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" Don't put a carrot on a stick in front of me"

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Title:
" Don't put a carrot on a stick in front of me" incentive pay and the deskilling of teachers' work in a neoliberal era
Creator:
Jordan, Sarah R. ( author )
Place of Publication:
Denver, Colo.
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University of Colorado Denver
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English
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1 electronic file (65 pages) : ;

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Master's ( Master of arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Sociology, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Sociology

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Subjects / Keywords:
Pay-for-knowledge systems -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Pay-for-knowledge systems ( fast )
Colorado -- Denver ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Increasingly, public school teachers are subject to evaluations that are often used to structure their compensation. These programs claim to increase teacher quality and retention. Denver Public Schools (DPS) has led the nation in adopting an aggressive "pay-for-performance" system. Ten years in, Denver shows high teacher turnover with only roughly half of teachers continuing in the district past their first three years. Yet little is understood about how teachers who remain in schools under these merit-based pay systems experience changes to their worker identity and manage decisions about long-term career investment. Drawing on qualitative data collected from in-depth, semi-structured interviews with veteran public school elementary teachers, this study examines the experiences of public school elementary educators who worked in DPS before and after the implementation of pay-for-performance compensation and identifies some of the unintended consequences of a merit pay model that requires ongoing evaluation by superiors. Specifically, I examine how challenges to teacher worker identities as veterans and experts under an incentive pay policy contribute to an ongoing deskilling and devaluation of teachers' work.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
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System requirements: Adobe Reader.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Sara R. Jordan.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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on10124 ( NOTIS )
1012401114 ( OCLC )
on1012401114
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LD1193.L66 2017m J67 ( lcc )

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Full Text
DONT PUT A CARROT ON A STICK IN FRONT OF ME:
INCENTIVE PAY AND THE DESKILLING OF TEACHERS WORK
IN A NEOLIBERAL ERA by
SARAH R. JORDAN B.S., Pennsylvania State University, 2015
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Sociology Program
2017


2017
SARAH R. JORDAN
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Sarah R. Jordan has been approved for the Sociology Program by
Jennifer A. Reich, Chair Keith Guzik Edelina Burciaga
Date___________May 13, 2017
111


Jordan, Sarah R. (M. A., Sociology Program)
Dont Put a Carrot on a Stick in Front of Me: Incentive Pay and the Deskilling of Teachers Work in a Neoliberal Era.
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Jennifer A. Reich.
ABSTRACT
Increasingly, public school teachers are subject to evaluations that are often used to structure their compensation. These programs claim to increase teacher quality and retention. Denver Public Schools (DPS) has led the nation in adopting an aggressive pay-for-performance system. Ten years in, Denver shows high teacher turnover with only roughly half of teachers continuing in the district past their first three years. Yet little is understood about how teachers who remain in schools under these merit-based pay systems experience changes to their worker identity and manage decisions about long-term career investment. Drawing on qualitative data collected from in-depth, semi-structured interviews with veteran public school elementary teachers, this study examines the experiences of public school elementary educators who worked in DPS before and after the implementation of pay-for-performance compensation and identifies some of the unintended consequences of a merit pay model that requires ongoing evaluation by superiors. Specifically, I examine how challenges to teacher worker identities as veterans and experts under an incentive pay policy contribute to an ongoing deskilling and devaluation of teachers work.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Jennifer A. Reich
IV


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION..................................................... 1
National Education Policy Contexts and Changes to Teachers Work..2
Denver as a National Leader.......................................5
The ProComp Pay Policy and LEAP Evaluations Framework.............8
II. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE........................................ 12
Merit Pay for Teachers.......................................... 12
Teacher Work Identities..........................................15
Bureaucracy in Schools...........................................17
III. METHODS..........................................................20
Sampling.........................................................20
Interviews and Observations......................................23
IV. FINDINGS.........................................................29
Challenges to Expert Identities..................................29
Mechanizing Expertise....................................... 30
Failing to Acknowledge Innate Motivators in Unnecessary Practices... 34
Devaluing Experience.............................................37
Pay Plateaus and the Penalty of Experience...................37
Devaluing Age................................................40
Failing to Compensate Care Work and Alternative Capital..........43
Devaluing Foundational Work with Lower Grade Levels..........45
Devaluing Culturally Relevant Skills.........................47
v


V. CONCLUSION...................................... 51
REFERENCES.............................................54
vi


LIST OF TABLES
TABLE
1. Profile of Interviewees
25


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
Teaching as a profession has undergone major shifts over the past few decades, in the wake of national education reform efforts. In more recent years, reflecting the patterns of neoliberal ideology that promote choice and competition, education policies and initiatives like No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core standards (implemented under both the Bush and Obama administrations) have tied school funding to teacher performance. This evaluative framework exposes an achievement gap that has actually worsened since some of the earliest efforts to desegregate schooling and rectify educational disparities (1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act). Policies like the aforementioned ones promote competition between traditional public schools and their privatized counterparts (charter schools) as an instrument of change, treat performance as measured from student testing data as the best measure of progress, and place high accountability practices on schools for inequalities that extend beyond the classroom. All of these assumptions about educational inequality and quality teaching have translated into shifts in teacher identities and the deskilling of the profession as a whole. While historically, teaching has commanded a relatively high amount of deference, this research points to the ways in which one incentive pay policy in Denver Public Schools (DPS) highlights emerging workforce challenges for teachers.
This research is situated in an education policy context that is host to much debate about the extensive use of testing and goals of meeting educational standards as a measure of deservedness for school funding (largely federal funding), as well as the implications for teacher career choices. This study goes beyond these educational policy
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questions to consider the experiences of teachers as workers, also constrained and challenged by an increasing trend of binding teacher earnings to student performance through the use of policies like incentive pay for teachers. These next sections frame the evolution of education policy over recent decades at both a national level and a local level, and explore how historical connotations of teaching as a profession have changed and evolved in places like Denver, a city that is a national forefront for education reform. This study ultimately contributes to the existing knowledge on unintended consequences of accountability policies in schools, and the experiences of being a teacher under increased evaluation and scrutiny. More broadly, this research contributes to sociological knowledge of teachers as public employees in a neoliberal era.
National Education Policy Contexts and Changes to Teachers Work On January 7, 2017, the Washington Post published an article about Sara Holbrook, a poet who conveyed with disbelief her inability to answer questions on a Texas standardized test for eighth graders about her own work. Holbrook described the questions as poorly conceived and misleading. She suggested this reflected the problems with for-profit testing companies, like Pearson and McGraw Hill, being charged with writing these exams. This serves as only one of the many incredulous accounts from parents, teachers, community members and others about the dismays of increasing standardized testing and standardized curricula. Others point to the losses in music, arts, and other enrichment programs that have been crowded out in favor of a need to teach to the test, which focuses most heavily on test-taking skills so that schools may continue to meet their annual progress requirements. Federal policies like No Child Left Behind (which aims to close the achievement gap through setting high national school
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achievement standards) and Race to the Top (which utilizes federal funding incentives to encourage schools to compete for top student test scores) have necessitated a competition-driven schooling system, where schools are competing with each other for funding and student enrollment (Barrett 2009; Onosko 2011).
Neoliberalism is an economic set of ideas that has gained status in recent decades as the U.S. moves to a more laissez-faire representation of economics, which emphasizes free-market competition. Through the growing privatization of the public sector, neoliberal ideals aim to increase the presence of the private sector in economic competition. Neoliberal values tend to include free trade, deregulation, privatization, and competition (Codd 2005; Ilcan 2009; Rose 1999). In the education sphere, this has largely translated to a privatization of schooling options in districts around the country. In some places, this manifests through the growth of charter schools, which are privatized schools that utilize public vouchers for students to subsidize tuition at a charter in place of tuition at a public traditional school. Typically charter schools are not subject to the same regulation as traditional public schools, and many operate under larger corporate influence, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Cany on-Agassi Charter School Fund (founded by professional tennis player Andre Agassi). Ultimately, the growing charter start-up movement and choice initiatives draw families out of neighborhood schools, which often face shut-downs due to low enrollment numbers, and place profits into the hands of investors and business shareholders that are enmeshed within charter organizations, like stock investors and real estate developers (Brown 2016; Rawls 2015; Singer 2014). Perhaps most importantly, much research points to a failure of
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charter schools to remedy poor student achievement any more than public schools (Carruthers 2012; Good 2009; Lubienski 2013; Strauss 2014; Trunk 2015).
As more families opt to leave poor performing, under-funded public schools in favor of newer charter or publicly subsidized private schools, struggling schools have had to resort to more competitive means of attracting families and remaining open. The result has been aggressive efforts to chase funding through federal and local programs that increase pressure on school performance. Some of these efforts include initiatives like No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top (which dangled federal funding in front of schools that performed best on standardized tests), and Turnaround Schools (which placed new sanctions on poor performing schools, like closures and charter takeovers). These programs force schools that are already struggling to chase high test scores as a means to keep their doors open in the face of an increasing willingness to privatize the public education system.
For teachers, this has meant a major change in the work they do and the assumptions they face about their work. In the face of pressures to meet state testing requirements, some scholars suggest teachers are now merely disempowered technicians, stuck within the bureaucracy of education where administrators, supervisors, and even state legislative actors sit atop a system of top-down policymaking, forcing teachers to carry out meaningless tasks in the name of student achievement (like teaching to the test) (Giroux 2013; Goldstein & Beutel 2009). As I will show, this has given rise to new challenges to the worker identity of teachers as their work is continually deskilled and devalued into the work of meager disempowered technicians.
4


Teaching as a profession has been deskilled through the growing use of incentive pay for teachers (or merit pay, used interchangeably here). Also described as pay-for-performance models, merit pay systems for teachers often base teacher earnings on student performance, and consist of incentives to motivate teachers to complete extra work for cash bonuses. Incentive pay models typically subject teachers to evaluations that are used to structure their compensation, placing student performance as a top barometer for teacher merit and earnings (Belfield & Heywood 2008; Gius 2013). While these programs are quick to claim high success rates in closing student achievement gaps and garnering favorability among teachers, this research points to how one merit pay policy in Denver, ProComp, reflects current neoliberal undertones of competition and performance-based policies, and in turn works to essentially harm the identities of teachers as professionals. The next section explains how the state of Colorado and city of Denver serve as a particularly interesting field site in examining the consequences of merit pay.
Denver as a National Leader
Funding public services in the state of Colorado looks fundamentally different than funding public services in other states, as Colorados school funding is beholden to the TABOR state law, a Taxpayer Bill of Rights Law that limits funding and mandates rebates from extra state income. Under TABOR, the state may only increase its annual spending up to an amount that equals the sum of the inflation rate plus the percent change in the state population for that year. TABOR fails to account for other changes in state populations and non-inflation related costs (for example, populations requiring the most amount of public services, like children and seniors, often experience more rapid growth
5


than the state population as a whole). This ultimately creates a constrained process for the allocation of public service funds in Colorado, as any cost-exceeding needs that emerge, beyond what TABOR allows, have to be settled by reorganizing funds within the budget (i.e. taking funds from other sources), rather than increasing an overall budget amount. Education often becomes the brunt of the reductions and reallocations in budget funds, as Colorado has shown sizeable plummets in K-12 spending since the passing of TABOR in 1992 (Colorado School Finance Project).
In addition to constrained spending, Colorado also passed Senate Bill 10-191 in 2013, which changed the way educators are evaluated in the state. The change was twofold: new Quality Standards now quantify what it means to be an effective teacher, and new teachers now only become permanent and earn non-probationary status as an effective teacher after multiple years of effective evaluations. The law leaves it to individual districts to decide how to implement new teacher evaluation systems, which Denver Public Schools has taken advantage of in its new teacher evaluation system, LEAP, a newer component of ProComp. Denver has shown a prominent track record in education reform, beyond just recent efforts like teacher pay and evaluation reforms.
Denver has indeed proven to be an interesting laboratory, or proverbial ground zero for education policy. In my informal discussion with sociologist Hava Gordon, who researches school reform and is herself a parent to Denver Public Schools students, she remarked to me that many in the community consider the Denver Public Schools District (DPS) to be so broken, theres nothing to lose by trying to fix it. Indeed, Denver has seen a variety of efforts over the years to bring the newest and greatest reform efforts to the heavily diverse, urban district, ranging from multi-million dollar grants and
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investments in charter schools from sources like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to the newest School Performance Framework program, which is essentially an annual report card released on each school in the DPS district that becomes publicly available. These efforts have placed Denver at the top of the list of highly regarded school choice efforts, and have drawn praise from representatives like Colorado Senator (and ex-DPS Superintendent) Michael Bennett, who recently defended the unique success of Denvers choice program in the confirmation hearings for newly appointed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, urging her to pay a visit to Denver, where school choice is different (Asmar 2016; Gorski 2017; Williamson 2017).
The Denver Public Schools district is the largest district in Colorado, with 92,331 students enrolled as of October 2016. In the 2016-17 school year, about 67% of enrolled students in the district qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch, indicating that two-thirds of children come from low-income families. Denver also has a high percentage of Hispanic and Spanish Speaking students, with 55% of the student body identifying as Hispanic, 23% identifying as white, and 13% identifying as black. 37% of students classify as English Language Learners (ELL), and roughly the same percentage report being Spanish-Speaking (ELL or not, indicating a large proportion of bilingual students). Some of the other top languages spoken by DPS students include Vietnamese, Arabic, and Amharic. The district-wide graduation rate is currently 65%, with roughly 5% of students dropping out in any given year (Denver Public Schools: Facts & Figures).
Rates of staff turnover in DPS are high, with a total turnover rate of 28% across all staff/faculty in the district between the 2015-2016 school year and 2016-2017 school year (compared to a national turnover rate of roughly 16-18% for all schools nationwide).
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Teacher turnover rates alone are 22%, and principal turnover rates are similar at 23% (Colorado Department of Education). Some of the most popularly cited reasons for exiting the profession include burnout from a lack of resources and emphasis on testtaking skills, insufficient salaries, and even political climate within schools or within work networks of teachers (Schimke 2017; Westervelt 2016). This has resulted in a critical teacher shortage in the state, which in turn has increased support for alternative licensing programs that teachers can complete in order to bridge their non-teaching experience with a teaching position. 25% of teaching credentials distributed in 2016 in the state of Colorado were attained through alternative licensing programs, such as the Boettcher Teacher Residency program, which recruits professionals or those already with a bachelors degree for a year-long training that prepares them to teach (Perkins 2017). The result is a further deskilling and de-professionalizing of teaching as an occupation, as traditionally trained and certified teachers who leave are being replaced with those who do not have equivalent qualifications (one-year training certification programs for new teachers versus specialized, two-year Masters degrees for more seasoned teachers).
These high rates of staff turnover speak to the characteristics and needs of the district, which serves a largely disadvantaged and diverse urban population, with difficulty retaining teachers and administrators.
The ProComp Pay Policy and LEAP Evaluations Framework Denver Public Schools became a national leader on the front of teacher pay when the district implemented the Professional Compensation System for Teachers (ProComp) in 2006, a merit pay salary model designed around incentives and bonuses for teachers. One of the earliest examples of a school district tackling teacher
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compensation using a merit pay schema, ProComp was designed in collaboration between the district administration and the teachers union, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA). In 2004, a Joint Task Force on Teacher Compensation was formed between the two groups and a voter initiative was created that asked Denver taxpayers to approve a $25 million mill levy that would fund ProComp. The measure passed with 58% of voters in favor. Thereafter, teachers and specialized service providers (SSPs, including counselors, social workers, nurses, etc.) in traditional public schools in DPS (charters are exempt) hired on or after January 1, 2006 were automatically enrolled into one of ProComps seven salary lanes, while employees employed before that date had the choice to opt-in to the ProComp pay model or continue with a fixed-salary model.
ProComp was implemented using not just a strictly pay-for-performance model, but with attributes that would signify an ongoing collaborative endeavor between teachers and district representatives. Components of the original ProComp plan included items like measuring student growth via mutually agreed-upon objectives set by both principals and teachers, and conducting teacher evaluations based on five revised standards and a body of student work (not just test scores singularly) (Ravitch 2013) (Denver Public Schools: ProComp Handbook). While the original blueprints for ProComp included collaborative objectives, in practice, the structure of the pay model ten years later appears to lack methods of teacher evaluation that would emphasize collaborative endeavors between teachers and school leadership. Instead, the way incentives are designed and achieved is based in a bureaucratic and top-down structure of holding teachers accountable for student performance, with incentives often lying within measures that are not as easily demonstrated with just good teaching.
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Teacher salaries are initially calculated by a base pay level, which is a reflection of a teachers level of education and years of experience. These base pay levels are divided into seven different lanes, or tiers of annual earnings. Teachers then have the option to increase that annual salary level by earning additional academic degrees (Masters, doctorates, or extra credit hours) or certifications. In addition to these baseline pay level increases that teachers can achieve, ProComp is set up such that teachers can also earn compensation for completing extra incentive items set forth by DPS in a neatly tiered, quantifiable rubric. These incentives mainly take the form of one-time or monthly bonuses, and include items like teaching in a hard-to-serve school (typically a low-income, low-performing school), or achieving the status of a high growth or high achievement school, contingent on the improvement of student performance during the year. Incentives can also be earned by completing items like PDUs, or Professional Development Units, which serve as instructional content created by teachers for other teachers. Most central to the purposes of this study, however, is the linking of incentive bonuses to the job evaluations teachers experience throughout the year.
In 2013, DPS implemented an additional new system of teacher evaluations following ProComp, which serves as an instrument for teachers to earn incentive bonuses through. As a response to an invitation put forth by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to compete for a $10 million grant to develop a new teacher evaluation system in 2009, DPS developed LEAP evaluations, or Leading Effective Academic Practice. Building on previous experiences involving the teachers union (DCTA) in the design of ProComp, LEAP evaluations were also piloted by teachers in the years prior to its official passing in 2013. LEAP evaluations measure four different areas of teacher effectiveness:
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observations of classroom instruction, professionalism ratings on the contributions of the teacher outside of the classroom, student perception surveys which collect student feedback, and student growth data which includes student test score for both the classroom and the school levels. Teachers evaluated under LEAP (those in traditional DPS public schools; charters do not participate in LEAP) are observed by a combination of both administrator evaluators (principals) and peer evaluators (other teachers), and receive numerical ratings on a one to seven scale that indicates their level of teaching effectiveness, with one being ineffective and seven being distinguished. LEAP evaluations provide a series of 19 different indicators that evaluators look for during observations, each of which gets assigned a one through seven score (Denver Public Schools: LEAP Handbook). LEAP demonstrates a significant change happening to teacher professionalism, as the use of numbered scaling to quantify effective teaching is a departure from the more traditional teacher evaluations that typically avoided numerical ratings in favor of qualitative, holistic examination.
While the original language of ProComp and LEAP policies was tailored to ideas of collaborative endeavors for education reform between teachers and administrators, it is important to question how these ideas have held up over the decade following their implementation. Next I present a synthesis of the existing literature on teacher work identities and bureaucratic policies in the neoliberal era, so that I may frame the contributions of this research in offering new explanations for the career investment decisions teachers make when faced with particularly adverse policy structures and working conditions.
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CHAPTER II
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Previous research completed on the unintended consequences of merit pay for teachers points to several issues that emerge when a pay-for-performance system is introduced to schools. Most of this literature has examined the impact of high accountability policies like merit pay for teachers through their experiences in the classroom, by analyzing issues with instruction or student-based outcomes, for example. Little research has been done on the impacts of policies like incentive pay on teacher work identities outside of the classroom, through looking at the experiences of teachers as workers (with their pay/earnings and peer networks for example, a non-classroom based aspect of their work) and as public employees in a privatizing neoliberal era. As teachers face increasingly difficult demands to meet high performance standards, often with the insecurity of personal earnings being tied to those metrics, some literature suggests a threat to worker identities that emerges from these bureaucratic constraints.
Merit Pay for Teachers
Merit pay for public school teachers represents a major shift in the conceptions of teaching and teachers. Historically, teacher pay has incorporated gradual steps and salary increases over time to reward seniority, and has offered generous pensions. Interestingly, teacher pensions were established after the Civil War, as a way of rewarding and acknowledging female educators sacrifices and service in the public sector (Leroux
2009). Merit pay offers a significant departure from this notion, as pay-for-performance and incentives work to motivate teachers, conveying a message that they dont work hard
12


