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STATE OF THE STATES COVERAGE CONTINUES: Alabama Governor Promotes Pay-for-Performance Plan for Teachers, Texas Governor Defends Similar Program

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“For the children of disadvantaged families, there is one singular hope for removing them from a cycle of poverty and despair, and that is a quality education.”

The Teacher Incentive Fund (referenced in first article in this edition) is a federal program that rewards teachers and principals for raising student achievement. A similar idea has been considered in several of the states, including in Alabama, where Governor Bob Riley (R) proposed bonuses for teachers who improve student performance, and by Texas Governor Rick Perry (R), in whose state a pay-for-performance program is scheduled to being this fall.

Alabama: Riley Focuses on Adolescent Literacy, Rigorous Courses, and Teacher Quality

In his March 6 state of the state address, Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R) proudly noted that Alabama’s existing plans to improve education were ranked eighth nationwide by the recent Education Week Quality Counts study, and he pledged to continue moving forward on a bipartisan basis.

Riley’s budget proposal includes a $390 million increase in education funding, a significant portion of which is dedicated to the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) and the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI). The ARI provides training and ongoing professional development by expert literacy coaches to help teachers improve reading; the AMSTI follows a similar training model and also provides schools with equipment, supplies and materials, and on-site math and science specialists.

Noting that AMSTI schools have outperformed others on every single standardized test, Riley announced a plan to include 614 schools in the initiative by the end of 2008. The ARI, which currently serves all students in grades K–3 and has trained 28,000 teachers, would be expanded to cover all grade levels and fully include 910 schools overall.

However, Riley also pointed out that many of the state’s teachers hadn’t received the encouragement and support that they need. He announced plans to pair all first- and second-year teachers with trained mentors, and to grant all teachers a 7 percent pay raise. Riley also proposed a pilot program to provide performance bonuses for effective teachers.

Governor Riley’s complete speech is available at
http://www.governorpress.state.al.us/pr/sp-2007-03-06-sos-2007.asp.

Texas: Perry Calls Education, Teachers Key to Overcoming Poverty

Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) used his February 6 state of the state address to focus on the need to extend economic prosperity to the nearly four million Texans who “live in prosperity’s shadow rather than its light.” Perry emphasized the critical role of education in reaching that goal.

“For the children of disadvantaged families, there is one singular hope for removing them from a cycle of poverty and despair, and that is a quality education,” he said.

Perry stated that teachers are of critical importance in Texas due to “unique factors,” such as a population of over 600,000 English language learners and many students coming from families that lack a high school diploma. He praised the state’s recent $2,000 pay raise for every teacher and vowed to defend the pay-for-performance program that will go into effect this fall. Perry also said that the state must do more to equip teachers to succeed and expressed support for more professional development, a “renewed focus” on best practices, and for the removal of chronically under-performing teachers from classrooms.

The governor also highlighted the state’s groundbreaking work in high school reform, such as implementing a college-preparatory curriculum and tailoring individualized graduation plans to at-risk students but noted that many achievement gaps remained. He focused on rectifying those gaps through earlier intervention, proposing an additional $80 million to expand the state’s “Early Start” pre-K program.

Governor Perry’s complete speech is available at http://www.governor.state.tx.us/divisions/press/speeches/speech_020607.

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