by the board Sept. 11 in hopes to finally moving on and dealing with other important issues, despite their disagreements with the plan.
"We need to choose our hills to die on," he said. "We're going to move on with the business of teaching our kids. Let's do what we have to do."