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DCSD’s goal is retaining and attracting the best employees for our students

CASTLE ROCK – As January ends, the budget process is gaining steam in the Douglas County School District. Schools and departments are setting their budgets for next year and awaiting news from the state regarding whether the District will receive any additional revenue.

A recent staff survey shows that the majority of employees said that pay was far and away their highest budget priority. This week, we are exploring the District’s current Pay for Performance system.

Retaining & Attracting the Best Talent
The Douglas County School District is committed to ensuring that its students have the best possible educators teaching them every day. That is why the District is committed to retaining and attracting highly effective teachers through professional pay.

DCSD has worked to achieve this through Market-Based Pay and Performance Pay.

Before we discuss these progressive programs, it is important to understand the system that most school districts in our country use today, which was established in the early 1900’s.

A Century-Old System
When you think about it, there are really not that many things designed a century ago that remain unchanged. Everything from light bulbs to automobiles to telephones has continued to evolve, in order to meet the needs of today’s society.

With that in mind, it may seem strange that many school districts across the country continue to use a system for teacher pay that was designed nearly 100 years ago. In what many call the “Step and Lane” system, teachers are paid according to an x/y grid, in which x (or step) equals years of service and y (or lane) equals the level of education. Every year a teacher moves up a “step,” because they’ve added a year and when they earn another degree they move to the next lane.

On face value, according to the Step and Lane system, all teachers are equal. Behind the scenes, however, it is a different story.

Because the system was not designed to accommodate the demands of a modern market, especially when it comes to supply and demand, school districts have to bend the rules in order to make the system meet their needs, incentivizing teachers in “hard-to-fill” positions by giving them extra steps, for instance.

A modern, transparent approach is better
DCSD believed that the system needed to be modernized. It created a system that transparently takes into consideration supply and demand.

In order to create a Market-Based Pay system, the Human Resources Department identified more than 70 different positions and then differentiated them into five pay bands, based on how many qualified candidates we usually receive.

When a district advertises some positions, there are a lot of qualified candidates. In other cases, there are only a few applicants. Because there is higher demand for those candidates, like certified nurses, psychologists or physics teachers, school districts must pay a premium.

It is important to note that this is in no way an evaluation of the importance of the position. Every position within a District is necessary for it to function well.

Instead, it is simply an understanding of the impact of supply and demand.

Incentivizing highly effective teaching for our students
Once a teacher is hired, they have the opportunity to earn raises based on their performance.

Knowing that the most important factor in student success is the effectiveness of their teacher, DCSD incentivizes effectiveness in the classroom, rather than just their years of service or education.

For that reason, since 2012, the District has differentiated pay. Naturally, DCSD’s Highly Effective teachers receive the largest raise.

Additionally, the system provides opportunities for DCSD to keep salaries competitive against other Districts and to rectify inequalities created by the four years of pay freezes. The average increase in the last three years for teachers who were highly effective, but low in their pay range was 6 percent.

It is also important to mention that if a teacher moves from one position to another and switches pay bands, this has no effect on their base salary and they are still eligible for performance pay.

Finally, in the old Step and Lane system, teachers would hit a cap and would no longer receive any step increases, regardless of how hard they worked. For instance, in a nearby school district, more than 40 percent of their teaching staff is at its max.

DCSD’s system rectifies this. There is currently no cap for highly effective teachers and effective teachers and others who may be at at the top of their pay range are still eligible for performance pay.*

Douglas County School District does pay differently because it does not want to disincentive performance.

The result?
According to the Human Resource Department’s presentation to the Board of Education on September 15, 2015 the District is achieving its goal of retaining and attracting the best teachers. According to the report, DCSD retained 95.1 percent of highly effective teachers and 89.1 percent of those deemed effective during the 2014-2015 school year.

How do we know teachers are highly effective?
In Douglas County, the effectiveness of teachers is determined by a comprehensive evaluation system that both meets the requirements set by the State of Colorado in Senate Bill 191 and instructional best practices.

The ultimate goal of the Continuous Improvement of Teacher Effectiveness (CITE) evaluation tool is to ensure that these research-based practices are utilized in every classroom in the District, every day—because it is best for students.

While the system is rigorous, because we want the best for our children—it is criterion based, which means that there are no quotas. Our goal is to encourage as many teachers as possible to become highly effective, but also know that because we’ve set the bar high, this will be ultimately difficult, not impossible to achieve.

READ MORE: Plan. Assess. Guide Instruction. The simplicity of DCSD’s teacher evaluation system

Funding is finite
DCSD, of course, would love to pay its excellent teachers and support staff more, but our funding is limited.

The District’s revenue is determined by the amount it gets from the State of Colorado and local property taxes. Already, the majority of the District’s $600 million annual budget goes to pay the salaries of employees. The remainder of the money is used for the supplies and facilities that our students use daily. Ninety-two percent of the District’s revenue directly supports schools and students.

When the state provides more ongoing money, this provides DCSD with an opportunity to provide employees with a raise, as well as addressing other needs within the District.

In some cases, the District has savings from previous years that it can add, at least in one-time money. Once that money is spent, however, it is gone. It cannot be used for a recurring raise.

*Employees who have not yet received highly effective status and exceed their pay range receive a one-time lump sum based on performance, that is PERA includable.

Learn more about Professional Pay at

January 28, 2016 | By rmbarber | Category: Pay

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