Friday, September 21, 2012

Performance pay guru goes regional

Andy Baxter,  who played a lead position in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' controversial performance-pay push,  has left CMS to work for the Southern Regional Education Board.  He'll be vice president of educator effectiveness for the board,  a nonpartisan group created by Southern governors to push educational improvement in 16 Southern states.

In his 4 1/2 years with CMS,  Baxter got an up-close look at the challenges of using test scores to rate teacher effectiveness.  He was something of a human lightning rod as he went school-to-school in 2010-11,  trying to explain a system that calculated  "value added" teacher ratings.  The goal was to test all students in all subjects so that all teachers could be rated.  Then-Superintendent Peter Gorman had laid out a timetable for moving all 18,000-plus CMS employees to a performance-based pay system,  and the ratings would be a key part of teacher performance pay.

Rolling out a change in pay during the depths of a recession tends to incite skepticism,  and Baxter faced plenty of that.  The system was a work in progress,  and his  "we don't know yet"  answers were sometimes seen as evasive.  Ultimately Gorman left CMS,  the CMS tests were pushed aside and performance pay was recast as the CMS Talent Effectiveness Project.  Now the focus has shifted to the state's Ready program.

As the point person for an unpopular project,  Baxter took plenty of lumps in online comments.  But I found him to be patient,  good-natured and earnest in his belief that this kind of work will ultimately benefit kids.  The quest to find better ways to rate teacher effectiveness is sweeping the nation,  so Baxter will find plenty to delve into across the region.

The Chicago teachers strike highlighted the controversy over changing teacher evaluations.  For those of you trying to keep up with the debate,  this month alone has brought a Manhattan Institute report on using value-added ratings to identify ineffective teachers, a CALDER conversation on test-based measures of teacher effectiveness and a report on how various states are handling performance evaluation from the Center on Reinventing Public Education.


Anonymous said...

Great another over paid Pete lackey leaving. Save his salary as no replacement is needed. Use it to pay the relocation costs of Heath's pals he brought in from around the country. This guy provided 0 value since PFP has long been a after thought.

Anonymous said...

Never has one been paid so much to deliver so little that affected so many. In a nutshell...

I don't know.

BolynMcClung said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BolynMcClung said...


What was interesting about that "we don't know yet" statement was that the way he presented the CMS data it was very easy to follow. Everyone was too quickly an expert; when in fact no one was, including CMS. I still remember him standing in front of a very blank screen and saying, "Right now we have only one data point."

I will forever be indebted to Andy for the clarity of his presentations.

The data driven model for teacher assessments is going to be with us for a long-time(at least 15 years is the length of education experiments). You may not like what you heard from Andy but you can dang well be sure he made you a more knowledgeable listener on this very controversial subject.

Bolyn McClung

September 21, 2012 10:43 AM

Anonymous said...

Bolyn , What was the true value of his service to CMS since PFP is not in play nor was it ever? That really is the question. Similar to what is the cost of my plane ticket if I am at the airport? I would know that answer. Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

While I'm sure Andy was a nice person, he received more from CMS and the public than they received from him...he was able to get his advanced degrees at public expense while on the public payroll. His role in the morale destruction and prevaricating Gorrman reign of CMS was unfortunate. The focus was to shift the issues of public education away from the practices of administration and turn the ire of failure away from those in charge toward those who are following their directions educating children. I only wish the public would get involved in what is actually happening in schools...students being passed by administrators to "get them out of here" That is not the fault of teachers. Parents who are not engaged and sent I'll prepared kids to schools for teachers to correct what they could not. Teachers don't do quality control on entry students yet they are expected to make silk purses out of all with little or no input or help from home. It is easier to blame teachers for their reproductive shortcomings. Discipline issues go unaddressed. Homework and study at home are not required or encouraged...hire someone to analyze the work accomplished in the classroom and not uncover the real problem. Pay someone more than they are worth to analyze...don't pay those doing the real work anywhere near a decent wage to struggle to educate the children that represent the future.

Anonymous said...

11:52 - Thats the best summary of the "Gorman Years in CMS" I have ever heard. Simply its spot on and completely accurate with the Andy history. Thank you for the input and analysis as it is important for folks to know what happens behind closed doors of CMS. We coddle "Andy" yet pay a teacher $36,000 for hard work. Why is teacher morale low?? Goomer really you want that answer.

Anonymous said...

Bolyn, Andy is gone; please remove your lips from his hinterlands.

His presentations were clear because they contained nothing. Simple explanation for value added made it look wonderful. Reality was VAM was far far FAR from perfect.

