CEDAR CITY — Debates about how picky is too picky elicited strong opinions from State Board of Education members during discussions preceding a vote to approve most of the submitted performance-based compensation plans for Utah teachers.

The board met Thursday at Southern Utah University in Cedar City. Meetings continue through today.

Thursday's vote means many Utah teachers are one step closer to getting more money if their performance is above par during the upcoming school year.

The vote was 10-1, with the dissenting vote from board member Bill Colbert of Draper. He said he felt a higher standard should be held for the plans, with "some means of measurement."

The individual plans are proposed by school districts and charter schools. A total of 87 merit plans were received last month out of a possible 108, according to the Utah State Office of Education.

Eight of the 87 plans, labeled as "vague," are still pending board approval. School districts and charter schools that handed in plans lacking sufficient detail have until Sept. 1 to revamp their proposals. Districts and charter schools responsible for these plans will be notified via letter, according to office officials.

The districts that need to add more information to their plans are Kane and Weber. The charter schools are Venture Academy, Providence Hall, Legacy Preparatory Academy, Paradigm High School, Odyssey Charter School and Noah Webster Academy.

The board's green light for the complete and detailed plans is dependent on approval by the local boards of districts and charter schools, which haven't yet acted. The redone plans also need local board approval.

All local board approval plans must be done by Sept. 1. The compensation-based plans are required by SB281, passed in the 2008 legislative session.

During the past few months, school districts and charter schools statewide have been developing their own unique plans to distribute legislative funding based on how well an educator is doing the job.

"Some plans are very detailed, and others are not detailed at all," said Larry Shumway, associate superintendent of law, legislation and educational services for the state office.

Some board members have pointed out the districts and charter schools had an extremely limited time to do their proposals. Washington School District, lauded for its extremely thorough plan, actually began work before the legislation even went through.

"They anticipated what was going to happen," Shumway said. "They were readyto ready to go."

A few districts and/or charter schools simply stated in their plan that they are still working on their plan. "That is a plan," Shumway said. "It's a plan to plan."

Many of the performance-based compensation plans are a mix of elements. Some rely on test data. Others include teacher assessments such as surveys from parents and students, as well as a principal's judgment. Some of the plans are "extremely impressive" and it is evident there was a lot of thought put into them, said board member Debra Roberts of Beaver.

Some of the plans are 30 to 40 pages long. Others consist of one page.

The requirements included listing who is eligible, the criteria for extra pay and how it will be assessed. Some of the plans designate merit-based pay only for teachers, others include classified personnel. A total of six districts and 24 charter schools are limiting their plans to teachers only.

The Legislature earmarked $20 million in one-time funding for the compensation plans. The money is to be doled out to districts and charter schools based on enrollment.

If all districts and charter schools in the state applied, the funding would amount to $36.33 per pupil, according to USOE.

How much of this would a teacher get? It depends, said board member Mark Cluff of Alpine. "It varies," he said.

For example, Park City School District's plan is for a pilot program in only two of its schools, in order to make the amount sizable for its experiment. The district has an enrollment of approximately 4,300.

In general, the average merit-based pay in any district or charter school could be about $500 for a teacher, board members said.

Thirty-seven of the plan applications were from school districts while 50 were from charter schools.

Three districts, Daggett, Tintic and Uintah, are not participating. And more than a dozen charter schools are not participating, including AMES, Beehive Science and Technology Academy, Da Vinci Academy, Guadalupe School, Itineris Early College High School, John Hancock Academy, Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy, Moab School, Monticello Academy, Navigator Pointe Academy, NUAMES, Ranches Academy, Rockwell High School, Soldier Hollow School, Spectrum Academy, Timpanogos Academy and Uintah River High School.

In April, the merit-based pay program was presented to the board and passed after first and second readings. The rule was then adopted on the third reading in May. A USOE state office staff committee assigned by the board spent the past few days reviewing the plans.

Reports of each district and charter school in the state are available at www.schools.utah.gov/board/otpbcp/

Legislators aim to review and comment on the plans in August.

The board also agreed Thursday to request USOE state office staff to develop guidelines to evaluate and offer feedback regarding outcomes of the experiment. This information could be offered to the legislature recommendation on what works and what doesn't.

The board was in joint meetings Thursday with higher education officials, legislative committees concerned with education and representatives of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.


E-mail: astewart@desnews.com