enough, while pensions have historically worked to reward teachers for the many years of hard work and service they provide.
In more current times, teachers have had to adjust their teaching strategies in response to accountability-based policies that emphasize markers like test scores and student growth measures. Jennings & Sohn (2014) introduce two consequences of pay-for-performance policies that harm student achievement, including instructional triage, or teaching to the test, where material that receives the most instruction and emphasis is strictly related to test material and test-taking strategies, as well as educational triage, which results in teachers giving the most assistance or attention to the students who are closest to proficiency levels, in an effort to meet strict standardized testing score expectations. This finding is troubling because the achievement gap has been shown to work against students of color and students in low-income, low-performing schools. Teachers who teach in these types of schools often face issues like time constraints in trying to catch up students who perform behind standardized expectations, larger populations of English-Language Learner students, and extenuating circumstances that make it hard for students to achieve at the expected level (more kids requiring meals at school and free or reduced lunches, fewer school and classroom resources, larger class sizes, etc.) (Bali & Alvarez 2003; Moller 2006). These altered teaching strategies illustrate the impact of teacher responses to accountability policies, and the ways in which these responses may unintentionally work to stratify student achievement even further. This is an especially relevant point in thinking about the focus on Denver Public Schools for this research, a district that already faces many of the issues listed above like
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high populations of English Language Learner students and a sizeable low-income student population.
Research on pay-for-performance policies also suggests that studies of teacher experiences under accountability policies should consider the peer communities that teachers are embedded in. Some literature points to the fact that while a merit pay model may increase compensation, it may also involve negative comparisons and the generation of peer pressure amongst teacher colleagues (Belfield & Heywood 2008; Leigh 2012; Steele 2010). The importance of strong teacher communities is supported by research proving the importance of professional communities to teaching strategies and teacher satisfaction, as well as student achievement; a stronger professional community is more effective at reducing racial and socioeconomic gaps in student achievement (Cobum et al. 2013; Moller et al. 2013; Stearns et al. 2014). This frames the goals of this research to further investigate claims on teacher peer communities in elementary schools. Given the importance of teacher networks, it is especially pertinent to examine how the constraints of incentive pay policies like ProComp work to either enhance or diminish the crossgrade level connections that form in the elementary grades (where upper grades participate in more standardized testing than lower grade levels).
Interestingly, there are mixed opinions amongst educators on the value of merit pay policies. Some research suggests that teachers may actually experience higher job satisfaction overall under merit pay models, as they report feeling rewarded and recognized for their hard work (Gius 2013). Other findings point to differences in attitudes of merit pay recipients by age or experience: often the younger and more novice teachers lean in favor of merit pay, as opposed to their older and more experienced
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counterparts. Additionally, there are differences in likelihood of supporting merit pay policies for teachers by race and gender: Leigh (2012) finds that male teachers are more likely to champion merit pay policies than female educators, as are racial minority teachers, as opposed to their white peers. This presents an opportunity to examine how well the worker identities of teachers are represented, recognized, and rewarded under high accountability policies like merit pay. While there have been several research studies previously completed on Denvers ProComp, these studies have been mainly piloted by policy research institutes or scholars of education, and have primarily measured student outcomes since the passing of ProComp (with mixed results) and how to improve the operations of its framework (how to clarify incentives for teachers, for example) (Atteberry et al. 2015; DeGrow 2007; Goldhaber & Walch 2012; Wiley et al.
2010). This leaves a gap in the knowledge of teachers experiences and decisions under ProComp, as much data point to the outcome-based effects of ProComp, without much explanation as to how teachers experience working under the policy or what gives rise to these outcomes in student achievement and teachers long term career investment decisions.
Teacher Work Identities
Teaching is a particularly interesting public service profession to consider in the context of neoliberal policies that emphasize privatization of the public sector, as the attitudes and perceptions of teaching as an occupation have undergone major shifts, towards an increasing tendency to allocate blame and accountability for poor student achievement unto teachers. This presents a challenge to the identities that many teachers describe feeling as early childhood educators, which often revolve around a sense of
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mission or altruism in their desire to work in that role. Also important to note are the experiences of veteran teachers, or experienced educators.
Teaching has historically been a highly feminized profession, mainly taken up by females, especially within the elementary grade levels. While teaching has remained a feminized profession, there exists still a gendered line that separates the work of administrators and other school officials, positions that are largely occupied by men (Drudy 2008; Moreau et al. 2007; Sager 2007). Many teachers report feelings of altruism, a sense of mission, and a strong desire to work in public service and make a difference as their reasons for becoming a teacher. Because of these shared fundamental values that exist across so many educators, teachers have largely come to be expected to hold a natural, innate maternal benevolence, with a deep sense of caring (Collay 2010; Evans 1993; Thomson & Kehily 2011). This is often disconnected from perceptions of teachers as workers, and their own experiences and identities as teachers.
Teachers experience constraints that are specific to their job as educators, due to a need to navigate the line between expectations to hold an altruistic attitude and at times feeling the systemic pressures of bureaucratic work environments. As I will show, this tension between expert and employee presents new challenges to teacher identities. Harrington Meyer (2000) describes a prominent devaluation of caring occurring in some professions, such as low-status care workers like psychiatric technicians, who experience bureaucratic time constraints at work that make it difficult for them to care for their patients in the ways they see best. This research expands upon these notions of bureaucratic constraints on care work by connecting a devaluation of caring to a deskilling and devaluation of teaching, a profession that necessitates caring as a large part
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of worker identity. Literature on the care work of lower-skilled workers closely mirrors the constraints that higher-skilled workers like teachers face while working under merit pay. Thus, these previous works in the sociology of work and occupations can help to explain the fissure between worker identity and structural constraints in the workplace for elementary school teachers.
Experiences of teachers who hold veteran identities also show different trends in education reform, which may lead to differences in the ways that these teachers experience increased scrutiny and evaluation under policies like ProComp. In her research on teacher agency and institutionalized instructional practices, Bridwell-Mitchell (2015:152) captures the sentiments of one teacher in particular, on the struggle of being evaluated by her superiors: Its hard, especially for older teachers, to have somebody like the state come in and critique their lesson, to critique their whole career in five minutes. Its pretty insulting. I think for a lot of older teachers that makes them just want to leave the school, leave the profession. Additionally, Stacey (2011) points to the experiences of home care aides with bureaucratic limits placed on the scope of their work, by noting that workers with over 15 years of experience, or veteran workers, were especially frustrated by these bureaucratic constraints, perhaps due to their time in the field having experienced a time when constraints were lesser. These examples from other professions highlight an ongoing devaluing of care work, and frame a new way of understanding the experiences of teachers working under similar constraints.
Bureaucracy in Schools
The unintended consequences of accountability policies such as merit pay salary models can largely be analyzed by conceptualizing the positionality of teachers and
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teacher evaluators as situated in a bureaucratic structure, using Max Webers theories of bureaucracy (1922). If the chain of command in a typical school structure places evaluators on the top of the chain, with teachers on the bottom, there is reason to believe that the way these two roles interact will be shaped around a policy context like merit pay, which is intrinsically bureaucratic and top-down (or enforced from a higher office unto lower offices). Weber posits that bureaucracies eventually take on a life of their own, by solidifying and becoming hard to change once the structure is in place (Weber 1922). Merit pay may give form to this process; this analysis explores how the loss of autonomy for teachers (through increased standardized evaluative measures and constrictions in teaching) shapes the way that teaching is done and viewed. Indeed, it has been argued that in the wake of the accountability-driven era of education policy and neoliberal reform, teachers are now viewed as mere powerless specialized technicians or disempowered technicians with no autonomy within the bureaucracy, whose sole purpose is to carry out curriculum orders without space for critical development of the material delivered to their students (Giroux 2013; Goldstein 2009; Kerstetter 2015). This reflects the ways in which the role of educators may be shifting as a response to a neoliberal, bureaucratic policy context.
In taking Webers theories of bureaucracy a step further, Nikolas Rose (1999) highlights the ways in which neoliberalism has also been a defining factor for the state of education today. In this competitive, privatized neoliberal era, Rose considers the ways in which power looks differently in a free nation without the centralized strong state of government. In other words, how does the act of governing look different in a privatized economy that emphasizes individualism? Within the sphere of education, it can be argued
18


