Because I’m a teacher, community members have approached me about Steve Watson’s June 15 commentary “The state of Q Comp, 10 years in.” Contrary to Watson’s argument, researchers do know that Q Comp helps both teachers and students learn and grow.
For this reason, I’m thankful that the Minnesota Legislature voted not only to continue financial support for Q Comp but also to increase equity in our schools through the program in some key ways. Legislators from both parties met with and listened to teachers like me, who asked them to do two things during the 2015 session: Lift the cap on how many districts can access Q Comp and allow districts flexibility in offering bonuses to effective teachers in hard-to-staff schools.
As a teacher of students who have recently immigrated to the United States, I need to be certain that my instruction will help accelerate English learning, because there’s too much at stake to use teaching methods that aren’t proven effective. To teach well and hone my craft, I also need reliable support. That’s why I appreciate that my district created a Q Comp plan last year that has the potential to become a flexible system of evaluation, with job-embedded professional development, incentives for leadership and growth, and supports that help me improve.
As a sixth-year teacher, I have quickly learned the value of high-quality professional development and teacher leadership that Q Comp affords. This past year, my school faced a potential challenge when my principal was replaced. I was nervous about it, because transitions are often challenging, especially in high-poverty schools. But our end-of-year achievement data showed growth, and I think that teacher leadership, collaboration and professional development — provided by Q Comp — made the difference.
My personal experience with Q Comp is confirmed by the Minnesota report on Q Comp research. I could share more individual success stories, but it is important to look at Q Comp broadly, and see that it is:
• Effective: In 2013, researchers from the University of Minnesota produced a comprehensive report on the effects of Q Comp. The study showed that districts involved in the program experience the equivalent of adding a month to the school year, specifically thanks to Q Comp.
• An excellent value: The same study showed that Q Comp’s return on investment is 5 to 1. That means, compared with the average dollar spent on education, we can expect students in Q Comp districts to eventually contribute five times more back to our economy.
• Consistent: Schools see positive effects in student achievement immediately upon joining Q Comp — but even greater growth over time. Stick with Q Comp to experience results.
• Useful where it counts: Most teachers in Minnesota today are early-career teachers. Q Comp has the greatest positive effect on outcomes of students taught by teachers in the first years of their careers.
Thankfully, due to the hard work of teachers and legislators during the session, Q Comp also has the potential to do one more thing:
• Increase equity: In 2016, districts will have flexibility to allocate Q Comp funds for teachers who work in hard-to-fill positions or “hard-to-staff” school settings. “Hard-to-staff” is defined as a school with a high student poverty level, one that is geographically isolated or a school that has other targeted needs. According to the National Education Association, these schools often have a harder time maintaining stability and developing a strong organizational culture that supports learning. Funds may be used as a hiring bonus or other compensation (such as additional prep or team meeting time) for effective teachers, as defined by teacher evaluation results along with other measures chosen by the district or school. Monetary incentives coupled with site-based leadership and smooth transitions would attract a stronger teacher workforce in our schools with the highest needs.
Q Comp is not perfect, but no education policy is. I’ve learned there is no such thing as a silver bullet to improving schools. With work, Q Comp could add the equivalent of even more than one month to each young person’s school year. Instead of unnecessarily relegating it to a history of failed initiatives, we should build on its successes. We should uphold teacher recommendations about what works, continue to fund and expand access to Q Comp, and forge ahead in this beneficial landmark legislation.
Kaitlin Lindsey is a teacher in the Minneapolis Public Schools and is a teacher leader for Educators 4 Excellence.