His true value would have been in his explanation of the VAM system and how it would be implemented. His "I don't know" answers were frustrating to say the least.

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher. I worked with Andy on the VAM team. Andy led with openness and objectivity. He was never condescending. He was always open to criticism. Thanks to Andy, pay for performance was not shoved down our throats.

Good luck Andy. I hope your new bosses will help you search for the real answers and not just the fashionable solutions.

Anonymous said...

Too bad Pete tried to shove it down everyone else's (remember HB546 and HB966?)

Anonymous said...

Bad guy, not really. Andy was a tool for Gorman and will be a tool for the southern governors. In the end teachers will loose.

Who in their right mind would want to be a teachers in this environment? Everyone is an expert, yet none of them want to address what the real issue is. The problem isn't bad teachers. We have a problem in America in teaching the poor. We always have.

I watched it today, as I watch it everyday. A young minority man, who has not cared about his academic success in years, walking away from a teacher who simply wanted him to sit and do his work. He cursed at her and told her to "shut the F up." Did you get told that today?

Anonymous said...

All of those people studying "teachers" and such... Why don't they get in a classroom? Where are the studies on how to increase parent involvement with their own kids? Where are the studies on the issues that are truly impacting student achievement? Until you have been in a classroom--you should just shut the front door.

Bill Stevens said...

"We have a problem in America in teaching the poor."

I am sorry but I disagree with you. We do teach many of the poor very successfully. As WC has stated before, over 200 blacks graduated from West Charlotte HS last year. 172 did not. Has anyone done the proper analysis to give us some insight into this reason? No, politicans and urban leaders just keeping bantering the tired old phrases. It is nothing more than giving the politicans the permission to confiscate the hard earned money of responsible citizens to make up for the irresponsible citizens.

Jeff Wise said...

In less than 10 years pay for performance and all the value-add models will be yesterday's news. If we're lucky it'll be no more than 5 years.

Current educational reform has become a staple of both political parties and when the economy picks up, they'll lose interest and VAM will disappear.

At some point we'll see there are more appropriate ways to figure out how to properly compensate teachers and kick out the underperforming ones. Even then teachers - especially North Carolina teachers - will continue to be underpaid.

Even with all the studies Ann highlighted, there is still no conclusive evidence that shows - without a doubt - that value-adds and high-stakes testing and lots of data analysis can reliably identify a great teacher from a good teacher.

Wiley Coyote said...


How much per year do you think the average teacher pay should be in NC?

Anonymous said...

Jeff, don't make that your slogan for the next school board election. "Schools can't improve. Nothing ever works. Stop measuring performance and just pay more."

Anonymous said...

CLARITY ????????

Andy Baxter was about as clear as mud. I sat for almost an hour to hear him say "I dont know to 80% of the questions asked.Nice guy? Most crooks and confidence men are nice guys.The heck with him. He has fleeced the teachers and taxpayers of this county long enough.

Anonymous said...

He was paid over $30,000 per word.

Anonymous said...

I'll never forget his bumbling no answer to an terrific math teacher with three years of 100% pass rate on the Algebra I EOG faced with a statistical substandard rating. "I don't know." CMS could never explain this doofusness and now the Peter Principle takes this to a regional level. The current regime appears to be on the same spending binge as his predecessor for bogus data. The truly depressing part is CMS is filled with many resume fillers on their way somewhere else to replicate the same scam. You can't make this stuff up no matter how nice you are.

Anonymous said...

ADH. Call Latarza and ask her about the new CMS Door to Door process that Dr. Morrison is rolling out on Monday. Talk about a public relations "see what I am doing" ploy that is going to have zero impact.

Anonymous said...

What did he produce for the salary of over 3 first year teachers?

Nothing that I can see.

Classrooms with 40+ students taught by a professional asked to produce results for $35,000.

What did this guy produce for $350,000 over the last 4 years.

This is what is WRONG with CMeS!

Great teachers will not stand for this any longer.

Anonymous said...

The morale issue is not going to be changed until CMS downtowners get serious about it. Its funny that all we hear is money is tight from the BOE. Then another one of the six figure guys up and leaves folks say what was he doing? Oh nothing thats why we let him leave. Its the waste that compounds the low morale over/over again.

Anonymous said...


There isn't an employee of CMeS that would not laugh in your face on this one. Morale will continue to be a problem when you have monkeys and clowns running this circus.

Anonymous said...

Andy Baxters Pay for Performance:

PAY: $360,000

Performance: 0

Another great job by the Broad Prize winner.

Jeff Wise said...

Anonymous 11:16p, no need to worry about any future election slogans.