that the standardized performance measures and evaluations for students and teachers demonstrate the need for an accountability-based method of evaluation in light of a neoliberal emphasis on school choice and the ability to use public vouchers for privatized schools like charters. In theory, on a macro level, in order for power to be enforced and individuals held accountable, there must be some standardized method of evaluation to ensure each office (or type of school) is being held accountable. This may become a source of bureaucratic tensions and struggles for autonomy within the micro levels of schools, resulting in issues like teacher burnout (exiting the profession).
In her analysis of teacher mobility under ProComp, Fulbeck (2014) finds that while there has been a slight overall decrease in teachers exiting the district, this trend does not hold for teachers who are serving in high poverty, hard-to-serve schools. Thus, ProComp does not appear to have yet resolved the issue of retaining strong teachers in high poverty schools. Indeed, worker identities may contribute to some reasons for this, as Hochschild notes that workers who identify too strongly or too wholeheartedly with their job risk higher rates of burnout (Hochschild 1983). This signals the importance of this research in dissecting notions of altruism in veteran teachers work identities and career investment decisions.
Through examining each of these areas of literature, this research attempts to bridge understandings of teachers as workers by framing their experiences as situated in a neoliberal policy era, with changes to their work emerging that closely mirror changes in other professions. This study offers new insights into how teachers navigate these changes and shape their long-term career decisions.
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CHAPTER III
METHODS
This study employs qualitative data from interviews and observations conducted in Denver from 2016 through 2017. This research is inductive, utilizing in-depth semi-structured interviews with experienced elementary school teachers, as well as supplemental field notes from several board of education meetings, local conferences, and public parent-superintendent forums within the Denver Public Schools District, to draw conclusions about the ways the value of teachers work has shifted over time within a district using an incentive pay structure. Conducting in-depth interviews satisfies the aims of this research to understand teachers own worker identities and perceptions of their evaluation systems under ProComp; supplemental data from my time observing board meetings and public forums within DPS also provide a medium for understanding the larger district-wide structures and perceptions about teachers and their work, as it unfolds in the greater Denver area.
Sampling
In order to understand how teachers experience changes to their job evaluations in a district that ties evaluations to salary earnings, I elected to speak with only experienced educators who had been in Denver Public Schools both sometime prior to 2006 (when ProComp was implemented), as well as sometime after 2006. This allowed me to take a snapshot of the perceptions on ProComp when it first came out, and to speak with experienced educators about their strategies in deciding whether to opt in or not based on the value they perceived ProComp to bring to their professional worth or earnings. I spoke with two participants who are no longer working as classroom teachers (although
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both still work in schools); all other 18 participants are current teachers in the district. By leaving open the opportunity to speak with those who have moved out of teaching positions, I was able to capture some effects of incentive pay on teacher burnout and decisions to leave the workforce. By speaking with veteran teachers, all of whom have at least 11 years in the district (and most between 11 and 20 years), the effects of ProComp over the years are highlighted, as these individuals have an ability to testify to the changes over time in the way their work has been devalued and deskilled under a merit pay model.
These educators also experience certain effects of their veteran status under ProComp; after 15 years teaching in the district, ProComp applies a drop-off in base salary-building incentive opportunities for teachers. In other words, after 15 years, cash payouts that teachers receive for the incentives they complete under ProComp no longer go towards their yearly salary (where the overall salary increases thereafter), rather, they serve as small one-time, lump-sum cash payouts of typically a few thousand dollars that do not go towards an overall increase in salary (as it continues to do for teachers who have 14 years or less teaching in the district). The significance of this patterned experience of plateauing among participants in the sample serves as a poignant aspect of their worker identity as experienced teachers facing new constraints. Ultimately, in this sample, the devaluation and deskilling of their work as veteran teachers (with years of experience to offer) is clearly outlined in policies that incentivize and reward the retention of younger, less experienced teachers, while excluding similar benefits for teachers with more years teaching in the district.
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The sample was also limited to teachers who teach elementary grade levels in DPS: Early Childhood Education (ECE, or Pre-K), Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. This was done in an effort to analyze the work environments of teachers in grade levels that face the greatest amount of standardized testing, and arguably the greatest amount of workplace stress and adversity due to the pressure of meeting testing requirements (the results of which are tied to teacher salaries under ProComp). Though the Denver Public Schools District tests students yearly in elementary schools and middle schools at an almost equal amount, between both state tests (like Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS), and district level assessments, elementary grade levels are a particularly interesting workplace atmosphere due to the stratification that emerges across grade levels based on which grades participate in testing (largely 3rd, 4th, and 5th), and which do not, or do so less frequently (largely the lower grades: ECE, K, 1st, 2nd). It can be argued that the same workplace dynamics would not emerge in middle school environments, where each grade level (6th, 7th, 8th) participates in almost identical amounts of both state and district testing, and all teachers in the school are thus eligible to receive the same ProComp bonuses for high test scores.
There are three participants in the study who remain not opted in to ProComp, and instead were grandfathered in using the pre-2006 traditional pay scale, which includes a small cost-of4iving increase annually and some relatively sparse step or lane salary increases as teachers accrue more years in the district. Speaking with these educators in supplement to those who did elect to opt in to ProComp allowed for a strengthened analysis of the ways in which ProComp has ultimately set the stage for policies and practices that influence teacher identities and work experiences beyond just incentive
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pay, as all teachers in the sample report resoundingly similar experiences in the ways that their evaluations (under the LEAP framework, an off-shoot of ProComp) have shifted to reflect a larger deskilling of teaching as a profession.
The sample was also limited to those who teach (or taught) in a traditional public school, excluding charter schools in DPS. ProComp does not automatically enroll teachers working in charter schools, and these schools are each free to establish their own independent teacher pay model and teacher evaluation model; thus, charter schools do not fit the aims of this study in understanding the ways in which ProComp mandates the influence of teacher evaluations on earnings and worker identity for those who are opted in to ProComp, or those who remain not opted in but are working in a DPS school that is mandated to use LEAP (as charters are not).
Interviews and Observations
Strategies for recruiting eligible participants included a mixture of some snowball sampling, where one participant refers the next, and a systematic approach of searching publicly available Denver Public Schools websites and databases for teachers who fit the study criteria. I compiled a list of elementary schools within DPS that serve grades ECE-5 or K-5, and that were traditional public elementary schools. From my initial compilation of eligible schools, I searched through each schools publicly available website and located directories for all ECE (Early Childhood Education, or Pre-K) through 5th grade teachers, which included their Denver Public Schools work email addresses. I then exhausted each directory of eligible elementary schools by sending email invitations to all classroom teachers, which included a short invitation to meet after school or over coffee to discuss changes in their experiences at work over time with
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different policies. Altogether, I emailed over 220 teachers in eligible schools by the culmination of data collection. While most participants were recruited this way (16 in total), four participants were also recruited using personal connections and snowball sampling, as one person was able to refer me to the next.
I met with 10 teachers at their school during or after the school day, and 10 other teachers at local coffee shops and cafes after school or during the weekends. Interviews lasted between 30 and 90 minutes, and each was recorded and transcribed by me following the interview. Interview topics ranged from discussions of workplace environments and workplace networks, to experiences working under ProComp and LEAP specifically. I then utilized a qualitative coding software (CATMA) to analyze textual data. I used thematic coding to identify patterns from interviews that demonstrate both challenges to teacher worker identities, and an overall deskilling and devaluing of teaching as a profession. Table 1 provides a profile for each of the 20 interviewees, as well as descriptive characteristics of the schools they teach at, though all participant identities as well as the names of their respective schools are substituted with pseudonyms for the sake of confidentiality.
Of the eligible teachers who responded and coordinated an interview with me, a total of 17 are opted in to ProComp and three remain not opted in, still on the traditional pay scale. Only one eligible male teacher responded for an interview; the rest of the 19 respondents are female. The average time spent working in DPS across the sample is 19 years, with most teachers (all but six) having spent between 11 and 20 years in the district. 14 out of 20 respondents are from the grade levels spanning ECE to 2nd grade; this is an interesting but not entirely surprising finding, as 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers
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Table 1.
Profile of Interviewees
Interviewee Characteristics School Characteristics
Pseudonym Gender Opted In to Pro-Comp Grade Level Lower/ Upper* Years Working in District Language Certification** School % Free and Reduced Lunch 2016 School % English Language Learners 2016 School Performance Rating***
Julie F No Ex-Lower 12 None Low Low Green (4)
Allison F Yes Lower 26 Former ELA-S Low Low Green (4)
Michelle F Yes Lower 12 None Low Low Green (4)
Suzanne F Yes Lower 11 None Low Low Green (4)
Maria F Yes Lower 17 Former ELA-S High Low Yellow (3)
Heather F Yes Upper 25 None Medium Low Yellow (3)
Samantha F Yes Lower 32 ELA-S High Medium Orange (2)
Miguel M Yes Lower 20 ELA-S High Medium Orange (2)
Dana F Yes Lower 20 None High Medium Green (4)
Betsy F Yes Lower 15 ELA-E High Medium Yellow (3)
Tracy F Yes Lower 20 ELA-S Medium Low Green (4)
Monique F Yes Lower 17 None Medium Low Green (4)
Sofia F Yes Lower 27 None High Medium Green (4)
Alice F Yes Lower 30 None Medium Low Red (1)
Colleen F No Upper 12 None High Medium Green (4)
Hannah F Yes Lower 20 None Low Low Green (4)
Patty F Yes Lower 11 ELA-E High High Green (4)
Simone F No Lower 17 None High Medium Yellow (3)
Donna F Yes Upper 12 None High Medium Yellow (3)
Laura F Yes Ex-Lower 30 ELA-S
*Lower grade levels include ECE (early childhood education) through 3rd grade. Upper levels include 4th and 5th grade. Ex-Lower denotes the two ex-teachers in the sample, who both taught lower grade levels.
**DPS English Language Acquisition (ELA) certification levels include: ELA-T: minimum ELA qualification, required for all teachers, above denoted as none. ELA-E: required for some teachers. ELA-S: necessary for bilingual. *** The 2016 DPS School Performance Framework includes ratings: 1/Red (low performing school, accredited on probation), 2/Orange (accredited on priority watch), 3/Yellow (accredited on watch), 4/Green (meets expectations), and 5/Blue (high performing school, distinguished).
This ex-teacher is now a specialist who works in several DPS elementary schools.
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face the greatest amount of state testing, and thus perhaps a more constrained weekly schedule in preparing their students to take these tests, knowing that their salaries are dependent on the results. In speaking with teachers from lower grade levels about this, many pointed to the workplace stratification that emerges when bonuses under ProComp are allocated to teachers with high testing scores, but not for those educators in lower grade levels that prepare students to move to testing grade levels, yet are not in testing grade levels themselves.
The DPS language acquisition certifications (or second language instruction) include three levels: ELA-T (the minimum required amount for all DPS teachers), ELA-E (a middle step, with some additional language coursework/certification), and ELA-S, or bilingual (the highest amount of certification, which accredits a teacher to instruct a bilingual classroom). The majority of the sample (12 teachers) does not have any alternate language licensing beyond the mandated amount for DPS teachers (ELA-T). Six teachers are ELA-S certified (eligible to teach a bilingual classroom), and two are ELA-E certified. It is important to note that although the majority of the sample does not necessarily have official DPS language acquisition qualifications, several described being conversationally fluent in Spanish or even having taught abroad in bilingual classrooms in places like Puerto Rico, indicating that many teachers who work in Denver Public Schools have some footing in teaching Spanish-speaking populations (likely out of a need to serve their Spanish-speaking students).
Five teachers teach in schools that have Free and Reduced Lunch Rates (FRL) of less than 15% of the student body (in other words, relatively well-resourced, high-income schools). Four teachers teach in schools that have FRL rates between 30% and 40% of the
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student body (here referred to as middle-income schools), and 10 teachers teach in schools that have FRL rates of more than 75%, indicating a high poverty, low-income population. Ten of the teachers in my sample teach in schools that have relatively low percentages of English Language Learners (no more than 25% of the student body), eight of the teachers included teach in schools with ELL populations between 40% and 65%, denoted as middle in Table 1, and one teacher works in a school with over 70% English Language Learners in the student body, denoted as high here. Additionally, one exteacher now works as a specialist in several different elementary schools, which all vary in income levels and English Language Learner populations.
In addition to the 20 interviews I conduced with DPS teachers, I also spent roughly 40 hours conducting observations and taking field notes at public DPS events and community events such as board of education meetings, local conferences, and superintendent-parent forums, which are informational sessions put on by DPS administrators for parents and community members. By attending these events and interacting with community members, I was able to explore broader connotations of teachers work and the climate and culture of teaching, and perceptions of teaching, in Denver. This provided for a more complete view of the state of education reform in Denver and the implications for how governance unfolds on the ground for these teachers.
During my time attending board meetings and parent forums, a particularly contested topic that emerged was Denvers system of color-coded ratings, called the School Performance Framework. This model classifies schools in terms of student achievement, with red schools indicating the lowest student achievement by carrying
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the label accredited on probation, and blue schools indicating high student achievement and a distinguished rating. In my time spent attending these public meetings, some community members expressed fear that a red rating creates issues in trying to recruit strong teachers as well as students, due to the negative assumptions that typically correlate with a failing label when families and potential employees see a bright red warning rating. These ratings are included with Table 1 to supply a more holistic picture of student performance at each school, given the resources available and populations served. Importantly, teachers receive opportunities to earn incentives for working in a distinguished school under the School Performance Framework, making the ratings at each school a significant aspect of the experiences of the teachers working within those schools (particularly for those working in red, orange, or yellow schools, the least favorable ratings). Using a combination of interviews and observations to form my analysis, the next section offers findings from the data I collected.
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CHAPTER IV
FINDINGS
Several key findings emerged from my interviews with teachers in Denver that demonstrate new constraints felt by these experienced teachers in the district. In the data I collected, many respondents illuminated new ways in which their worker identities as educators have been challenged in a decade that emphasizes bureaucratic, neoliberal policies like merit pay. These challenges felt by individuals working at the school level hold broader connections to larger implications for workers in a neoliberal era, as I demonstrate in the evidence from my interviews that points to an overall deskilling of teaching as a profession. Additionally, this study addresses the ways in which some groups of teachers experience occupational stratification at greater levels than others, as can be seen in the experiences of the bilingual teachers I spoke with who work within ProComp. These findings offer a new mode of understanding teacher work experiences and decisions about long-term career investment.
Challenges to Expert Identities
Several respondents described the importance of maintaining a notion of being an expert in their roles as educators to elementary aged students, especially salient when faced with adversity at work or a particularly challenging class in any given year. Given the large amounts of standardized testing and performance expectations that are placed on teachers and their students, some teachers describe an emerging challenge to retain a sense of expertise given these constraints on their work. As one teacher noted:
This is the only industry where you see those things. Youre not going to see
that in the medical field- people who have experience are, you know, up there.
And this is the only field or career where you never become an expert. Youre
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never an expert. Every year you have to learn new things... new programs.
(Miguel, lower grade level teacher)
Miguel is pointing to one facet of the teaching profession that differs from the way other professions are regarded, from his perspective. In the constant race to adopt new curricula every year in an effort to prepare students for testing and performance markers (a struggle almost every respondent alluded to in their teaching), teachers are placed under working conditions that they perceive to be unique to their profession and the way their work is valued. Furthermore, when placed within a pay-for-performance system that employs numerical evaluations for teachers, new challenges to identities as experts emerge. Mechanizing Expertise
The bureaucracy of the structuration of ProComp and its LEAP evaluations becomes apparent in teachers discussions of their experiences being evaluated within the LEAP framework, which utilizes a one through seven scaling rating for teachers, based on indicators like rigor in instruction, professionalism, and stating student learning objectives, or SLOs, verbatim, throughout a lesson. The use of numbered scoring in teacher evaluations was a later addition to the ProComp framework, which incorporates a portion of its incentives to reward teachers who reach distinguished status in their evaluations. Teachers in Denver now experience a combination of midyear evaluations, end of year evaluations, and what many sardonically refer to as drive-by evaluations, where a teacher evaluator or administrator visits the classroom without warning for short periods of time. In formal evaluation sessions, which typically occur anywhere between two to five times per year as described my interviewees (the LEAP handbook states best practice as 4-6 formal evaluations per year, and there was much variance in my sample), teachers receive feedback on 19 different indicators, each of which receives a one to
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seven rating scale (1 being least effective, 7 being most effective). These scales are then
ultimately broken down into categories ranging from not meeting (1-2 rating),
approaching (3-4 rating), effective (5-6), and distinguished (7).
Echoing much of the same design and scaling structures that Denver Public
Schools applies to its School Performance Framework (color-coded school report
cards), LEAP evaluations attempt to break down a qualitative, non-numerical skill like
teaching into a quantitative framework that neatly categorizes individuals into levels of
expertise or skill. My interviewees pointed to a large issue with the intent of LEAP to do
just that; many expressed frustrations with the need to place numbers onto teachers as a
measure of their worth. As one teacher put it:
I dont really give a shit about LEAP. I hate LEAP. Dont put a number on me. Because that 20 minutes youre in my classroom is not my whole ability and my personality... its a snapshot, its a polaroid picture of... 185 days, and you do it four times a year... and the kids have bad days, and the teachers have bad days. (Simone, lower grade level teacher)
Another echoed these same sentiments:
I thought it was more supposed to be not peer evaluative but [a] peer coaching model, if it was a coaching model I would be thrilled with it... but the minute they stuck the numbers on it, thats where it kind of fell apart to me. (Dana, lower grade level teacher)
In each of these experiences, teachers struggle with maintaining an expert identity in their work when they are constrained by the framework of a numerical rating scale. One other upper grade level teacher, Donna, eloquently described teaching as almost alive, where the nuances, needs, demands, and happenings in the classroom fluctuate daily, leaving questions of how best to evaluate the effectiveness of those who perform that daily management in flux. As these teachers reiterated almost unanimously, more frequent
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evaluations not constrained by numerical ratings were almost always the best way to
accurately capture their effectiveness as teachers.
The bureaucracy of merit pay policies for teachers begins to really unravel when
listening to the distrust and skepticism that many teachers held in relation to the ways
they were scored in the past on their LEAP indicators. Several teachers alluded to a
feeling of deliberate suppression by their superiors in the rare allotments of sevens that
were given out to teachers (a distinguished score). As one described:
I go, well what does a seven look like to you (to evaluator)? And she really couldnt answer that question to me, and I thought, you just dont want to give me a seven... thats the whole issue right there in a nutshell. And Ive also heard that I will never get a seven in anything instructional because we arent a topperforming school. Ive been told that by our principal... You can not give a seven to a teacher because they couldnt be a seven because theyre in an underperforming school. (Samantha, lower grade level teacher)
This particular quote unpacks several themes that emerged in my interviews. Many
teachers I spoke with reported feeling like scores of seven were deliberately given out
sparingly, essentially communicating to veteran teachers with expert identities that they
are perpetually not expert. This can be seen as a form of bureaucratic control and
subdual of a workforce to keep workers incentivized, fitting in with the context of a
neoliberal policy making era in education that often refers back to the workers (i.e.
teachers) as the ones to shoulder the blame and the accountability for poor student
achievement (Giroux 2013; Goldstein & Beutel 2009). Also clear from these interviews
is the frustration felt by teachers in not being able to receive clear answers on how to
actually receive a score of seven. Two others add:
I dont feel like we were ever trained well on how to pass their little test. And I feel like at times when the principals were coming in, it was a, I gotcha! type situation... when Im doing my worst job, or when you didnt feel confident in your teaching. (Sofia, lower grade level teacher)
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I usually dont do that but this last time I really looked at the [LEAP] framework and I built my lessons around it, and I was like, oh Im a seven here, here and here, and I was so sure! And I didnt get one damn seven. No matter what, it just seems so hard to get distinguished. (Donna, upper grade level teacher)
This lends support to the bureaucratic structuring and implementation of ProComp and teacher evaluations, as teachers clearly feel a sense of disenfranchisement as workers, in their ability to succeed within the framework and ultimately boost earnings through strong evaluations. This presents a struggle for veteran teachers to balance feelings of inadequacy from evaluations with their feelings of expert identity in their roles as experienced educators, often a central facet of their worker identity. As one other upper grade level teacher explained to me, as she became emotional during our interview after describing how she had to seek professional counseling when LEAP evaluations first came out (due to the harshness of the evaluations): A six just isnt a seven.
Due to these experiences of struggling to achieve distinguished ratings and feeling a sense of suppression in trying to understand how to match personal expert identities with professional evaluation ratings, interviewees also described receiving unexpected gratifications throughout the school year. Teachers described to me how they were often surprised to learn that they had been recognized as outstanding or a model exemplar for other teachers to come and observe, and some even described hitting a seven on accident, where they were unsure of what actually made them distinguished in their evaluations. These unexpected gratifications kept teachers in a position of uncertainty, insecurity, and top-down regulation that prevented them from being able to exist in their expert identities, and instead constrained and devalued their work.
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Failing to Acknowledge Innate Motivators in Unnecessary Practices
Respondents also described being required to go through bureaucratic motions at work that consist of tasks or practices that they see as unnecessary to their ability to teach well. Their testimonies describe a failure on the part of administration to acknowledge their innate sense of motivation and incentive as teachers. One aspect of LEAP evaluations that demonstrates bureaucratic practices and challenges to worker identities is the use of reteach practices for teachers who score poorly on their evaluations. Several teachers spoke to experiences of feeling demeaned or belittled by the process of having to reteach lessons under supervision, as this is seen as an unnecessary process for veteran educators with over a decade of classroom experience. Needing a reteach session does not fit the definitions of what constitutes an experienced, expert teacher, as one teacher described:
Reteach is garbage. Because a teacher knows right away what she needs to reteach. If youre worth anything as a teacher, you know immediately what failed. (Samantha, lower grade level teacher)
Similar to the practice of reteach, which Samantha describes above as being an unnecessary part of her ability to do her work well and a key part of her identity as an expert teacher, is the increased use of data management practices in DPS over the past decade. ProComp ties teacher earnings to the success of their school on the School Performance Framework by incorporating incentives that reward teachers serving in distinguished schools. Because the School Performance Framework is based in student data like testing and growth measures, the ongoing work of managing and entering large masses of student testing data often falls to teachers, as my interviewees described. Many explained the monotonous and time-consuming student data entry into DPS databases as
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another unnecessary step they are forced to complete, as true teaching experts do not
need formal data review to know what their students require or what needs to change in
their instruction. Two teachers explain:
Its putting it into the system. I mean I can tell you exactly where a kid is at, I can show you where a kid is at, but now I have to sit down at the computer and put it in there. And Im not a computer geek, I mean kids like you can probably just sit down and get it done, but I cant. (Simone, lower grade level teacher)
Im not a data master, I didnt get a degree in statistics for a reason, because it doesnt really interest me and Im not that type of thinker... Im kind of being forced into being something different. (Heather, upper grade level teacher)
As veteran, expert educators, Simone and Heather indicate that the types of skills
that do feel authentic to teacher identities include things like the ability to naturally,
instinctively manage student progress and recall significant student patterns on command,
without a need to go through bureaucratic motions of data tracking and reporting (which
feel inauthentic to veteran teacher identities). By requiring teachers to take on new work
roles like data management, and ultimately linking those roles and responsibilities to their
ability to earn bonuses, (contingent on the production of good data showing student
achievement), this emerging emphasis on data represents a new challenge to the identities
and practices of expert teachers.
Importantly, one teacher also alluded to the ways in which the unnecessary tasks
that teachers are asked to do reflects larger notions of incentivizing teachers:
Its hard for teachers because teachers are perfectionists... you dont have to convince them to do [the work] because they want to do the best they can. (Dana, lower grade level teacher)
These quotes each spell out very clear boundaries in how these teachers conceptualize their own expert identity as acute perfectionists and experts in their work, without a need
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for bureaucratic top-down orders that ask them to do things they already do in the natural flow of their instruction. The identities these teachers hold about themselves as professionals does not appear to fit the structure of incentive pay, as they do not see their profession as one that necessitates incentives for workers. Instead, broader-scale expectations of altruism, benevolence, and a sense of mission in elementary school teachers, which my interviews support (Collay 2010; Evans 1993; Thomson & Kehily
2011), work to contradict the structure of incentive pay, as these teachers fail to see ways in which teachers are not already incentivized with a sense of mission and love for teaching- a fundamental and natural aspect of their identity as educators. However, they remain under a pay model that presumes an unwillingness or lack of desire within teachers to want to improve.
As naturally incentivized professionals working under this incentive pay structure, ultimately these teachers experience incongruity between their own worker identities and the structures they work within. For expert educators, who described an innate sense of proficiency in knowing how to improve at their job without certain processes that seem bureaucratic and unnecessary, the effectiveness of incentive pay is lost. This incentive pay system does not appear to prove effective for veteran teachers because it is enforced upon a group of already incentivized workers, who are constrained within larger structures of school inequalities and insufficient resources (which make earning incentives difficult). The district fails to account for the significance of a sense of expert identity for experienced educators in the design of ProComp, as ultimately these teachers feel new constraints on their work and a declining sense of being rewarded for the expertise that they have acquired over their years of teaching. This deskilling of
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teaching as a profession may eventually lead to a weakened ability to retain strong, experienced teachers in the workforce. Through the mechanization of expertise in the use of numerical scoring on teaching evaluations, as well as the implementation of new unnecessary processes like reteach sessions and data management, teachers experience new challenges to their sense of expertise as educators under ProComp.
Devaluing Experience
For veteran teachers, as many self-identified, with over a decade of experience working in Denver Public Schools, the importance of their identity as experts is often closely related to their sense of being seasoned and experienced workers, with a special skill set that comes from over a decade in years of experience. In part, this is communicated directly by how they are paid and to what degree experience is recognized and rewarded. The design of ProComp indicates a devaluation of experience through its incentive payout allotments over time, and through the use of peer evaluators within the LEAP teacher evaluation framework.
Pay Plateaus and the Penalty of Experience
The structuration of ProComp establishes that after 15 years of teaching in the district, teachers no longer receive bonuses that were previously awarded to their yearly salary (base-building), but instead receive bonuses that are paid out as one-time lumpsum amounts (that do not count towards ones retirement payout). The next base-building salary increase these teachers will see is not for another 10 years at the 25 year mark, while their less experienced counterparts with fewer than 15 years in the district continue to receive base-building bonuses that grow their annual salary. This plateau that many teachers described seemed paradoxical to what they believed the district should have in
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its best interest: low teacher attrition and a desire to retain experienced teachers in the
classroom. Instead, these teachers saw a drop in base-building opportunities as a
devaluation on their worth as veteran teachers with years of experience in instruction to
offer their students. As Alice, a lower grade level teacher, noted:
I dont think DPS is using the expertise of a lot of its professionals, and even with veteran teachers, as well as they could. Instead, veteran teachers often get the idea that, Well we know weve been told that were very expensive. It doesnt appear to us that they value the experience that they have in people who have taught for 20 plus years. Theyre always saying, Were looking for the best and brightest. And we go, so... what message are you sending? (Alice, lower grade level teacher)
To veteran teachers like Alice, ProComp seems to have been designed to reward the newest, freshest faces in the district, signaling the value placed on those who arrive with new ideas and the latest training, as opposed to those who hold a different skill set that comes from years of experience in the classroom. She clearly connects the ways in which broader efforts of the district in trying to bring in the best and brightest teachers is perceived as an emphasis on younger, less experienced teachers by their more experienced colleagues.
The paradox of seasoned, experienced teachers dealing with a structural plateau status within ProComp is a challenge to their ability to maintain a notion of feeling like an expert in their work, which several described as being an important sense of self-confidence when faced with adversity or a particularly challenging class in any given year. Not surprisingly, many of these teachers value time and experience in the classroom as an identifier of something that should be rewarded in teacher pay. One teacher explains the differences she notices in this regard between teaching as a profession and other non-teaching professions:
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I told my daughter... when she was asking how much I made, and I told her, shes like: Oh, thats not bad for a teacher! Im like, well no, but if you ask anyone else in other fields whove been working for 20 years, theyre making more, a lot more... but you know, Im okay with it, I didnt go into it for the money. (Tracy, lower grade level teacher)
Tracy notes how the trajectory of earnings she faces as an elementary school teacher does not reflect the opportunities for salary building that she sees in other professions, and that she perceives it as a unique way in which teachers in DPS are devalued. Despite her hinting at more altruistic reasons for choosing her career path, the importance of being recognized and rewarded over time is not lost on her; thus she points to a gap in the way she feels constrained as a worker (much like constraints that workers in other fields face), yet as an elementary school teacher specifically, she works in a profession that largely demands and expects some sense of altruism, benevolence, or sense of mission from its employees. This presents a challenge to the professional identities these teachers hold as both the altruistic educators they see themselves to be, as well as the workers that have devoted extra time and efforts (because of this very sense of altruism), who deserve appropriate compensation and salary gradations over time, a similar challenge other care workers experience (Harrington Meyer 2000; Stacey 2011). Thus, in considering these veteran public school teachers as workers who are experiencing similar constraints to those in other professions (lower-skilled care workers with 15 years of experience, for example), a larger devaluing of professions becomes evident, in which the experiences of veteran workers are disproportionately negative compared to less experienced workers. Devaluing Age
Devaluations on teacher experience also tie directly to notions of age. As teacher turnover rates continue to rise in Denver, the influx of newer, younger teachers has been
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an ongoing challenge to the ability of seasoned, older teachers to maintain feelings of job security and being highly valued by the district. Through the use of rib practices, or ribbing, (reduction in building), the district has created a new threat to job security for teachers, wherein any teacher at any point may be dismissed from their position, with reasons cited including simply needing to cut costs and reduce staff building (Asmar 2014). Many of the teachers I spoke with described this practice as sometimes subjectively used by principals to get rid of teachers they personally dislike, or those teachers who seem past their prime. Indeed, Denver Public Schools is no stranger to controversy on age discrimination and hiring policies; a class-action lawsuit unfolded in 2014, with the union (Denver Classroom Teachers Association, or DCTA) suing the district on behalf of tenured teachers who were being placed on indefinite unpaid leave in favor of bringing in new hires, despite any evidence of poor evaluations or other misdoings by those teachers (the Colorado Court of Appeals eventually ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2015). The teachers I spoke with were not shy on being critical of hiring policies and practices used in the district, especially when thinking about how their evaluations have been shaped by the use of younger or less experienced peer evaluators at times under the LEAP evaluation framework.
The original design of LEAP evaluations called for an incorporation of evaluations done by peers (co-teachers) that failed to establish matches for true peer-to-peer evaluations that would take into account years in the classroom, subjects taught, and even the importance of regional context or familiarity with the district or school. Though many pointed to a decline in this issue throughout recent years, several interviewees described their experiences with peer evaluations under LEAP as not truly being peer
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evaluations at all, due to sizeable gaps in years of experience between evaluator and
teacher. As one teacher, Betsy, described:
They want now peer evaluations, so next year this person... who is about your age, shes really younger, is evaluating me. Im like, is this-1 didnt know if it was going to work. Its wonderful, its great, but thats the kinds of things they're changing... and she knows early childhood... I know that she knows the standards for my grade.... so I could say at the beginning- and Ive told her that, Im very honest-1 said, I dont think were a good fit, and I said, maybe theres another older lady, and I probably should go with her. And she said, Well, could we just try this? And I said maybe, I suppose. And now Im glad, I hope she evaluates me next year. (Betsy, lower grade level teacher)
Betsy mentions the importance of age, beyond even just years of experience, in her
ability to work well with peer evaluators. Though the younger evaluator shares
experience in her grade level, Betsy still finds age to be a significant barrier in what she
believes will produce valuable feedback. Another teacher added to this same experience:
My very first LEAP evaluation was by somebody who only taught for 3 years and then got out of the classroom, when in fact I had been teaching for 25 years, and I was like, thats not really a peer evaluator... (Alice, lower grade level teacher)
Above, Betsy and Alice describe experiences with inequitable peer evaluations,
in which the peers they were evaluated by were not in fact peers with similar years of
experience, but rather arbitrarily matched teachers often with fewer years of experience,
who could not speak to the same aspects of teaching and work as those who shared a
veteran teacher identity. For these teachers, their veteran, expert status necessitates a
strong sense of expertise resulting from years of experience, which can only be furthered
and enriched by the feedback that comes from those who share similar or even more
seasoned teaching identities as theirs. Through the use of not-so-peer evaluations and a
drop-off in certain incentive opportunities after 15 years of experience under ProComp,
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there is a clear message of placing high value on younger and less experienced educators rather than their more experienced counterparts.
Ultimately, this plateauing effect and the use of peer evaluations may also allude to some of the challenges in trying to retain experienced teachers in schools with lower income students, usually referenced as hard-to-serve schools under a merit pay policy like ProComp (which ironically aims to address this very issue). While the intentions of ProComp are to attract teachers to hard-to-serve schools with cash incentives, in fact one interviewee indicated an opposite effect:
I think it would be a risk as a teacher, even as an experienced teacher, to move to a lower performing school, evaluation-wise and pay-wise, and thats a shame. And so these poor new teachers that cant get a job somewhere else end up doing it, and they dont get the support. (Suzanne, lower grade level teacher)
Here, Suzanne points to a rational decision-making process about career investment that
she feels many teachers would make in thinking about what school to teach in: despite
hard-to-serve incentives that incentivize teachers to teach in low-performing schools,
teachers under ProComp may still be less likely to go to the schools that will not produce
the greatest amount of incentive-earning opportunities. In low performing schools, low
student test scores risk tarnishing teacher evaluations that measure effectiveness, which
then risks losing out on other bonuses that are tied to teacher evaluations. In other words,
one hard-to-serve incentive is not enough to outweigh the risk of poor evaluations and
losing out on other bonuses tied to those evaluations. Thus, one unintended consequence
of ProComp on teacher career choices becomes evident. A failure of the district to
account for the importance and significance of teacher identities as experts, who value
high scores on their evaluations, results in a lapse in understanding what it would truly
take to recruit strong, experienced teachers to hard-to-serve schools (that is, it would take
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more than just a cash incentive). When teachers are faced with the possibility of low scores on evaluations (a likely possibility in hard-to-serve schools), for some, no cash incentive for teaching in a low-performing school will outweigh the bleak outlook of constant challenges to their identity as veteran, expert educators under the evaluations they endure.
Failure to Compensate Care Work and Alternative Capital
Denvers ProComp is an interesting unit of analysis to employ in order to understand the ways in which teachers are experiencing changes to their work given the current national emphasis on standards, testing, and accountability. In addition to the challenges they face to their worker identity, veteran teachers in DPS also testified to a significant deskilling of their work over the last decade. This is narrated by my interviewees in several different ways, through their descriptions of the unrecognized and unrewarded care work they do for their students. Care work performed by teachers can arguably take many different forms, in settings inside or outside of schools. For example, Allison noted:
I spent many weekends cleaning houses to get rid of head lice so the kids could come to school... and go to Goodwill to buy them boots and coats... which I certainly didnt mind, but that was tough (referring to her time teaching in a low-income school). (Allison, lower grade level teacher)
Allison went on to describe her yearly out-of-pocket spending on classroom supplies,
which averages around $5,000 out of her own personal funds. In addition to the work
Allison describes, which alludes to the less specialized types of care work that teachers
perform (cleaning houses, spending personal money on supplies), I noted other instances
of teachers performing extra care work outside of school hours in my observations at one
board of education meeting.
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In an effort to ease tension and backlash over the closing of one neighborhood Montessori elementary school in Denver (pseudonym Eastman Montessori), representatives from a nearby elementary school (pseudonym Geneva Elementary), soon to be opening its own Montessori strand, spoke at the board meeting expressing support for the Eastman community (whether they were asked to do so by higher-ups is a separate question). While many Eastman Montessori families sat quietly yet irately, with signs that read Save Eastman and I love Eastman, I observed two teachers and the principal from Geneva give brief speeches directed at these families, consisting of invitations to visit for open houses and walk-throughs, should the Eastman families choose to enroll their children at Geneva in light of Eastmans closing. The messages from these teachers were sympathetic in tone, prefacing invitations to visit Geneva with apologies for the situation at hand, which they described as undesirable, devastating, and even tragic. In this explicit performance of care work, where teachers spent extra hours out of their day to attend a board meeting just to show that they would welcome this community with open arms into their school, teachers served as the legitimating faces in a tumultuous time, simply through their expression of devotion to their work and their community through their physical presence. Serving as welcome representatives on behalf of their school constitutes an interesting way in which these teachers perform altruistic care work for their community that is not likely accounted for in their formal earnings and recognitions.
Two additional groups of teachers from the respondents I interviewed also described more specialized types of work they perform regularly, which go unrewarded and unrecognized within the structure of ProComp. The experiences of both lower grade
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level teachers and teachers who have Spanish-speaking backgrounds each can illuminate how certain groups of teachers have disproportionately more negative experiences under ProComp.
Devaluing Foundational work with Lower Grade Levels
The ProComp incentive structure allows for a portion of incentives to be allocated for teachers whose students score above the 55th percentile on state assessments, effectively ignoring grade levels who do not participate in state assessments (largely ECE through 3rd grade). This highlighted a clear example of occupational stratification, in which teachers of lower grade levels see a deskilling and devaluing of their work, as those who prime the pump for students to move up to test-taking grade levels, yet who are not recognized in comparable ways.
In my discussions with teachers about their support systems at work, several pointed to a tendency to go beyond their immediate grade-level teammates to seek out the support or help of those in grade levels above or below their own. They describe the benefit of seeking out a more holistic view on how to improve instruction, based on how other grade level teachers perceive students to be as far as progress in a subject or preparedness to move up the elementary grade levels. This hints at the importance of workforce trust and ability to collaborate across grade levels at the elementary level, yet the inherent design of ProComp rewarding test-taking grades and not lower grade levels would appear to undermine this goal. Julie is an ex-teacher who left teaching when Common Core standards eventually deskilled and narrowed the scope of the curriculum so heavily that she was denied the ability to partake in the annual Literature student
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festival in DPS, because it did not fit Common Core guidelines. She described the
workforce divisiveness that emerges under ProComp:
It created divisiveness within a system because the 4th and 5th grade teachers got big checks every year regardless. So its like, is this fair? Because they were getting checks every year for doing the same thing, no matter what. So is that changing behavior? Is that changing what you want? And if its just the 4th and 5th grade teachers, with the fact that I taught 3rd grade and prepared them to take the test, and the 2nd grade teachers prepared them for 3rd grade and so on. (Julie, ex-teacher of lower grade level)
This points to the ways in which an emphasis on standardized testing and standardized
curricula essentially deskills and devalues those who teach lower grade levels, who
cannot contribute to these goals. Younger grade levels that do not participate in testing
are not necessarily seen as equally valuable to those grade levels that do participate in
testing within a district that stresses the significance of student performance data in its
evaluation systems.
Interestingly, issues of workforce trust also emerged on the side of the upper
elementary grade levels in the case of one teacher, Alice. The unfairness of opportunities
to receive test-taking bonuses under ProComp was not lost on some of the teachers who
benefitted from these bonuses, as she described:
Those of us that got that exceeding expectations on test scores- they wanted us to come to this reception, in celebration of [that]... and I understand from the districts perspective why they felt the need to do that, but those of us that were 4th and 5th grade teachers who were getting the incentive pay could not have done that, had it not been for the kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teachers. So we always refused to go until they would offer an invitation to the entire staff, which never happened. We just decided not to go because... we didnt do it on our own... we felt like it was inequitable... because theres no way that those kids could be prepared for the test if that foundation had not been built. (Alice, lower grade level teacher)
It was interesting to uncover such strong cross-grade level connections in elementary school settings, which I predicted would show palpable forms of stratification due to the
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structural constraints they work within under standardized state testing and ProComp incentives like test-taking rewards. Though the above example may be an anomaly to the experiences of grade level stratification that other teachers see, it is an important testament to the way in which teachers from grades other than the ones most negatively affected by ProComp incentives are seeing and experiencing- and in some cases responding to- the inequities they see coworkers in their profession experiencing. Devaluing Culturally Relevant Skills
A final way in which the deskilling and devaluation of teachers work becomes apparent under ProComp is through the experiences of Spanish speaking teachers. Out of the 20 interviewees I met with, six are ELA-S certified, which accredits them to serve as full bilingual classroom teachers, the highest form of English Language Acquisition certification available in DPS. Two other teachers are ELA-E certified, with some partial extra certification. While some Spanish-speaking teachers reported originally deciding to opt-in to ProComp in the hopes of making more money, many actually identified new ways in which the language skill sets they use regularly at work are devalued and unrecognized under ProComp.
Bilingual educators frequently described a lack of materials and resources available to them, which often translates into extra work performed, of not only translating worksheets and lessons from English into Spanish, but also re-working many concepts and lessons to be culturally relevant to a sizeable Spanish speaking population in DPS classrooms (over 37% of the student body is Spanish speaking). Miguel and Samantha explain:
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I opted in because I knew it would be more money for me. Because honestly bilingual teachers do more work... and sometimes we dont have enough materials, so we have to be translating... (Miguel, lower grade level teacher)
I was very frustrated with that... the Denver Public Schools did not purchase the Spanish materials even though more than half of their population is Spanish speaking. So I would have to locate-1 would have to dog it down basically, I would have to find something on the internet, if it was available, and try to write questions to go with it. So I was doing double the work of anyone else. The bilingual teachers were doing the work to find these articles, and looking at it and going, can they access this? Can they even understand this? Have they ever seen a panda bear? (Samantha, lower grade level teacher)
ProComp lists opportunities to earn incentives called PDUs, or Professional
Development Units. These are officially approved learning plans that teachers design as a
professional development resource for others in the district, and they serve as
opportunities to complete extra work outside of the range of typical teacher
responsibilities. Teachers can allocate a portion of their school year towards piloting and
analyzing new instructional skills or information. Though the ProComp handbook lists a
few pre-approved content areas provided by the district that can be explored for PDU
submissions, none of these examples revolve around professional development practices
for bilingual teachers, as Samantha alludes to in her mention of being unacknowledged
for much of the work she does outside of class to develop content for her Spanish
speaking students. This shows a clear focus again on rewarding teachers from grade
levels and areas of instruction that most reflect the broader district-wide and nation-wide
emphases on standardized testing, which essentially deskills the work being done by
educators outside of those parameters. It can be argued that a district like Denver would
greatly benefit from professional development that better served the high Spanish
speaking student populations teachers interact with.
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Outside of structural shortcomings in considering the work of bilingual teachers
under ProComp, there are also ways in which extra work emerges more covertly in the
daily experiences of Spanish speaking teachers. With over 37% of the student body in
Denver classifying as Spanish speaking students, the demand for the everyday use of
Spanish in communicating with families is substantial. Several teachers reported
frequent, informal spurts of the use of Spanish in communicating with families and others
outside of the classroom whenever necessary. Interestingly, the use of Spanish was not
strictly adhered to those who were currently ELA-S bilingual teachers, or even those who
were certified yet not currently teaching a bilingual classroom; even teachers without
formal ELA-S or ELA-E language training often knew a small amount of conversational
Spanish that they described using regularly with some students. These small instances of
native skills being used throughout the school year often were described as no-brainers
by teachers who have the skill set and can be of assistance, again reiterating a sense of
mission and altruism in the motivations of this particular workforce (elementary
educators). Despite these feelings however, this particular section of the workforce who
carry an in-demand skill, that is needed yet unrecognized in incentive pay, establish
another way in which the deskilling of teachers as professionals is apparent. The story of
one teacher, Maria, helps to portray this:
I went from an ESL English-Spanish resource teacher- so I needed to qualify and be a teacher with that second language- [to] this position, [where] I dont have to know a second language... you know, someone who just speaks one language can be in this position... but I just feel like, I know a second language, I still use it because I have parents I need to talk to, [and] I dont need somebody to translate for me. And someone will ask me to translate still and I will do it, and Im not subject to just, Oh sorry, thats not part of my contract, I cant do that. But I mean its still... I can still help... doesnt mean that my second language is no longer existent. I feel like I should still be compensated for that incentive because that just might help others...
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motivate them to learn a second language and be able to reach more than just
one group or one culture. (Maria, lower grade level teacher)
Maria reiterates the fact that part of her worker identity as an educator to young children includes a need to serve the families of the students in her school (and not just her own classroom). In this sense of duty to provide fundamental services like translating for the families she interacts with in her occupation, Maria illuminates one way in which the care work of teachers with native skills like knowing a second language are not accounted for in the rewards teachers qualify for under ProComp. Interestingly, however, ProComp does include incentive opportunities for obtaining advanced degrees or certifications (through extra graduate level coursework). This is interesting when considered alongside the testimony above, in analyzing how Denver Public Schools district places value on different skills. Maria makes the point that if she were able to be compensated for the extra translating work she does, it might motivate others to seek out second language skills as well, which would grow the skills in the workforce in a positive way that would be more inclusive of underrepresented backgrounds and skill sets. Instead of extra second language skill building incentives like the suggestion Maria makes, DPS instead places a premium on incentives that will translate to a School Performance Framework that uses student testing data to evaluate schools and teachers. Thus, the devaluation of care work and native skills becomes apparent in the testimonies of those who perform care work for their students, which goes unrewarded under the ProComp framework in their eyes.
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CHAPTER V
CONCLUSION
This research illuminates new ways in which teachers experience structural constraints in their workplace, that ultimately have impactful effects on the identities they hold and the long-term career decisions they make. In examining the effects of educational policy outside of the previously laid groundwork of effects on educational disparities and student achievement outcomes, this research examines the experiences of teachers as employees specifically, by exploring changes to their work under teacher evaluations and pay systems in Denver. Ultimately, Denvers pay-for-performance policy, ProComp, falls short of recognizing and rewarding aspects of teacher identities that are central to their decisions about career investment, exiting the workforce, and selectivity in the types of schools they elect to work in.
I suggest that pay-for-performance in Denver represents three overarching challenges to teachers work: a challenge to their identities as experts, a devaluing of experience and age, and a failure to recognize and reward care work and native skills.
The structuration of ProComp and its LEAP teacher evaluation framework ultimately fail to account for the importance of teacher identities as experts in the use of numerical scoring on teaching evaluations that aim to mechanize expertise, and the implementation of new unnecessary practices like reteach sessions after poor teaching evaluations as well as excessive data management and tracking. ProComp also fails to account for the importance of veteran identities and the valuation of experience in teaching, through the design ofdrop-offs in incentive opportunities after 15 years of experience, and peer evaluations that sometimes do not truly match experienced educators with their
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experienced counterparts. Lastly, Denvers pay-for-performance model fails to recognize care work that teachers do and native skills like bilingualism. The failure to incorporate bonuses in teacher pay or credits towards measures on teaching evaluations that reflect the extra work that teachers perform for the families of their schools and their own communities represents a devaluation of care work, specifically relating to the care work that teachers perform. Future researchers should consider the specific care work tasks that teachers perform within the contexts of their job as one particular avenue to pursue.
Implications for the retention and recruitment of teachers into Denver schools are formed around the structural constraints teachers describe experiencing within ProComp. When teachers face a possibility of low evaluations from working in a hard-to-serve school, the risk of succumbing to projections of low evaluations and decreased opportunities for earning bonuses is not enough to incentivize even the most dedicated or altruistic educator. This offers a new way of understanding teacher career decisions, by considering the importance of worker identity and structural constraints. Another risk to the ability to retain teachers relates back to earlier conceptions of constraints to teaching practices under merit pay policies, as one teacher, Patty, stated If it depends on my money, Im going to do whatever you say, rather than what I think is best. Indeed, many teachers reported constant efforts to try to match their instruction to the evaluation guidelines they were supplied, which brings up questions of whether the outcomes of ProComp are meeting its intended goals of encouraging good teaching, if in fact teachers do not perceive a clear ability to do what they see fit as a good teacher, due to constraints of their evaluations being tied to earnings.
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The official DPS ProComp agreement expires on December 31, 2017, with no apparent discussion yet of any new negotiations between the district and the teachers union, DCTA. The Denver teachers union is however currently seeing a newer push for progressive, social-justice minded leadership, with a goal to focus on advocating for employee protections and teachers labor in the coming months (Asmar 2017). This will be an important development to follow, as Colorado is simultaneously seeing increasing pushes towards privatizing public education under a new Trump presidency and new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. As the Senate is currently considering Senate Bill 61, which would supply equal funding to charter schools in Colorado districts, some are pointing to a potential initial trickling in of privatized, school choice-centered ideals and efforts of the new administration (Dallman 2017). Certainly the effects of increased emphasis on school choice and competition will impact the experiences of teachers who remain in public schools, however the push within Denvers teacher union for new leadership and new employee protections offers fresh hope for advocating on behalf of teachers work and ultimately reshaping conceptions of teachers as public workers.
In conclusion, the use of incentive pay for teachers seems to overlook the more complex nuances of teacher identities. For the reasons argued in this research, which center on a devaluing of teachers work and failure to recognize native skills and care work, teachers perceive pay-for-performance to be a poor representation of their worker identities, which do not require sticks and carrots to incentivize. As one teacher pronounced: Dont put a carrot in front of me... I dont want sticks and carrots. Indeed, mere sticks and carrots do not appear to belong alongside apples in the classroom.
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Full Text

