Communicating a New Compensation Plan in Denver Public Schools
The Challenge. The Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association overcame a negotiations impasse by agreeing to a Pay for Performance Pilot to determine if there was a fair way to pay teachers for their students’ performance. Past failed experiments in “merit pay” and concerns about favoritism fueled skepticism. The Denver pilot was determined to be different, but how to overcome mistrust?
Solution. Research informed decision-making, including focus groups on teacher attitudes, determining the most effective messages and testing a salary calculator for usability. Components over the six year project:
- Interpersonal communication was key in overcoming resistance because teachers could raise concerns and process complex information with their peers.
- Collateral materials supported communications at critical milestones
- Bimonthly community meetings informed and engaged business and community leaders.
- Consistent communication through regular channels: district and union publications, e-newsletters and web sites kept stakeholders informed as the system developed.
- News releases and press conferences contributed to educating key audiences.
- Teachers approved ProComp by a 59 to 41 % margin
- Media coverage totaled more than 17.5 million impressions.
- Positive editorials and endorsements contributed to a successful mill levy election that will fund ProComp for 25 years.