At the same time there's plenty that works in public schools - basing teacher pay on VAM and testing just happens to not be one of them.

A number of school systems utilize rigorous peer review systems that treat the teachers fairly and stand up well to research analysis - the San Diego school system is one example of that.

Schools can easily improve once they de-emphasize the measuring by testing focus. If the goal of primary school is to prepare students to be successful adults, there's a lot of change needed.

Wiley - how about this crazy idea...let every principal submit a number for total salary needs for their school. They have to defend the number to a committee of knowledge someones.

The committee decides the final salary pool number for each school. The principal then decides what each teacher makes for the next year based on the money available in that pool.

Give the principals and their administrations more flexibility in dealing with their faculty and I'm willing to bet we'll ultimately see better performing schools.

Wiley Coyote said...


Who decides what size the pool of money is?

What do the individual pools of money add up to for all of the schools within CMS?

Again, after accounting for all of those pools of money and what these principals decide each teacher should receive, what is the average teacher salary?

Also, you are still attaching money to performance and saying schools are not performing due to teachers not making X amount of dollars.

Schools aren't performing because government refuses to require students and parents to perform.

Jeff Wise said...


We already know what the overall salary pool is currently based off CMS' budget, we can break that down per school to get the baseline salary pool.

Let me step back a second and flesh this out more...

The idea is similar to what ASC used to do with the arts organizations it supports:

Each organization submits a proposal for their Board Operating Grant and then presents in front of a panel. The panel ranks the organization in various categories as it pertains to their overall mission.

From there, ASC determined which organizations got their full ask and which got a percentage of the ask.

So no, I'm not attaching the salary pool to school performance based on testing, but that's not necessarily up to me to decide. It's up to each school to figure out how to state their case effectively.

As for average salary, well, under this crazy idea, it would vary with each school.

As for what my personal opinion is on average salary that's really neither here nor there in all of this, but then I did say teachers are underpaid in general. I'll go out on a limb and say we could raise teacher salaries 25%.

Yet, with this crazy idea, I'm thinking average salaries would not dramatically increase in the short term. My thinking is giving each school the ability to set salaries we would see more outliers and we would probably have 2-4 years of higher than average turnover of teachers.

Once we get past that though, I believe we would see an overall performance lift at all schools as they start getting the right mix of staff to match the school's needs.

Regarding government requiring students and parents to perform, that's a discussion for another day.

Anonymous said...

They are getting ready to do a similar thing in Wake county by testing every subject. I would be fine with that if all the tests on each subject were the same.The problem is that one version of the test will be significantly more difficult than another version. That is not the way to do a tests to measure teacher effectiveness. If you want a true measure make multiple versions of the same test where the questions are the same but the answers and order of the questions are different. It really is that simple but I am sure the MSL testing program will be nothing like that and will be a flaming dumpster fire like the rest of the state created tests.

Anonymous said...

So in regards to testing , the new system maybe worse than the last. The new system of testing is altered mid stream if a child cannot answer the questions. It dummies down the test completely. It will reach a max level the child can handle , but it will not push a child the way that's needed. It takes the teacher out of the equation with a computer. How in the world can CMS tie pay to performance? Thats a step back for the quality of education product.

Anonymous said...

Flaming Dumpster Fire. What an amazing description of what we've done for the last forty years. Unfortunately, for thirty years it went in the landfill and in recycling for the last ten. Never had the pleasure of seeing a Bradbury like flame job though.

Anonymous said...

CMeS =

Maximum Risk

Few to any Rewards

Morale = Are you serious with your question?

Anonymous said...

In two years everyone will be comparing Morrison to Don Knotts.

Anonymous said...

could be worse Morrison could be compared to Pete Gorman.

Anonymous said...

Is simply "graduating" from a school considered "success" in education?

If that's the case, then let's just move graduation to the eighth grade and be done with it.

Anonymous said...

Agree that must have been why they moved the bell schedule to 9:15 for middle school to prepare them for working McDonalds drive thru !!

Anonymous said...

A nearby school system is proclaiming success - they went from 61% to 88% graduation rate. They also lowered the required credits from 28 to 21.
Another option is hire the recently disgraced AAS professor from UNC. He knows how to graduate everyone.
Listen people - this is not a game. We "graduate" students now who cannot read. Cut out all th BS, political correctness, etc and start educating kids so our country can regain its competiveness.

teacher performance said...

Good post.

Anonymous said...

There are over 20 machinist jobs in Mecklenburg areas begging for people who can read and do basic math. Why are they not able to find qualified people to fill those jobs?

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