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! "DON'T PUT A CARROT ON A STICK IN FRONT OF ME:" INCENTIVE PAY AND THE DESKILLING OF TEACHERS' WORK IN A NEOLIBERAL ERA by SARAH R. JORDAN B.S., Pennsylvania State University, 2015 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the Un iversity of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Sociology Program 2017

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"" 2017 SARAH R. JORDAN ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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""" This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Sarah R. Jordan has been approved for the Sociology Program by Jennifer A. Reich, Chair Keith Guzik Edelina Burciaga Date May 13, 2017

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"# Jordan, Sarah R. (M.A., Sociology Program ) "Don't Put a Carrot on a Stick in Front of Me: Incentive Pay and the Deskilling o f Teachers' Work in a Neoliberal Era. Thesis directed by Associate Professor Jennifer A. Reich. ABSTRACT Increasingly, publ ic school teachers are subject to evaluation s that are often used to structure their compensation. These programs claim to incre ase teacher quality and retention. Denver Public Schools (DPS) has led the nation in adopting an aggressive "pay for performance" system. Ten years in, Denver shows high teacher turnover with only roughly half of teachers continuing in the district past th eir first three ye ars. Yet little is understood about how teachers who remain in schools under these merit based pay systems experience changes to their worker identity and manage decisions about long term career investment. Drawing on qualitative data col lected from in depth semi structured interviews with veteran public school elementary teachers this study examines the experiences of public school elementary educators who worked in DPS before and after the implementation of pay for performance compensa tion and identifies some of the unintended consequences of a merit pay model that requires ongoing evaluation by superiors. Specifically, I examine how challenges to teacher worker identities as veterans and experts under an incentive pay policy contribute to an ongoing deskilling and devaluation of teachers' work. The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Jennifer A. Reich

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# TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION ...... 1 National Educat ion Policy Contexts and Changes to Teachers' Work ... ... 2 Denver as a National Leader. ... .. 5 The ProComp Pay Policy and LEAP Evaluations Framework.. 8 II. REVIEW OF TH E LITERATURE.. 12 Merit Pay for Teachers 12 Teacher Work Identities... 15 Bureaucracy in Schools.... 17 III. METHODS ... 20 Sampling... 20 Interviews and Observations.... 23 IV. FINDIN GS... 29 Challenges to Expert Identities 29 Mechanizing Expertise.. 30 Failing to Acknowledge Innate Motivators' in Unnecessary Practices... 34 Devaluing Experience. 37 Pay Plateaus and the Penalty of Experience. 37 Devaluing Age.. 40 F ailing to Compensate Care Work and Alternative Capital 43 Devaluing Foundational Work with Lower Grade Levels 45 Devaluing Culturall y Relevant Skills .. 47

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#" V. CON CLUSION 51 REFERE NCES. 54

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#"" LIST OF TABLES TABLE 1. Profile of Interviewees25

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1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Teaching as a profession has undergone major shifts over the past few decades, in the wake of national education reform efforts. In more recent years, reflecting the patterns of neoliberal ideology that promote choice and competition, education policies and initiatives like No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, a nd Common Core standards (implemented under both the Bush and Obama administrations) have tied school funding to teacher performance. This evaluative framework exposes an achievement gap that has actually worsened since some of the earliest e fforts to desegregate schooling and rectify educational disparities (1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act) Policies like the aforementioned ones promote competition between traditional public schools and their privatized counterparts (charter schoo ls) as an instrument of change, treat performance as measured from student testing data as the best measure of progress and place high accountability practices on schools for inequalities that extend beyond the classroom. All of these assumptions about ed ucational inequality and quality teaching have translated into shifts in teacher identities and the deskilling of the profession as a whole. While historically, teaching has commanded a relatively high amount of deference, this research points to the ways in which one incentive pay policy in Denver Public Schools (DPS) highlights emerging wo rkforce challenges for teachers. This research is situated in an education policy context that is host to much debate about the extensive use of testing and goals of me eting educational standards as a measure of deservedness for school f unding (largely federal funding), as well as the implications for teacher career choices. This study goes beyond these educational policy

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2 questions to consider the experiences of teachers as workers, also constrained and challenged by an increasing trend of binding teacher earnings to student performance through the use of policies like incentive pay for teachers. These next sections frame the evolution of education policy over recent deca des at both a national level and a local level, and explore how historical connotations of teaching as a profession have changed and evolved in places like Denver, a city that is a national forefront for education reform. This study ultimately contributes to the existing knowledge on unintended consequences of accountability policies in schools, and the experiences of being a teacher under increased evaluation and scrutiny. M ore broadly, this research contribute s to sociological knowledge of teachers as pub lic employees in a neoliberal era. National Educatio n Policy Contexts and Changes to Teachers' Work On January 7, 2017, the Washington Post published an article about Sara Holbrook, a poet who conveyed with disbelief her inability to answer questions on a Texas standardized test for eighth graders about her own work Holbrook described the questions as poorly conceived and misleading. She suggested this reflected the problems with for profit testing companies, like Pearson and McGraw Hill, being charged wi th writing these exams. This serves as only one of the many incredulous accounts from parents, teachers, community members and others about the dismays of increasing standardized tes ting and standardized curricula. Others point to the losses in music, arts and other enrichment programs that have been crowded out in favor of a need to teach to the test,' which focuses most heavily on test taking skills so that schools may continue to meet their annual progress requirements. Federal policies like No Child L eft Behind (which aims to close the achievement gap through setting high national school

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3 achievement standards) and Race to the Top (which utilizes federal funding incentives to encourage schools to compete for top student test scores) have necessitated a competition driven schooling system, where schools are competing with each other for funding and student enrollment (Barrett 2009; Onosko 2011). Neoliberalism is an economic set of ideas that has gained status in recent decades as the U.S. moves to a mor e laissez faire representation of economics, which emphasizes free market competition. Through the growing privatization of the public sector, neoliberal ideals aim to increase the presence of the private sector in economic competition. Neoliberal values t end to include free trade, deregulation, privatization, and competition (Codd 2005; Ilcan 2009; Rose 1999) In the education sphere, this has largely translated to a privatization of schooling options in districts around the country In some places, this m anifests through the growth of charter school s, which are privatized schools that utilize public vouchers for students to subsidize tuition at a charter in place of tuition at a public traditional school. T ypically charter schools are not subject to the sa me regulatio n as traditional public schools, and many operate under larger corporate influence, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Canyon Agassi Charter School Fund (founded by professional tennis player Andre Agassi). Ultimately, the growi ng charter start up movement and choice initiatives draw families out of neighborhood schools, which often face shut downs due to low enrollment numbers, and place profits into the hands of investors and business shareholders that are enmeshed within chart er organizations, like stock investors and real estate developers (Brown 2016; Rawls 2015; Singer 2014). Perhaps most importantly, much research points to a failure of

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4 charter schools to remedy poor student achievement any more than public schools (Carruth ers 2012; Good 2009; Lubienski 2013; Strauss 2014; Trunk 2015). As more families opt to leave poor performing, under funded public schools in favor of newer charter or publicly subsidized private schools, struggling schools have had to resort to more compe titive means of attracting families and remaining open. The result has been aggressive efforts to chase funding through federal and local programs that increase pressure on school performance. Some of these efforts include initiatives like No Child Left Be hind, Race to the Top (which dangled federal funding in front of schools that performed best on standardized tests), and Turnaround Schools (which placed new sanctions on poor performing schools, like closures and charter takeovers') These programs force schools that are already struggling to chase high test scores as a means to keep their doors open in the face of an increasing willingness to privatiz e the public education system. For teachers, this has meant a major change in the work they do and the a ssumptions they fac e about their work In the face of pressures to meet state testing requirements, some scholars suggest teachers are now merely disempowered technicians,' stuck within the bureaucracy of education where administrators, supervisors, and e ven state legislative actors sit atop a system of top down policy making, forcing teachers to carry out meaningless tasks in the name of student achieveme nt (like teaching to the test) (Giroux 2013; Goldstein & Beutel 2009). As I will show, t his has given rise to new challenges to the worker identity of teachers as their work is continually deskilled and devalued into the work of me ager disempowered technicians.

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5 Teaching as a profession has been deskilled through the growing use of incentive pay for teache rs (or merit pay, used interchangeably here). Also described as pay for performance models, merit pay systems for teachers often base teacher earnings on student performance, and consist of incentives to motivate teachers to complete extra work for cash bo nuses. Incentive pay models typically subject teachers to evaluations that are used to structure their compensation, placing student performance as a top barometer for teacher merit and earnings (Belfield & Heywood 2008; Gius 2013) While these programs ar e quick to claim high success rates in closing student achievement gaps and garnering favorability among teachers, this research points to how one merit pay policy in Denver, ProComp,' reflects current neoliberal undertones of competition and performance based policies, and in turn works to essentially harm the identities of teachers as professionals. The next section explains how the state of Colorado and city of Denver serve as a particularly interesting field site in examining the consequences of merit pay. Denver as a National Leader Funding public services in the state of Colorado looks fundamentally different than funding public services in other states, as Colorado 's school funding is beholden to the TABOR state law a Taxpayer Bill of Rights' La w that limits funding and mandates rebates from extra state income. Under TABOR, the state may only increase its annual spending up to an amount that equals the sum of the inflation rate plus the percent change in the state population for that year. TABOR fail s to account for other changes in state populations and non inflation related costs (for example, populations requiring the most amount of public services, like children and seniors, often experience more rapid growth

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6 than the state population as a who le). This ultimately creates a constrained process for the allocation of public service funds in Colorado, as any cost exceeding needs that emerge, beyond what TABOR allows, have to be settled by reorganizing funds within the budget (i.e. taking funds from other sources), rather than increasing an overall budget amount. Education often becomes the brunt of the reductions and reallocations in budget funds, as Colorado has shown sizeable plummets in K 12 spending since the passing of TABOR in 19 92 (Colorado S chool Finance Project) In addition to constrained spending Colorado also passed Senate Bill 10 191 in 2013, which change d the way educators are evaluated in the state The change was two fold: new Quality Standards' now quantify what it means to be an effective teacher, and new teachers now only become permanent and earn' non probationary status as an effective teacher after multiple years of effective' evaluations. The law leaves it to individual districts to decide how to implement new teacher evalu ation systems, which Denver Public Schools has taken advantage of in its new teacher evaluation system, LEAP,' a newer component of ProComp. Denver has shown a prominent track record in education reform, beyond just recent efforts like teacher pay and eva luation reforms. Denver has indeed proven to be an interesting laboratory, or proverbial ground zero' for education policy I n my informal discussion with sociologist Hava Gordon, who researches school reform and is herself a parent to Denver Public Sch ools students, she remarked to me that many in the community consider the Denver Public Schools District (DPS) to be so broken, there's nothing to lose by trying to fix it.' Indeed, Denver has seen a variety of efforts over the years to bring the newest a nd greatest reform efforts to the heavily diverse, urban district, ranging from multi million dollar grants and

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7 investments in charter schools from sources like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to the newest School Performance Framework' program, wh ich is essentially an annual report card released on each school in the DPS district that becomes publicly available These efforts have placed Denver at the top of the list of highly regarded school choice efforts, and have drawn praise from representativ es like Colorado Senator (and ex DPS Superintendent) Michael Bennett, who recently defended the unique success of Denver's choice program in the confirmation hearings for newly appointed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, urging her to pay a visit to Denv er, where "school choice is different" (Asmar 2016; Gorski 2017; Williamson 2017). The Denver Public Schools district is the largest district in Colorado, with 92,331 students enrolled as of October 2016. In the 2016 17 school year, about 67% of enrolled students in the district qualify for Fre e or Reduced Lunch indicating th at two thirds of children come from low income families. Denver also has a high percentage of Hispanic and Spanish Speaking students, with 55% of the student body identifying as Hisp anic, 23% identifying as white, and 13% identifying as black. 37% of students classify as English Language Learners (ELL), and roughly the same percentage report being Spanish Speaking (ELL or not, indicating a large proportion of bilingual students). Some of the other top languages spoken by DPS students include Vietnamese, Arabic, and Amharic. The district wide graduation rate is currently 65%, with roughly 5% of students dropping out in any given year (Denver Public Schools: Facts & Figures'). R ates of staff turnover in DPS are high with a total turnover rate of 28% across all staff/faculty in the district between the 2015 2016 school year and 2016 2017 school year (compared to a national turnover rate of roughly 16 18% for all schools nationwide).

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8 Teac her turnover rates alone are 22%, and principal turnover rates are similar at 23% (Colorado Department of Education). Some of the most popularly cited reasons for exiting the profession include burnout from a lack of resources and emphasis on test taking s kills, insufficient salaries, and even political climate within schools or within work networks of teachers (Schimke 2017; Westervelt 2016). This has resulted in a critical teacher shortage in the state, which in turn has increase d support for alternative licensing programs that teachers can complete in order to bridge their non teaching experience with a teaching position. 25% of teaching credentials distributed in 2016 in the state of Colorado were attained through alternative licensing programs, such as the Boettcher Teacher Residency program, which recruits professionals or those already with a bachelor's degree for a year long training that prepares them to teach (Perkins 2017). The result is a further deskilling and de professionalizing of teaching as an occupation, as traditionally trained and certified teachers who leave are being replaced with those who do not have equival ent qualifications (one year training certification programs for new teachers versus specialized, two year Master's degrees for mo re seasoned teachers) These high rates of staff turnover speak to the characteristics and needs of the district, which serves a largely disadvantaged and diverse urban population, with difficulty retaining teachers and administrators. The ProComp Pay Pol icy and LEAP Evaluations Framework Denver Public Schools became a national leader on the front of teacher pay when the district implemented the Professional Compensation System for Teachers (ProComp') in 2006, a merit pay salary model designed around inc entives and bonuses for teachers. One of the earliest examples of a school district tackling teacher

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9 compensation using a merit pay schema, ProComp was designed in collaboration between the district administration and the teachers' union, the Denver Classr oom Teachers Association (DCTA). In 2004, a Joint Task Force on Teacher Compensation' was formed between the two groups and a voter initiative was created that asked Denver taxpayers to approve a $25 million mill levy that would fund ProComp. The measure passed with 58% of voters in favor. Thereafter, teachers and specialized service providers (SSPs,' including counselors, social workers, nurses, etc.) in traditional public schools in DPS (charters are exempt) hired on or after January 1, 2006 were automa tically enrolled into one of ProComp's seven salary lanes,' while employees employed before that date had the choice to opt in to the ProComp pay model or conti nue with a fixed salary model. ProComp was implemented using not just a strictly pay for perfo rmance model, but with attributes that would signify an ongoing collaborative endeavor between teachers and district repres entatives. C omponents of the original ProComp plan included items like measuring student growth via mutually agreed upon objectives s et by both principals and teachers, and conducting teacher evaluations based on five revised standards and a body of student work (not just test scores sing ularly) (Ravitch 2013) (Denver Public Schools : ProComp Handbook ). While the original blueprints for ProComp included collaborative objectives, in practice, the structure of the pay model ten years later appears to lack methods of teacher evaluation that would emphasize collaborative endeavors between teachers and school leadership. Instead, the way incen tives are designed and achieved is based in a bureaucratic and top down' structure of holding teachers accountable for student performance, with incentives often lying within measures that are not as easily demonstrated with just good teaching.'

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10 Teacher salaries are initially calculated by a base pay level,' which is a reflection of a teacher's level of education and years of experience. These base pay levels are divided into seven different lanes,' or tiers of annual earnings. Teachers then have the o ption to incre ase that annual salary level by earning additional academic degrees (Masters, doctorates, or extra credit hours ) or certifications. In addition to these baseline pay level increases that teachers can achieve, ProComp is set up such that teach ers can also earn compensation for completing extra incentive' items set forth by DPS in a neatly tiered quantifiable rubric. These incentives mainly take the form of one time or monthly bonuses, and include items like teaching in a hard to serve school (typically a low income, low performing school), or achieving the status of a high growth' or high achievement' school, contingent on the improvement of student performance during the year. Incentives can also be earned by completing items like PDU's, or Professional Development Units,' which serve as instructional content created by teachers for other teachers. Most central to the purposes of this study, however, is the linking of incentive bonuses to the job evaluations teachers experience throughout the year. In 2013, DPS implemented a n additional new system of teacher evaluations following ProComp, which serves as an instrument for teachers to earn incentive bonuses through. As a response to an invitation put forth by the Bill & Melinda Gates Founda tion to compete for a $10 million grant to develop a new teacher evaluation system in 2009, DPS developed LEAP evaluations, or Leading Effective Academic P ractice.' Building on previous experiences involving the teachers union (DCTA) in the design of ProC omp, LEAP evaluations were also piloted by teachers in the years prior to its official passing in 2013. LEAP evaluations measure four different areas of teacher effectiveness:

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11 observations of classroom instruction, professionalism ratings on the contributi ons of the teacher outside of the classroom, student perception surveys which collect student feedback, and student growth data which includes student test score for both the classroom and the school levels. Teachers evaluated under LEAP (those in traditio nal DPS public schools; charters do not participate in LEAP) are observed by a combination of both administrator evaluators (principals) and peer evaluators (other teachers), and receive numerical ratings on a one to seven scale that indicates their level of teaching effectiveness, with one being ineffective and seven being distinguished.' LEAP evaluations provide a series of 19 different indicators that evaluators look for during observations, each of which gets assigned a one through seven score (Denver Public Schools: LEAP Handbook) LEAP demonstrates a significant change happening to teacher professionalism, as the use of numbered scaling to quantify effective' teaching is a departure from the more traditional teacher evaluations that typic ally avoided numerical ratings in favor of qualitative, holistic examination. While the original language of ProComp and LEAP policies was tailored to ideas of collaborative endeavors for education reform between teachers and administrators, it is important to questi on how these ideas have held up over the deca de following their implementation. Next I present a synthesis of the existing literature on teacher work identities and bureaucratic policies in the neoliberal era, so that I may frame the contributions of this research in offering new explanations for the career investment decisions teachers make when faced with particularly adverse policy structures and working conditions.

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12 CHAPTER II REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Previous research completed on the unintended cons equences of merit pay for teachers points to several issues that emerge when a pay for performance system is introduced to schools. Most of this literature has examined the impact of high accountability policies like merit pay for teachers through their ex periences in the classroom, by analyzing issues with instruction or student based outcomes, for example. Little research has been done on the impacts of policies like incentive pay on teacher work identities outside of the classroom, through looking at the experiences of teachers as workers (with their pay/earnings and peer networks for example, a non classroom based aspect of their work) and as public employees in a privatizing neoliberal era. As teachers face increasingly difficult demands to meet high pe rformance standards, often with the insecurity of personal earnings being tied to those metrics, some literature suggests a threat to worker identities that emerges from these bureaucratic constraints. Merit Pay for Teachers Merit pay for public school tea chers represents a major shift in the conceptions of teaching and teachers. Historically, teacher pay has incorporated gradual steps and salary increases over time to reward seniority, and has offered generous pensions. Interestingly, teacher pensions were established after the Civil War, as a way of rewarding and acknowledging female educators' sacrifices and service in the public sector (Leroux 2009). Merit pay offers a significant departure from this notion, as pay for performance and incentives work to motivate teachers, conveying a message that they don't work hard

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13 enough, while pensions have historically worked to reward teachers for the many years of hard work and service they provide. In more current times, teachers have had to adjust their teaching strategies in response to accountability based policies that emphasize markers like test scores an d student growth measures. Jennings & Sohn (2014) introduce two consequences of pay for performance policies that harm student achievement, including instru ctional triage, or teaching to the test,' where material that receives the most instruction and emphasis is strictly related to test material and test taking strategies as well as educational triage, which results in teachers giving the most assistanc e or attention to the students who are closest to proficiency levels, in an effort to meet strict standardized tes ting score expectations This finding is troubling because the achievement gap has been shown to work against students of color and students i n low income, low performing schools. Teachers who teach in these types of schools often face issues like time constraints in trying to catch up' students who perform behind standardized expectations, larger p opulations of English Language L earner student s, and extenuating circumstances that make it hard for students to achieve at the expected level (more kids requiring meals at school and free or reduced lunches, fewer school and classroom resources, larger class sizes etc.) (Bali & Alvarez 2003; Moller 2006 ). These altered teaching strategies illustrate the impact of teacher responses to accountability policie s, and the ways in which these responses may unintentionally work to stratify student achievement even further. This is an especially relevant poin t in thinking about the focus on Denver Public Schools for this research, a district that already faces many of the issues listed above like

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14 high populations of English Language Learner students and a sizeable low income student population. Research on p ay for performance policies also suggests that studies of teacher experiences under accountability policies should consider the peer communities that teachers are embedded in. Some literature point s to the fact that while a merit pay model may increase com pensation, it may also involve negative comparisons and the generation of peer pressure amongst teacher colleagues (Belfield & Heywood 2008; Leigh 2012; Steele 2010 ). The importance of strong teacher communities is supported by research proving the importa nce of professional communities to teaching strategies and teacher satisfaction, as well as student achievement; a stronger professional community is more effective at reducing racial and socioeconomic gaps in student ach ievement (Coburn et al. 2013; Molle r et al. 2013; Stear ns et al. 2014 ). This frames the goals of this research to further investigate claims on teacher peer communities in elementary schools. Given the importance of teacher networks, it is especially pertinent to examine how the constraints of incentive pay policies like ProComp work to either enhance or diminish the cross grade level connections that form in the elementary grades (where upper grades participate in more standardized testing than lower grade levels). Interestingly, there are mixed opinions amongst educators on the value of merit pay policies. Some research suggests that teachers may actually experience higher job satisfaction overall under merit pay models, as they report feeling rewarded and recognized for their hard work (G ius 2013 ). Other findings point to differences in attitudes of merit pay recipients by age or experience: often the younger and more novice teachers lean in favor of merit pay, as opposed to their older and more experienced

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15 counterparts. Additionally, ther e are differences in likelihood of supporting merit pay policies for teachers by race and gender: Leigh (2012) finds that male teachers are more likely to champion merit pay policies than female educators, as are racial minority teachers, as opposed to the ir white pe ers. This presents an opportunity to examine how well the worker identities of teachers are represented, recognized, and rewarded under high accountability policies like merit pay. While there have been several research studies previously comple ted on Denver's ProComp, these studies have been mainly piloted by policy research institutes or scholars of education, and have primarily measured student outcomes since the passing of ProComp (with mixed results) and how to improve the operations of its framework (how to clarify incentives for teachers, for example) (Atteberry et al. 2015; DeGrow 2007; Goldhaber & Walch 2012; Wiley et al. 2010). This leaves a gap in the knowledge of teachers' experiences and decisions under ProComp, as much data point to the outcome based effects of ProComp, without much explanation as to how teachers experience working under the policy or what gives rise to these outcomes in student achievement and teachers' long term career investment decisions. Teacher Work Identities Teaching is a particularly interesting public service profession to consider in the context of neoliberal policies that emphasize privatization of the public sector, as the attitudes and perceptions of teaching as an occupation have undergone major shift s, towards an increasing tendency to allocate blame and accountability for poor student achievement unto teachers. This presents a challenge to the identities that many teachers describe feeling as early childhood educators, which often revolve around a se nse of

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16 mission or altruism in their desire to work in that role. Also important to note are the experiences of veteran' teachers, or experienced educators. Teaching has historically been a highly feminized profession, mainly taken up by females, especial ly within the elementary grade levels. While teaching has remained a feminized profession, there exists still a gendered line that separates the work of administrators and other school officials, positions that are largely occupied by men (Drudy 2008; More au et al. 2007; Sager 2007). Many teachers report feelings of altruism, a sense of mission, and a strong desire to work in public service and make a difference' as their reasons for becoming a teacher. Because of these shared fundamental values that exist across so many educators, teachers have largely come to be expected to hold a natural, innate maternal benevolence,' with a deep sense of caring (Collay 2010; Evans 1993; Thomson & Kehily 2011). This is often disconnected from perceptions of teachers as workers, and their own experiences and identities as teachers. Teachers experience constraints that are specific to their job as educators, due to a need to navigate the line between expectations to hold an altruistic attitude and at times feeling the sys temic pressures of bureaucratic work environments. As I will show, this tension between expert' and employee' presents new challenges to teacher identities. Harrington Meyer (2000) describes a prominent devaluation of caring occurring in some professions such as low status care workers like psychiatric technicians, who experience bureaucratic time constraints at work that make it difficult for them to care for their patients in the ways they see best. This research expands upon these notions of bureaucra tic constraints on care work by connecting a devaluation of caring to a deskilling and devaluation of teaching, a profession that necessitates caring as a large part

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17 of worker identity. Literature on the care work of lower skilled workers closely mirrors t he constraints that higher skilled workers like teachers face while working under merit pay. Thus, these previous works in the sociology of work and occupations can help to explain the fissure between worker identity and structural constraints in the workp lace for elementary school teachers. Experiences of teachers who hold veteran' identities also show different trends in education reform, which may lead to differences in the ways that these teachers experience increased scrutiny and evaluation under pol icies like ProComp. In her research on teacher agency and institutiona lized instructional practices, Bridwell Mitchell (2015 :152 ) captures the sentiments of one teacher in particular, on the struggle of being evaluated by her superiors: "It's hard, especia lly for older teachers, to have somebody like the state come in and critique their lesson, to critique their whole career in five minutes. It's pretty insulting. I think for a lot of older teachers that makes them just want to leave the school, leave the p rofession." Additionally, Stacey (2011) points to the experiences of home care aides with bureaucratic limits placed on the scope of their work, by noting that workers with over 15 years of experience, or veteran' workers, were especially frustrated by th ese bureaucratic constraints, perhaps due to their time in the field having experienced a time when constraints were lesser. These examples from other professions highlight an ongoing devaluing of care work, and frame a new way of understanding the experie nces of teachers working under similar constraints. Bureaucracy in Schools The unintended consequences of accountability policies such as merit pay salary models can largely be analyzed by conceptualizing the positionality of teachers and

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18 teacher evaluat ors as situated in a bureaucratic structure, using Max Weber's theories of bureaucracy (1922). If the chain of command in a typical school structure places evaluators on the top of the chain, with teachers on the bottom, there is reason to believe that the way these two roles interact will be shaped around a policy context like merit pay, which is intrinsically bureaucratic and top down' (or enforced from a higher office unto lower offices). Weber posits that bureaucracies eventually take on a life of the ir own,' by solidifying and becoming hard to change once the struc ture is in place (Weber 1922 ). Merit pay may give form to this process; this analysis explores how the loss of autonomy for teachers (through increased standardized evaluative measures and c onstrictions in teaching) shapes the way that teaching is done and viewed. Indeed, it has been argued that in the wake of the accountability driven era of education policy and neoliberal reform, teachers are now viewed as mere powerless specialized techni cians' or disempowered technicians' with no autonomy within the bureaucracy, whose sole purpose is to carry out curriculum orders' without space for critical development of the material delivered to their students (Giroux 2013; Goldstein 2009; Kerstetter 2015 ). This reflects the ways in which the role of educators may be shifting as a response to a neoliberal, bureaucratic policy context. In taking Weber's theories of bureaucracy a step further, Nikolas Rose (1999) highlights the ways in which neoliberali sm has also been a defining factor for the state of education today. In this competitive, privatized neoliberal era, Rose considers the ways in which power looks differently in a free nation without the centralized strong stat e' of government In other wo rds, how does the act of governing look different in a privatized economy that emphasizes individualism? Within the sphere of education, it can be argued

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19 that the standardized performance measures and evaluations for students and teachers demonstrate the n eed for an accountability based method of evaluation in light of a neoliberal emphasis on school choice and the ability to use public vouchers for privatized schools like charters. In theory, on a macro level, in order for power to be enforced and individu als held accountable, there must be some standardized method of evaluation to ensure each office (or type of school) is being held accountable. This may become a source of bureaucratic tensions and struggles for autonomy within the micro levels of schools, resulting in issues like teacher burnout (exiting the profession). In her analysis of te acher mobility under ProComp, Fulbeck (2014) finds that while there has been a slight overall decrease in teachers exiting the district, this trend does not hold for t eachers who are serving in high poverty, hard to serve' schools. Thus, ProComp does not appear to have yet resolved the issue of retaining strong te achers in high poverty schools. Indeed, worker identities may contribute to some reasons for this, as Hochs child notes that workers who identify too strongly or too wholeheartedly with their job risk higher rates of burnout (Hochschild 1983). This signals the importance of this research in dissecting notions of altruism in veteran teachers' work identities and career investment decisions. Through examining each of these areas of literature, this research attempts to bridge understandings of teachers as workers by framing their experiences as situated in a neoliberal policy era, with changes to their work emergi ng that closely mirror changes in other professions. This study offers new insights into how teachers navigate these changes and shape their long term career decisions.

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20 CHAPTER III METHODS This study employs qualitative data from interviews and observa tions conduct ed in Denver from 2016 through 2017. This research is inductive, utilizing in depth semi structured interviews with experienced elementary school teachers, as well as supplemental field notes from several board of education meetings local conferences, and public parent superintendent forums within the Denv er Public Schools District to draw conclusions about the ways the value of teachers' work has shifted over time within a district using an incentive pay structure. Conducting in depth interviews satisfies the a ims of this research to understand teachers' own worker identities and perceptions of their evaluation systems under ProComp; supplemental data from my time observing board meetings and public forums within DPS also provide a medium for understanding the l arger district wide structures and perceptions about teachers and their work, as it unfolds in the greater Denver area. Sampling In order to understand ho w teachers experience changes to their job evaluations in a district that ties evaluations to salary earnings, I elected to speak with only experienced educators who had been in Denver Public Schools both sometime prior to 2006 (when ProComp was implemented), as well as sometime after 2006. This allowed me to take a snapshot of the perceptions on ProComp when it first came out, and to speak with experienced educators about their strategies in deciding whether to opt in or not based on the value they perceived ProComp to bring to their professional worth or earnings. I spoke with two participants who are n o longer working as classroom teachers (although

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21 both still work in schools); all other 18 participants are current teachers in the district. By leaving open the opportunity to speak with those who have moved out of teaching positions, I was able to captur e some effects of incentive pay on teacher burnout and decisions to leave the workforce. By speaking with veteran teachers,' all of whom have at least 11 years in the district (and most between 11 and 20 years), the effects of ProComp over the years are h ighlighted, as these individuals have an ability to testify to the changes over time in the way their work has been devalued and deskilled under a merit pay model. These educators also experience certain effects of their veteran status' under ProComp; af ter 15 years teaching in the district, ProComp applies a drop off in base salary building incentive opportunities for teachers. In other words, after 15 years, cash payouts that teachers receive for the incentives they complete under ProComp no longer go t owards their yearly salary (where the overall salary increases thereafter), rather, they serve as small one time, lump sum cash payouts of typically a few thousand dollars that do not go towards an overall increase in salary (as it continues to do for teac hers who have 14 years or less teaching in the district). The significance of this patterned experience of plateauing' among participants in the sample serves as a poignant aspect of their worker identity as experienced teachers facing new constraints. Ul timately, in this sample, the devaluation and deskilling of their work as veteran teachers (with years of experience to offer) is clearly outlined in policies that incentivize and reward the retention of younger, less experienced teachers, while excluding similar benefits for teachers with more years teaching in the district.

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22 The sample was also limited to teachers who teach elementary grade levels in DPS: Early Childhood Education (ECE, or Pre K), Kindergarten, 1 st 2 nd 3 rd 4 th and 5 th grades. This was done in an effort to analyze the work environments of teachers in grade levels that face the greatest amount of standardized testing, and arguably the greatest amount of workplace stress and adversity due to the pressure of meeting testing requirements (th e results of which are tied to teacher salaries under ProComp). Though the Denver Public Schools District tests students yearly in elementary schools and middle schools at an almost equal amount, between both state tests (like Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS), and district level assessments, elementary grade levels are a particularly interesting workplace atmosphere due to the stratification that emerges across grade levels based on which grades participate in testing (largely 3 rd 4 th and 5 th ), and which do not, or do so less frequently (largely the lower grades: ECE, K, 1 st 2 nd ). It can be argued that the same workplace dynamics would not emerge in middle school environments, where each grade level (6 th 7 th 8 th ) participates in almost id entical amounts of both state and district testing, and all teachers in the school are thus eligible to receive the same ProComp bonuses for high test scores. There are three particip ants in the study who remain not opted in to ProComp, and instead were g randfathered in using the pre 2006 traditional pay scale, which includes a small cost of living increase annually and some relatively sparse step' or lane' salary increases as teachers accrue more years in the district. Speaking with these educators in s upplement to those who did elect to opt in to ProComp allowed for a strengthened analysis of the ways in which ProComp has ultimately set the stage for policies and practices that influence teacher identities and work experiences beyond just incentive

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23 pay, as all teachers in the sample report resoundingly similar experiences in the ways that their evaluations (under the LEAP framework, an off shoot of ProComp) have shifted to reflect a larger deskilling of teaching as a profession. The sample was also limi ted to those who teach (or taught) in a traditional public school, excluding charter schools in DPS. ProComp does not automatically enroll teachers working in charter schools, and these schools are each free to establish their own independent teacher pay m odel and teacher evaluation model; thus charter schools do not fit the aims of this study in understanding the ways in which ProComp mandates the influence of teacher evaluations on earnings and worker identity for those who are opted in to ProComp, or th ose who remain not opted in but are working in a DPS school that is mandated to use LEAP (as charters are not). Interviews and Observations Strategies for recruiting eligible participants included a mixture of some snowball sampling, where one participant refers the next, and a systematic approach of searching publicly available Denver Public Schools websites and databases for t eachers who fit the study criteria. I compiled a list of elementary schools within DPS that serve grades ECE 5 or K 5, and that wer e traditional public elementary schools. From my initial compilation of eligible schools, I searched through each school's publicly available website and located directories for all ECE (Early Childhood Education, or Pre K) through 5 th grade teachers, whic h included their Denver Public Schools work email address es I then exhausted each directory of eligible elementary schools by sending email invitations to all classroom teachers, which included a short invitation to meet after school or over coffee to dis cuss changes in their experiences at work over time with

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24 different policies. Altogether, I emailed over 220 teachers in eligible schools by the culmination of data collection. While most participants were recruited this way (16 in total), four participants were also recruited using personal connections and snowball sampling, as one person was able to refer me to the next. I met with 10 teachers at their school during or after the school day, and 10 other teachers at local coffee shops and cafes after sch ool or during the weekends. Interviews lasted between 30 and 90 minutes, and each was recorded and transcribed by me following the interview. Interview topics ranged from discussions of workplace environments and workplace networks, to experiences working under ProComp and LEAP specifically. I then u tilized a qualitative coding software (CATMA) to analyze textual data. I used thematic coding to ide ntify patterns from interviews that demonstrate both challenges to teacher worker identities, and an overall de skilling and devaluing of teaching as a profession. Table 1 provides a profile for each of the 20 interviewees, as well as descriptive characteristics of the schools they teach at, though all participant identities as well as the names of their respective schools are substituted with pseudonyms for the sake of confidentiality. Of the eligible teachers who responded and coordinated an interview with me, a total of 17 are opted in to ProComp and three remain not opted in, still on the traditional pay scale. O nly one eligible male teacher responded for an interview; the rest of the 19 respondents are female. The average time spent working in DPS across the sample is 19 years, with most teachers (all but six) having spent between 11 and 20 years in the district. 14 out of 20 respondents are from the grade levels spanning ECE to 2 nd grade; this is an interesting but not entirely surprising finding, as 3 rd 4 th and 5 th grade teachers

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25 Table 1. Profile of Interviewees Interviewee Characteristics School Character istics Pseudonym Gender Opted In to Pro Comp Grade Level Lower/ Upper* Years Working in District Language Certification** School % Free and Reduced Lunch 2016 School % English Language Learners 2016 School Performance Rating Julie F No Ex Lower 12 None Low Low Green (4) Allison F Yes Lower 26 Former ELA S Low Low Green (4) Michelle F Yes Lower 12 None Low Low Green (4) Suzanne F Yes Lower 11 None Low Low Green (4) Maria F Yes Lower 17 Former ELA S High Low Yellow (3) Heather F Yes Upper 25 None Medium Low Yellow (3) Samantha F Yes Lower 32 ELA S High Medium Orange (2) Miguel M Yes Lower 20 ELA S High Medium Orange (2) Dana F Yes Lower 20 None High Medium Green (4) Betsy F Yes Lower 15 ELA E High Medium Yellow (3) Tracy F Yes Lower 20 ELA S Medium Low Green (4) Monique F Yes Lower 17 None Medium Low Green (4) Sofia F Yes Lower 27 None High Medium Green (4) Alice F Yes Lower 30 None Medium Low Red (1) Colleen F No Upper 12 None High Medium Green (4) Hannah F Ye s Lower 20 None Low Low Green (4) Patty F Yes Lower 11 ELA E High High Green (4) Simone F No Lower 17 None High Medium Yellow (3) Donna F Yes Upper 12 None High Medium Yellow (3) Laura F Yes Ex Lower 30 ELA S ) TjET Q q 0.24 0 0 0.24 411.832 167.28 cm BT 41 0 0 41 0 0 Tm /TT3 1 Tf ( ) Tj ET Q q 0.24 0 0 0.24 463.522 167.28cm BT 41 0 0 41 0 0 Tm /TT3 1 Tf ( ) Tj ET Q q 0.24 0 0 0.24 522.3469 167.28 cm BT 41 0 0 41 0 0Tm /TT3 1 Tf ( Lower grade levels include ECE (early childhood education) through 3 rd grade. Upper levels include 4 th and 5 th grade. Ex Lower' denotes the two ex teachers in the sample, who both taught lower grade levels. ** DPS English Language Acquisition (ELA) certification levels include: ELA T: minimum ELA qualification, required for all teachers, above denoted as none.' ELA E: requ ired for some teachers. ELA S: necessary for bilingual. ** The 2016 DPS School Performance Framework includes ratings: 1/Red (l ow performing school, accredited on probation'), 2/Orange (accredited on priority watch'), 3/Yellow (accredited on watch'), 4/Green (meets expectations'), and 5/Blue (high performing school, distinguished ). This ex teacher is now a spe cialist who works in several DPS elementary schools.

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26 face the greatest amount of state testing, and thus perhaps a more constrained weekly schedule in preparing their students to take these tests, knowing that their salari es are dependent on the results. In speaking with teachers from lower grade levels about this, many pointed to the workplace stratification that emerges when bonuses under ProComp are allocated to teachers with high testing scores, but not for those educat ors in lower grade levels that prepare students to move to testing grade levels, yet are not in testing grade levels themselves The DPS language acquisition certifications (or second language instruction) include three levels: ELA T (the minimum required amount for all DPS teachers), ELA E (a middle step, with some additional language coursework/certification), and ELA S, or bilingual (the highest amount of certification, which accredits a teacher to instruct a bilingual classroom). The majority of the sam ple (12 teachers) does not have any alternate language licensing beyond the mandated amount for DPS teachers (ELA T). Six teachers are ELA S certified (eligible to teach a bilingual classroom), and two are ELA E certified. It is important to note that alth ough the majority of the sample does not necessarily have official DPS language acquisition qualifications, several described being conversationally fluent in Spanish or even having taught abroad in bilingual classrooms in places like Puerto Rico, indicati ng that many teachers who work in Denver Public Schools have some footing in teaching Spanish speaking populations (likely out of a need to serve their Spanish speaking students). F ive teachers t each in schools that have Free and Reduced Lunch Rates (FRL) of less than 15% of the student body (in other words, relatively well resourced, high i ncome schools). Four teachers teach in schools that have FRL rates between 30% and 40% of the

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27 student body (here referred to as middle inco me schools'), and 10 teacher s teach in schools that have FRL rates of more than 75%, indicating a high poverty, low income population. Ten of the teachers in my sample teach in schools that have relatively low percentages of English Language Learners (no more than 25% of the student body), eight of the teachers included teach in schools with ELL populations between 40% and 65%, denoted as middle' in Table 1, and one teacher works in a school with over 70% English Language Learners in the student body, denoted as high' here. Addition ally, one ex teacher no w works as a specialist in several different elem entary schools, which all vary in income levels and English Language Learner populations In addition to the 20 interviews I conduced with DPS teachers, I also spent roughly 4 0 hours c onducting observations and taking field notes at public DPS events and commun ity events such as board of education meetings local conferences, and superintendent parent forums,' which are informational sessions put on by DPS administrators for parents and community members. By attending these e vents and interacting with community members, I was able to explore broader connotations of teachers' work and the climate and culture of teaching, and perceptions of teaching, in Denver. This provided for a more complete view of the state of education ref orm in Denver and the implications for how governance unfolds on the ground for these teachers. During my time attending board meetings and parent forums, a particularly contested topic that emerged was Denver's system of color coded ratings, called the School Performance Framework. This model classifies schools in terms of student achievement, with red' schools indicating the lowest student achievement by carrying

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28 the label accredited on probation,' and blue' schools indicating high student achievemen t and a distinguished' rating. In my time spent attending these public meetings, some community members expressed fear that a red' rating creates issues in trying to recruit strong teachers as well as students, due to the negative assumptions that typica lly correlate with a failing' label when families and potential employees see a bright red warning' rating. These ratings are included with Table 1 to supply a more holistic picture of student performance at each school, given the resources available and populations served. Importantly, teachers receive opportunities to earn incentives for working in a distinguished' school under the School Performance Framework, making the ratings at each school a significant aspect of the experiences of the teachers wo rking within those schools (particularly for those working in red, orange, or yellow schools, the least favorable ratings). Using a combination of interviews and observations to form my analysis, the next section offers findings from the data I collected.

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29 CHAPTER IV FINDINGS Several key findings emerged from my interviews with teachers in Denver that demonstrate new constraints felt by these experienced teachers in the distr ict. In the data I collected many respondents illuminated new ways in which their worker identities as educators have been challenged in a decade that emphasizes bureaucratic, neoliberal policies like merit pay. These challenges felt by individuals working at the school level hold broader connections to larger implications f or workers in a neoliberal era, as I demonstrate in the evidence from my interviews that points to an overall deskilling of teaching as a profession. Additionally, this study addresses the ways in which some groups of teachers experience occupational strat ification at greater levels than others, as can be seen in the experiences of th e bilingual teachers I spoke with who work within ProComp. These findings offer a new mode of understanding teacher work experiences and decisions about long term career invest ment. Challenges to Expert Identities Several respondents described the importance of maintaining a notion of being an expert' in their roles as educators to elementary aged students, especially salient when faced with adversity at work or a particular ly challenging class in any given year. Given the large amounts of standardized testing and performance expectations that are placed on teachers and their students, some teachers describe an emerging challenge to retain a sense of expertise given these con straints on their work. As one teacher noted: This is the only industry where you see those things. You're not going to see that in the medical field people who have experience are, you know, up there. And this is the only field or career where you neve r become an expert. You're

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30 never an expert. Every year you have to learn new things new programs. ( Miguel, lower grade level teacher) Miguel is pointing to one facet of the teaching profession that differs from the way other professions are regarded, from his perspective. In the constant race to adopt new curricula every year in an effort to prepare students for testing and performance markers (a struggle almost every respondent alluded to in their teaching), teachers are placed under working condition s that they perceive to be unique to their profession and the way their work is valued. Furthermore, when placed within a pay for performance system that employs numerical evaluations for teachers, new challenges to identities as experts emerge. Mechaniz ing Expertise The bureaucracy of the structuration of ProComp and its LEAP evaluations becomes apparent in teachers' discussions of their experiences being evaluated within the LEAP framework, which utilizes a one through seven scaling rating for te achers, based o n indicators like rigor' in instruction, professionalism,' and stating student learning objectives,' or SLO's, verbatim throughout a lesson. The use of numbered scoring in teacher evaluations was a later addition to the ProComp framework, which incorporates a portion of its incentives to reward teachers who reach distinguished' status in their evaluations. Teachers in Denver now experience a combination of midyear evaluations, end of year evaluations, and what many sardonically refer to as dri ve by' evaluations, where a teacher evaluator or administrator visits the classroom without warning for short periods of time. In formal evaluation sessions, which typically occur anywhere between two to five times per year as described my interviewees (th e LEAP handbook states best practice' as 4 6 formal evaluations per year, and there was much variance in my sample), teachers receive feedback on 19 different indicators, each of which receives a one to

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31 seven rating scale (1 being least effective, 7 being most effective). These scales are then ultimately broken down into categories ranging from not meeting' (1 2 rating), approaching' (3 4 rating), effective' (5 6), and distinguished' (7). Echoing much of the same design and scaling structures that Den ver Public Schools applies to its School Performance Framework (color coded school report cards'), LEAP evaluations attempt to break down a qualitative, non numerical skill like teaching into a quantitative framework that neatly categorizes individuals in to levels of expertise or skill. My interviewees pointed to a large issue with the intent of LEAP to do just that; many expressed frustrations with the need to place numbers onto teachers as a measure of their worth. As one teacher put it: I don't really give a shit about LEAP. I hate LEAP. Don't put a number on me. Because that 20 minutes you're in my classroom is not my whole ability and my personality it's a snapshot, it's a polaroid picture of 185 days, and you do it four times a year and the ki ds have bad days, and the teachers have bad days. ( Simone, lower grade level teacher) Another echoed these same sentiments: I thought it was more supposed to be not peer evaluative but [a] peer coaching model, if it was a coaching mode l I would be thri lled with it but the minute they stuck the numbers on it, that's where it kind of fell apart to me. ( Dana, lower grade level teacher) In each of these experiences, teachers struggle with maintaining an expert identity in their work when they are constra ined by the framework of a numeric al rating scale. One other upper grade level teacher Donna, eloquently described teaching as "almost alive," where the nuances, needs, demands, and happenings in the classroom fluctuate daily, leaving questions of how bes t to evaluate the effectiveness of those who perform that daily management in flux. As these teachers reiterated almost unanimously, more frequent

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32 evaluations not constrained by numerical ratings were almost always the best way to accurately capture their effectiveness as teachers. The bureaucracy of merit pay policies for teachers begins to really unravel when listening to the distrust and skepticism that many teachers held in relation to the ways they were scored in the past on their LEAP indicators. Se veral teachers alluded to a feeling of deliberate suppression by their superiors in the rare allotments of sevens' that were given out to teachers (a distinguished' score). As one described: I go, well what does a seven look like to you (to evaluator)? And she really couldn't answer that question to me, and I thought, you just don't want to give me a seven that's the whole issue right there in a nutshell. And I've also heard that I will never get a seven in anything instructional because we aren't a top performing school. I've been told that by our principal You can not give a seven to a teacher because they couldn't be a seven because they're in an underperforming school.' ( Samantha, lower grade level teacher) This particular quote unpacks s everal themes that emerged in my interviews. Many teachers I spoke with reported feeling like scores of seven were deliberately given out sparingly, essentially communicating to veteran teachers with expert identities that they are perpetually not expert. This can be seen as a form of bureaucratic control and subdual of a workforce to keep workers incentivized, fitting in with the context of a neoliberal policy making era in education that often refers back to the workers (i.e. teachers) as the ones to sh oulder the blame and the accountability for poor student achievement (Giroux 2013; Goldstein & Beutel 2009). Also clear from these interviews is the frustration felt by teachers in not being able to receive clear answers on how to actually receive a score of seven. Two others add: I don't feel like we were ever trained well on how to pass their little test. And I feel like at times when the principals were com ing in, it was a, I gotcha!' type situation when I'm doing my worst job, or when you didn't fee l confident in your teaching. (Sofia, lower grade level teacher)

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33 I usually don't do that but this last time I really looked at the [LEAP] framework and I built my lessons around it, and I was like, oh I'm a seven here, here and here, and I was so sure And I didn't get one damn seven. No matter what, it just seems so hard to get distinguished. ( Donna, upper grade level teacher) This lends support to the bureaucratic structuring and implementation of ProComp and teacher evaluations, as teachers cl early feel a sense of disenfranchisement as workers, in their ability to succeed within the framework and ultimately boost earnings through strong evaluations. This presents a struggle for veteran teachers to balance feelings of inadequacy from evaluations with their feelings of expert identity in their roles as experienced educators, often a central facet of their worker id entity. As one other upper grade level teacher explained to me as she became emotional during our interview after describing how she h ad to seek professional counseling when LEAP evaluations first came out (due to the harshness of the evaluations): "A six just isn't a seven." Due to these experiences of struggling to achieve distinguished ratings and feeling a sense of suppression in t rying to understand how to match personal expert identities with professional evaluation ratings, interviewees also described receiving unexpected gratifications' throughout the school year. Teachers described to me how they were often surprised to learn that they had been recognized as outstanding or a model exemplar for other teachers to come and observe, and some even described hitting a seven on accident,' where they were unsure of what actually made them distinguished in their evaluations. These unex pected gratifications kept teachers in a position of uncertainty, insecurity, and top down regulation that prevented them from being able to exist in their expert identities, and instead constrained and devalued their work.

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34 Failing to Acknowledge Innat e Motivators' in Unnecessary Practices Respondents also described being required to go through bureaucratic motions at work that consist of tasks or practices that they see as unnecessary to their ability to teach well. Their testimonies describe a failur e on the part of administration to acknowledge their innate sense of motivation and incentive as teachers. One aspect of LEAP evaluations that demonstrates bureaucratic practices and challenges to worker identities is the use of reteach' practices for tea chers who score poorly on their evaluations. Several teachers spoke to experiences of feeling demeaned or belittled by the process of having to reteach lesson s under supervision, as this is seen as an unnecessary process for veteran educators with over a d ecade of classroom experience. Needing a reteac h session does not fit the definitions of what constitutes an experienced, expert' teacher, as one teacher described: Reteach is garbage. Because a teacher knows right away what she needs to reteach. If yo u're worth anything as a teacher, you know immediately what failed. ( Samantha, lower grade level teacher) Similar to the practice of reteach, which Samantha describes above as being an unnecessary part of her ability to do her work well and a key part of her identity as an expert teacher, is the increased use of data management practices in DPS over the past decade. ProComp ties teacher earnings to the success of their school on the Sch ool Performance Framework by incorporating incentives that reward teac hers serving in distinguished' schools. B ecause the School Performance Framework is based in student data like testing and growth measures, the ongoing work of managing and entering large masses of student testing data often falls to teachers, as my inter viewees described. Many explained the monotonous and time consuming student data entry into DPS databases as

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35 another unnecessary step they are forced to complete, as true teaching experts' do not need formal data review to know what their students require or what needs to change in their instruction. Two teachers explain: It's putting it into the system. I mean I can tell you exactly where a kid is at, I can show you where a kid is at, but now I have to sit down at the computer and put it in there. An d I'm not a computer geek, I mean kids like you can probably just sit down and get it done, but I can't. ( Simone, lower grade level teacher) I'm not a data master, I didn't get a degree in statistics for a reason, because it doesn't really interest me and I'm not that type of thinker I'm kind of being forced into being something different. ( Heather, upper grade level teacher) As veteran, expert educators, Simone and Heather indicate that the types of skills that do feel authentic to teacher identi ties include things like the ability to naturally, instinctively manage student progress and recall significant student patterns on command, without a need to go through bureaucratic motions of data tracking and reporting (which feel inauthentic to veteran teacher identities). By requiring teachers to take on new work roles like data management, and ultimately linking those roles and responsibilities to their ability to earn bonuses, (contingent on the production of good data showing student achievement), t his emerging emphasis on data represents a new challenge to the identities and practices of expert teachers. Importantly, one teacher also al luded to the ways in which the unnecessary tasks that teachers are asked to do reflects larger notions of incent ivizing teachers: It's hard for teachers because teachers are perfectionists you don't have to convince them to do [the work] because they want to do the best they can. ( Dana, lower grade level teacher) These quotes each spell out very clear boundaries in how these teachers conceptualize their own expert identity as acute perfectionists and experts in their work, without a need

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36 for bureaucratic top down' orders that ask them to do things they already do in the natural flow of their instructi on. The identities these teachers hold about themselves as professionals does not appear to fit the structure of incentive pay, as they do not see their profession as one that necessitates incentives for workers. Instead, broader scale expectations of altr uism, benevolence, and a sense of mission in elementary school teachers, which my int erviews support (Collay 2010; Evans 1993; Thomson & Kehily 2011), work to contradict the structure of incentive pay, as these teachers fail to see ways in which teachers a re not already incentivized with a sense of mission and love for teaching a fundamental and natural aspect of their identity as educators. However, they remain under a pay model that presumes an unwillingness or lack of desire within teachers to want to i mprove. As naturally incentivized professionals working under this incentive pay structure, ultimately these teachers experience incongruity between their own worker identities and the structures they work withi n. For expert educators, who described an innate sense of proficiency in knowing how to improve at their job without certain processes that seem bureaucratic and unnecessary, the effectiveness of incentive pay is lost. This incentive pay system does not appear to prove effective for veteran teache rs because it is enforced upon a group of already incentivized workers, who are constrained within larger structures of school inequalities and insufficient resources (which make earning incentives difficult). The district fails to account for the signific ance of a sense of expert identity for experienced educators in the design of ProComp, as ultimately these teachers feel new constraints on their work and a declining sense of being rewarded for the expertise that they have acquired over their years of tea ching. This deskilling of

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37 teaching as a profession may eventually lead to a weakened ability to retain strong, experienced teachers in the workforce. Through the mechanization of expertise in the use of numerical scoring on teaching evaluations, as well as the implementation of new unnecessary processes like reteach sessions and data management, teachers experience new challenges to their sense of expertise as educators under ProComp. Devaluing Experience For veteran' teachers, as many self identified, with over a decade of experience working in Denver Public Schools, the importance of their identity as experts is often closely related to their sense of being seasoned and experienced workers, with a special skill set that comes from over a decade in year s of experience. In part, this is communicated directly by how they are paid and to what degree experience is recognized and rewarded. The design of ProComp indicates a devaluation of experience through its incentive payout allotments over time, and throug h the use of peer evaluators' within the LEAP teacher evaluation framework. Pay Plateaus and the Penalty of Experience The structuration of ProComp establishes that after 15 years of teaching in the district, teachers no longer receive bonuses that wer e previously awarded to their yearly salary (base building'), but instead receive bonuses that are paid out as one time lump sum amounts (that do not count towards one's retirement payout). The next base building salary increase these teachers will see is not for another 10 years at the 25 year mark, while their less experienced counterparts with fewer than 15 years in the district continue to receive base building bonuses that grow their annual salary. This plateau' that many teachers described seemed pa radoxical to what they believed the district should have in

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38 its best interest: low teacher attrition and a desire to retain experienced teachers in the classroom. Instead, these teachers saw a drop in base building opportunities as a devaluation on their w orth as veteran teachers with years of experience in instruction to offer their students As Alice, a lower grade level teacher, noted: I don't think DPS is using the expertise of a lot of its professionals, and even with veteran teachers, as well as they could. Instead, veteran teachers often get the idea that, Well we know we've been told that we're very expensive.' It doesn't appear to us that they value the experience that they have in people who have taught for 20 plus years. They're always saying, "W e're looking for the best and brightest." And we go, so w hat message are you sending? (Alice, lower grade level teacher) To veteran teachers like Alice ProComp seems to have been designed to reward the newest, freshest faces in the district, signaling the value placed on those who arrive with new ideas and the latest training, as opposed to those who hold a different skill set that comes from years of experience in the classroom. She clearly connects the ways in which broader efforts of the district in trying to bring in the best and brightest' teachers is perceived as an emphasis on younger, less experienced teachers by their more experienced colleagues. The paradox of seasoned, experienced teachers dealing with a structural plateau' status within Pro Comp is a challenge to their ability to maintain a notion of feeling like an expert in their work, which several described as being an important sense of self confidence when faced with adversity or a particularly challenging class in any given year. Not s urprisingly, many of these teachers value time and experience in the classroom as an identifier of something that should be rewarded in teacher pay. One teacher explains the differences s he notices in this regard between teaching as a profession and other non teaching professions:

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39 I told my daughter when she was asking how much I made, and I told her, she's like: "Oh, that's not bad for a teacher!" I'm like, well no, but if you ask anyone else in other fields who've been working for 20 years, they're maki ng more, a lot more but you know, I'm okay with it, I did n't go into it for the money. (Tracy, lower grade level teacher) Tracy notes how the trajectory of earnings she faces as an elementary school teacher does not reflect the opportunities for salary b uilding that she sees in other professions, and that she perceives it as a unique way in which teachers in DPS are devalued. Despite her hinting at more altruistic reasons for choosing her career path, the importance of being recognized and rewarded over t ime is not lost on her; thus she points to a gap in the way she feels constrained as a worker (much like constraints that workers in other fields face), yet as an elementary school teacher specifically, she works in a profession that largely demands and ex pects some sense of altruism, benevolence, or sense of mission from its employees This presents a challenge to the professional identities these teachers hold as both the altruistic educators they see themselves to be, as well as the workers that have dev oted extra time and efforts (because of this very sense of altruism), who deserve appropriate compensation and salary gradations over time a similar challenge other care workers experience (Harrington Meyer 2000; Stacey 2011). Thus, in considering these v eteran public school teachers as workers who are experiencing similar constraints to those in other professions (lower skilled care workers with 15 years of experience, for example), a larger devaluing of professions becomes evident, in which the experienc es of veteran workers are disproportionately negative compared to less experienced workers. Devaluing Age Devaluations on teacher experience also tie directly to notions of age. As teacher turnover rates continue to rise in Denver, the influx of newer, y ounger teachers has been

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40 an ongoing challenge to the ability of seasoned, older teachers to maintain feelings of job security and being highly valued by the district. Through the use of rib' practices, or ribbing,' (reduction in building'), the district has created a new threat to job security for teachers, wherein any teacher at any point may be dismissed from their position, with reasons cited including simply needing to cut costs and reduce staff building' (Asmar 2014). Many of the teachers I spoke w ith described this practice as sometimes subjectively used by principals to get rid of teachers they personally dislike, or those teachers who seem past their prime.' Indeed, Denver Public Schools is no stranger to controversy on age discrimination and hi ring policies; a class action lawsuit unfolded in 2014, with the union (Denver Classroom Teachers Association, or DCTA) suing the district on behalf of tenured teachers who were being placed on indefinite unpaid leave in favor of bringing in new hires, des pite any evidence of poor evaluations or other misdoings by those teachers (the Colorado Court of Appeals eventually ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2015) The teachers I spoke with were not shy on being critical of hiring policies and practices used i n the district, especially when thinking about how their evaluations have been shaped by the use of younger or less experienced peer evaluators at times under the LEAP evaluation framework. The original design of LEAP evaluations called for an incorporati on of evaluations done by peers (co teachers) that failed to establish matches for true peer to peer evaluations that would take into account years in the classroom, subjects taught, and even the importance of regional context or familiarity with the distr ict or school. Though many pointed to a decline in this issue throughout recent years, several interviewees described their experiences with peer evaluations under LEAP as not truly being peer

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41 evaluations at all, due to sizeable gaps in years of experience betwee n evaluator and teacher. As one teacher, Betsy, described: They want now peer evaluations, so next year this person who is about your age, she's really younger, is evaluating me. I'm like, is this I didn't know if it was going to work. It's wonde rful, it's great, but that's the kinds of things they're changing and she knows early childhood I know that she knows the standards for my grade. so I could say at the beginning and I've tol d her that, I'm very honest I said, I don't think we' re a goo d fit, and I said, maybe there's another older lady, and I probably should go with her. And she said, "Well, could we just try this?" And I said maybe, I suppose. And now I'm glad, I hope she evaluates me next year. ( Betsy, lower grade level teacher) Bet sy mentions the importance of age, beyond even just years of experience, in her ability to work well with peer evaluators. Though the younger evaluator shares experience in her grade level, Betsy still finds age to be a significant barrier in what she beli eves will produce valuable feedback. Another teacher added to this same experience: My very first LEAP evaluation was by somebody who only taught for 3 years and then got out of the classroom, when in fact I had been teaching for 25 years, and I was like, that's not really a peer evaluator (Alice, lower grade level teacher) Above, Betsy and Alice describe experiences with inequitable' peer evaluations, in which the peers they were evaluated by were not in fact peers with similar years of experience, but rather arbitrarily matched teachers often with fewer years of experience, who could not speak to the same aspects of teaching and work as those who shared a veteran teacher identity. For these teachers, their veteran, expert status necessitates a strong se nse of expertise resulting from years of experience which can only be furthered and enriched by the feedback that comes from those who share similar or even more seasoned teaching identities as theirs. Through the use of not so peer' evaluations and a dr op off in certain incentive opportunities after 15 years of experience under ProComp,

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42 there is a clear message of placing high value on younger and less experienced educators rather than their more experienced counterparts. Ultimately, t his plateauing eff ect and the use of peer evaluations may also allude to some of the challenges in trying to retain experienced teachers in schools with lower income students, usually referenced as hard to serve schools under a merit pay policy like ProComp (which ironicall y aims to address this very issue). While the intentions of ProComp are to attract teachers to hard to serve schools with cash incentives, in fact one interviewee indicated an opposite effect: I think it would be a risk as a teacher, even as an experience d teacher, to move to a lower performing school, evaluation wise and pay wise, and that' s a shame. And so these poor new teachers that can't get a job somewhere else end up doing it, and they don't get the support (Suzanne, lower grade level teacher) Here, Suzanne points to a rational decision making process about career investment that she feels many teachers would make in thinking about what school to teach in: despite hard to serve' incentives that incentivize teachers to teach in low performing sc hools, teachers under ProComp may still be less likely to go to the schools that will not produce the greatest amount of incentive earning opportunities. In low performing schools, low student test scores risk tarnishing teacher evaluations that measure e ffectiveness,' which then risks losing out on other bonuses that are tied to teacher evaluations. In other words, one hard to serve' incentive is not enough to outweigh the risk of poor evaluations and losing out on other bonuses tied to those evaluations Thus, one unintended consequence of ProComp on teacher career choices becomes evident. A failure of the district to account for the importance and significance of teacher identities as experts, who value high scores on their evaluations, results in a lap se in understanding what it would truly take to recruit strong, experienced teachers to hard to serve schools (that is, it would take

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43 more than just a cash incentive). When teachers are faced with the possibility of low scores on evaluations (a likely poss ibility in hard to serve schools), for some, no cash incentive for teaching in a low performing school will outweigh the bleak outlook of constant challenges to their identity as veteran, expert educators under the evaluations they endure. Failure to Comp ensate Care Work and Alt ernative Capital Denver's ProComp i s an interesting unit of analysis to employ in order to understand the ways in which teachers are experiencing c hanges to their work given the current national emphasis on standards, testi ng, and accountability. In addition to the challenges they face to their worker identity, veteran teachers in DPS also testified to a significant deskilling of their work over the last decade. This is narrated by my interviewees in several different ways, through their descriptions of the unrecognized and unrewarded care work they do for their students. Care work performed by teachers can arguably take many different forms, in settings inside or outside of schools. For example, Allison noted: I spent many weekends cleaning houses to get rid of head lice so the kids could come to school and go to Goodwill to buy them boots and coats which I certainly didn't mind, but that was tough (referring to her time teaching in a low income school). (Allison, lower grade level teacher) Allison went on to describe her yearly out of pocket spending on classroom supplies, which averages around $5,000 out of her own personal funds. In addition to the work Allison describes, which alludes to the less specialized types o f care work that teachers perform (cleaning houses, spending personal money on supplies), I noted other instances of teachers performing extra care work outside of school hours in my observations at one board of education meeting.

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44 In an effort to ease ten sion and backlash over the closing of one neighborhood Montessori elementary school in Denver (pseudonym Eastman Montessori), representatives from a nearby elementary school (pseudonym Geneva Elementary), soon to be opening its own Montessori strand, spoke at the board meeting expressing support for the Eastman community (whether they were asked to do so by higher ups is a separate question). While many Eastman Montessori families sat quietly yet irately, with signs that read "Save Eastman" and "I love East man," I observed two teachers and the principal from Geneva give brief speeches directed at these families, consisting of invitations to visit for open houses and walk throughs, should the Eastman families choose to enroll their children at Geneva in light of Eastman's closing. The messages from these teachers were sympathetic in tone, prefacing invitations to visit Geneva with apologies for the situation at hand, which they described as undesirable, devastating, and even tragic.' In this explicit performa nce of care work, where teachers spent extra hours out of their day to attend a board meeting just to show that they would welcome this community with open arms' into their school, teachers served as the legitimating faces in a tumultuous time, simply thr ough their expression of devotion to their work and their community through their physical presence. Serving as welcome representatives' on behalf of their school constitutes an interesting way in which these teachers perform altruistic care work for thei r community that is not likely accounted for in their formal earnings and recognitions. Two additional groups of teachers from the respondents I interviewed also described more specialized types of work they perform regularly, which go unrewarded and unre cognized within the structure of ProComp. The experiences of both lower grade

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45 level teachers and teachers who have Spanish speaking backgrounds each can illuminate how certain groups of teachers have disproportionately more negative experiences under ProCo mp Devaluing Foundational work with Lower Grade Levels The ProComp incentive structure allows for a portion of incentives to be allocated for teachers whose students score above the 55 th percentile on state assessments, effectively ignoring grade levels who do not participate in state assessments (largely ECE through 3 rd grade). This highlighted a clear example of occupational stratification, in which teachers of lower grade levels see a deskill ing and devaluing of their work, as those who prime the pum p' for students to move up to test taking grade le vels, yet who a re not recognized in comparable ways. In my discussions with teachers about their support systems at work, several pointed to a tendency to go beyond their immediate grade level teammates t o seek out the support or help of those in grade levels above or below their own. They describe the benefit of seeking out a more holistic view on how to improve instruction, based on how other grade level teachers perceive students to be as far as progres s in a subject or preparedness to move up the elementary grade levels. This hints at the importance of workforce trust and ability to collaborate across grade levels at the elementary level, yet the inherent design of ProComp rewarding test taking grades a nd not lower grade levels would appear to undermine this goal. Julie is an ex teacher who left teaching when Common Core standards eventually deskilled and narrowed the scope of the curriculum so heavily that she was denied the a bility to partake in the an nual Literature student

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46 festival in DPS, because it did not fit Common Core guidelines. She described the wor kforce divisiveness that emerges under ProComp: It created divisiveness within a system because the 4 th and 5 th grade teachers got big checks ev ery year regardless. So it's like, is this fair? Because they were getting checks every year for doing the same thing, no matter what. So is that changing behavior? Is that changing what you want? And if it's just the 4 th and 5 th grade teachers, with th e fact that I taught 3 rd grade and prepared them to take the test, and the 2 nd grade teachers prepared them for 3 rd grade and so on. ( Julie, ex teacher of lower grade level) This points to the ways in which an emphasis on standardized testing and standa rdized curricula essentially deskills and devalues those who teach lower grade levels, who cannot contribute to these goals. Younger grade levels that do not participate in testing are not necessarily seen as equally valuable to those grade levels that do participate in testing within a district that stresses the significance of student performance data in its evaluation systems. Interestingly, issues of workforce trust also emerged on the side of the upper element ary grade levels in the case of one teach er, Alice The unfairness of opportunities to receive test taking bonuses under ProComp was not lost on some of the teachers who benefitted from these bonuses, as she described: Those of us that got that exceeding expectations on test scores they wanted us to come to this reception, in celebration of [that] and I understand from the district's perspective why they felt the need t o do that, but those of us that were 4 th and 5 th grade teachers who were getting the incentive pay could not have done tha t, had it not been for the kindergarten, 1 st 2 nd and 3 rd grade teachers. So we always refused to go until they would offer an invitation to the entire staff, which never happened. We just decided not to go because we didn't do it on our own we felt like it was inequitable because there's no way that those kids could be prepared for the test if that foundation had not been built. ( Alice, lower grade level teacher) It was interesting to uncover such strong cross grade level connections in elementa ry school settings, which I predicted would show palpable forms of stratification due to the

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47 structural constraints they work within u nder standardized state testing and ProComp incentives like test taking rewards. Though the above example may be an anomal y to the experiences of grade level stratification that other teachers see, it is an important testament to the way in which teachers from grades other than the ones most negatively affected by ProComp incentives are seeing and experiencing and in some ca ses responding to the inequities they see coworkers in their profession experiencing. Devaluing Culturally Relevant Skills A final way in which the deskilling and devaluation of teachers' work becomes apparent under ProComp is through the experiences of Spanish spe aking teachers. Out of the 20 interviewees I met with, six are ELA S certified, which accredits them to serve as full bilingual classroom teachers, the highest form of English Language Acquisition certification available in DPS. Two other teachers are ELA E certified with some partial extra certification. While some Spanish speaking teachers reported originally deciding to opt in to ProComp in the hopes of making more money, many actually identified new ways in which the language skill sets they use regula rly at w ork are devalued and unrecognized under ProComp. Bilingual educators frequently described a lack of materials and resources available to them, which often translates into extra work performed, of not only translating worksheets and lessons from En glish into Spanish, but also re working many concepts and lessons to be culturally relevant to a sizeable Spanish speaking population in DPS classrooms (over 37% of the student body is Spanish speaking). Miguel and Samantha explain:

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48 I opted in because I k new it would be more money for me. Because honestly bilingual teachers do more work and sometimes we don't have enough materials, so we have to be translating ( Miguel, lower grade level teacher) I was very frustrated with that the Denver Public Scho ols did not purchase the Spanish materials even though more than half of their population is Spanish speaking. So I would have to locate I would have to dog it down basically, I would have to find something on the internet, if it was available, and tr y to write questions to go with it. So I was doing double the work of anyone else. The bilingual teachers wer e doing the work to find these articles, and l ooking at it and going, can t hey access this? Can they even understand this? Have they ever seen a panda bear? ( Samantha, lower grade level teacher) ProComp lists opportunities to earn incentives called PDU's,' or Professional Development Units. These are officially approved learning plans that teachers design as a professional development resourc e for others in the district, and they serve as opportunities to complete extra work outside of the range of typical teacher responsibilities. Teachers can allocate a portion of their school year towards piloting and analyzing new instructional skills or i nformation. Though the ProComp handbook lists a few pre approved content areas provided by the district that can be explored for PDU submissions, none of these examples revolve around professional development practices for bilingual teachers, as Samantha a lludes to in her mention of being unacknowledged for much of the work she does outside of class to develop content for her Spanish speaking students. This shows a clear focus again on rewarding teachers from grade levels and areas of instruction that most reflect the broader district wide and nation wide emphases on standardized testing, which essentially deskills the work being done by educators outside of th ose parameters. It can be argued that a district like Denver would greatly benefit from professiona l development that better served the high Spanish speaking student populations teachers interact with.

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49 Outside of structural shortcomings in considering the work of bilingual teachers under ProComp there are also ways in which extra work emerge s more co vertly in the daily experiences of Spanish speaking teachers. With over 37% of the student body in Denver classifying as Spanish speaking students, the demand for the everyday use of Spanish in communicatin g with families is substantial. Several teachers r eported frequent, informal spurts of the use of Spanish in communicating with families and others outside of the classroom whenever necessary. Interestingly, the use of Spanish was not strictly adhered to those who were currently ELA S bilingual teachers, or even those who were certified yet not currently teaching a bilingual classroom; even teachers without formal ELA S or ELA E language training often knew a small amount of conversational Spanish that they described using regularly with some students. The se sm all instances of native skills being used throughout the school year often were described as no brainers' by teachers who have the skill set and can be of assistance, again reiterating a sense of mission and altruism in the motivations of this partic ular workforce (elementary educators). Despite these feelings however, this particular section of the workforce who carry an in demand skill that is needed yet unrecognized in incentive pay establish another way in which the deskilling of teachers as pro fessionals is apparent. The story of one teacher Maria, helps to portray this: I went from an ESL English Spanish resource teacher so I needed to qualify and be a teacher with that second language [to] this position, [where] I don't have to know a se cond language you know, someone who just speaks one language can be in this position but I just feel like, I know a second language, I still use it because I have parents I need to talk to, [and] I don't need somebody to translate for me. And so meone will ask me to translate still and I will do it, and I'm not subject to just, Oh sorry, that's not part of my contract, I can't do that.' But I mean it's still I can still help doesn't mean that my second language is no longer existent. I feel like I should still be compensated for that incentive because that just might help others

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50 motivate them to learn a second language and be able to reach more than just one group or one culture. ( Maria, lower grade level teacher) Maria reiterates the fact tha t part of her worker identity as an educator to young children includes a need to serve the families of the students in her school (and not just her own classroom). In this sense of duty to provide fundamental services like translating for the families she interacts with in her occupation, Maria illuminates one way in which the care work of teachers with native skills like knowing a second language are not accounted for in the rewards teachers qualify for under ProComp. Interestingly, however, ProComp does include incentive opportunities for obtain ing advanced de grees or certifications (through extra graduate level coursework). This is interesting when considered alongside the testimony above, in analyzing how Denver Public Schools district places value on d ifferent skills. Maria makes the point that if she were able to be compensated for the extra translating work she does, it might motivate others to seek out second language skills as well, which would grow the skills in the workforce in a positive way that would be more inclusive of underrepresented backgrounds and skill sets. Instead of extra second language skill building incentives like the suggestion Maria makes, DPS instead places a premium on incentives that will translate to a School Performance Fram ework that uses student testing data to evaluate schools and teachers. Thus, the devaluation of care work and native skills becomes apparent in the testimonies of those who perform care work for their students, which goes unrewarded under the ProComp frame work in their eyes.

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51 CHAPTER V CONCLUSION This research illuminates new ways in which teachers experience structural constraints in their workplace, that ultimately have impactful effects on the identities they hold and the long term career decisions the y make. In examining the effects of educational policy outside of the previously laid groundwork of effects on educational disparities and student achievement outcomes, this research examines the experiences of teachers as employees specifically, by explor ing changes to their work under teacher evaluations and pay systems in Denver. Ultimately, Denver's pay for performance policy, ProComp, falls short of recognizing and rewarding aspects of teacher identities that are central to their decisions about career investment, exiting the workforce, and selectivity in the types of schools they elect to work in. I suggest that pay for performance in Denver represents three overarching challenges to teachers' work: a challenge to their identities as experts,' a dev aluing of experience and age, and a failure to recognize and reward care work and native skills. The structuration of ProComp and its LEAP teacher evaluation framework ultimately fail to account for the importance of teacher identities as experts in the us e of numerical scoring on teaching evaluations that aim to mechanize expertise, and the implementation of new unnecessary practices like reteach sessions' after poor teaching evaluations as well as excessive data management and tracking. ProComp also fail s to account for the importance of veteran identities and the valuation of experience in teaching, through the design of drop offs' in incentive opportunities after 15 years of experience, and peer evaluations' that sometimes do not truly match experienc ed educators with their

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52 experienced counterparts. Lastly, Denver's pay for performance model fails to recognize care work that teachers do and native skills like bilingualism. The failure to incorporate bonuses in teacher pay or credits towards measures on teaching evaluations that reflect the extra work that teachers perform for the families of their schools and their own communities represents a devaluation of care work, specifically relating to the care work that teachers perform. Future researchers shou ld consider the specific care work tasks that teachers perform within the contexts of their job as one particular avenue to pursue. Implications for the retention and recruitment of teachers into Denver schools are formed around the structural constraint s teachers describe experiencing within ProComp. When teachers face a possibility of low evaluations from working in a hard to serve school, the risk of succumbing to projections of low evaluations and decreased opportunities for earning bonuses is not eno ugh to incentivize even the most dedicated or altruistic educator. This offers a new way of understanding teacher career decisions, by considering the importance of worker identity and structural constraints. Another risk to the ability to retain teachers relates back to earlier conceptions of constraints to teaching practices under merit pay policies, as one teacher, Patty, stated "If it depends on my money, I'm going to do whatever you say, rather than what I think is best." Indeed, many teachers reported constant efforts to try to match their instruction to the evaluation guidelines they were supplied, which brings up questions of whether the outcomes of ProComp are meeting its intended goals of encouraging good teaching,' if in fact teachers do not perc eive a clear ability to do what they see fit as a good' teacher, due to constraints of their evaluations being tied to earnings.

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53 The official DPS ProComp agreement expires on December 31, 2017, with no apparent discussion yet of any new negotiations bet ween the district and the teachers' union, DCTA. The Denver teachers' union is however currently seeing a newer push for progressive, social justice minded leadership, with a goal to focus on advocating for employee protections and teachers' labor in the c oming months (Asmar 2017). This will be an important development to follow, as Colorado is simultaneously seeing increasing pushes towards privatizing public education under a new Trump presidency and new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. As the Senate is currently considering Senate Bill 61, which would supply equal funding to charter schools in Colorado districts, some are pointing to a potential initial trickling in of privatized, school choice centered ideals and efforts of the new administration (Da llman 2017). Certainly the effects of increased emphasis on school choice and competition will impact the experiences of teachers who remain in public schools, however the push within Denver's teacher union for new leadership and new employee protections o ffers fresh hope for advocating on behalf of teachers' work and ultimately reshaping conceptions of teachers as public workers. In conclusion, the use of incentive pay for teachers seems to overlook the more complex nuances of teacher identities. For the reasons argued in this research, which center on a devaluing of teachers' work and failure to recognize native skills and care work, teachers perceive pay for performance to be a poor representation of their worker identities, which do not require sticks and carrots' to incentivize. As one teacher pronounced: "Don't put a carrot in front of me I don't want sticks and carrots." Indeed, mere sticks and carrots do not appear to belong alongside apples in the classroom.

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54 REFERENCES Asmar, Melanie. 2016. D enver Public Schools rank first for school choice among large districts nationwide." Chalkbeat, February 4. Asmar, Melanie. 2014. "Teachers fight back against Denver Public Schools in court." Westword, April 10. Asmar, Melanie. 2017. "Younger, vocal group of Denver teachers pushing union to be more aggressive, activist." Chalkbeat, January 5. Atteberry, Allison et al. 2015. Year 2 Denver ProComp Evaluation Report: Teacher Retention and Variability in Bonus Pay, 2001 02 through 2013 14. Colorado Assessment Design Research and Evaluation (CADRE) Center. Boulder, CO: CU Boulder. Bali, Valentina A. and Alvarez, R. Michael. 2003. "Sch ools and Educational Outcomes: What Causes the "Race Gap" in Student Test Scores?" Social Science Quarterly 84(3): 485 507. Barrett, Brian D. 2009. "No Child Left Behind and the assault on teachers' professional practices and identities." Race and Society 25(8): 1018 1025. Belfield, Clive R. and Heywood, John S. 2008. "Performance pay for teachers: Determinants a nd consequences." Economics of Education Review 27(2008): 243 252. Bridwell Mitchell, E.N. 2015. "Theorizing Teacher Agency and Reform: How Institutionalized Instructional Practices Change and Persist." Sociology of Education 88(2): 140 159. Brown, E mma. 2016. "National Labor Relations Board decides charter schools are private corporations, not public schools." The Washington Post, August 30. Carruthers, Celeste K. 2012. "New schools, new students, new teachers: Evaluating the effectiveness of cha rter schools." Economics of Education Review 31(2): 280 292. Coburn, Cynthia E. et al. 2013. "The Embeddedness of Teachers' Social Networks: Evidence from a Study of Mathematics Reform." Sociology of Education 86(4): 311 342. Codd, John. 2005. "Teacher s as managed professionals' in the global education industry: the New Zealand experience." Educational Review 57(2): 193 206.

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56 Good, T.L. and Braden, J.S. 2009. The Great School Debate: Choice, Vouchers, and Charters. New York, NY: Routledge. Gorski, Eric. 2017. "Sen. Michael Bennet to Betsy DeVos: Come visi t Denver, where school choice is different." Chalkbeat Colorado, January 18. Harrington Meyer, Madonna. 2000. Care Work: Gender, Labor, and the Welfare State. New York, NY: Routledge. Hochschild, Arlie Russell. 1983. The Managed Heart: Commercializat ion of Human Feeling. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. Ilcan, Suzan. 2009. "Privatizing Responsibility: Public Sector Reform under Neoliberal Government." Canadian Sociological Association 46(3): 207 234. Jennings, Jennifer and Sohn, H eeju. 2014. "Measur e for Measure: How Proficiency based Accountability Systems Affect Inequality in Academic Achievement." Sociology of Education 87(2): 125 141. Kerstetter, Katie. 2015. "Competing Cultu ral Narratives: Gender and the Representation of US K 12 Teachers in Contemporary School Reform Policies." Sociology Compass 9(7): 550 557. Leigh, Andrew. 2012. "The Economics and Politics of Teacher Merit Pay." Economic Studies 59(1): 1 33. Leroux, Karen. 2009. "Unpensioned Veterans: Women Teacher s and the Politics of Public Service in the Late Nineteenth Century United States." Journal of Women's History 21(1): 34 62. Lubienski, Christopher A. and Theule Lubienski, Sarah. 2013 Public School Advantage Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press Moller, Stephanie et al. 2013. "Collective P edagogical Teacher Culture and Mathematics Achievement: Diffe rences by Race, Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status." Sociology of Education 86(2): 174 194. Moller, Stephanie et al. 2006. "Smooth and rough roa ds to academic achievement: Retention and race/class disparities in high school." Social Science Research 35(2006): 157 180. Moreau, Marie Pierre et al. 2007. "Making sense of the glass ceiling in schools: an exploration of women teachers' discourses." Gender and Education 19(2): 237 253.

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58 Weber, Max. 1922. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press. Westervelt, Eric and Lonsdorf, Kat. 2016. "What are the Main Reasons Teachers Call it Quits?" NPR, October 24. Wiley, Edward W. et al. 2010. Denver ProComp: An Outcomes Evaluation of Denver's Alternative Teacher Compensation System. Boulder, CO: CU Boulder. Williamson, Savannah. 2017. "Education secretary criticizes Denver Public Schools over choice despite top tanking." Fox Denver, March 31.