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Department of Education Announces $442 million in Teacher Incentive Fund Grants

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September 24, 2010 04:25 pm

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Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education announced $442 million in teacher incentive fund grants and 62 winners from 27 states. According to the Department’s release, the winning applicants represent rural and urban school districts as well non-profit groups and state education organizations. The program seeks to strengthen the education profession by rewarding excellence, attracting teachers and principals to high-need and hard to staff areas, and providing all teachers and principals with the feedback and support they need to succeed.

“Nothing is more important than great teaching. These grants will help schools build a culture that celebrates excellence in the classroom and helps all teachers improve their practice,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

To see a list of winners, click here. And to see how these grant programs will (or in some cases will not) play out on a district-level, check out excerpts from a few state-level papers:

Top-level teachers in select Jefferson County schools could be paid more than $100,000 a year under a pilot program funded by a new $32.8 million federal grant. The program would make some educators working in a handful of high-poverty schools the highest-paid public school teachers in Colorado. Jefferson County’s pilot pay system will roll out in the 2011-12 academic year in a few schools — changing the base pay of all teachers, providing up to $10,000 in annual performance bonuses and creating “master teachers.”

“We’re changing the norms,” said Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. “The profession has to change. If we don’t do it, someone else will do it to us.”

– Denver Post

Teachers at nearly two dozen underperforming schools in Boston and Springfield could soon see bonuses of up to $15,000 under a new experimental system that provides educators with financial incentives for student achievement…However, merit pay will not be awarded to individual teachers whose own students excel, a practice the state’s teachers unions staunchly oppose. Instead, all teachers, including those who specialize in music and physical education, would share in a schoolwide bonus if their school hits all its targets.

– Boston Globe

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies plans to use eight K-8 charter schools and one charter high school in developing their teacher incentive plan. The program will base about 80% of the teachers and school leaders incentive pay on students meeting annual growth targets, both in terms of the classroom teacher and the school as a whole. About 20% of this differentiated pay will be determined by a third party’s observation of the teacher’s performance in the classroom.

– Detroit Free Press

Indiana’s application centered on implementing the Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP, a policy that uses rigorous teacher evaluations while providing additional training and incentives to keep teachers in the classroom…Bennett said the TAP policies have been used effectively in other states and would be implemented in 46 Indiana schools in 11 school corporations. Those districts, he said, volunteered for the program. In some cases, teachers also agreed to restructure union contracts to permit the performance-based pay system laid out under TAP.

“We set up salary structures on years of experience and degree, two factors that have little correlation to teacher effectiveness and student performance,” Bennett said. “In this program, we’re going to move toward rewarding teachers based on the performance of the students in their classroom and the performance of their school.”

– Indianapolis Star

But linking teachers’ pay directly to student performance is controversial here and nationwide. Hours after Thursday’s announcement, the head of Oregon City’s teachers union raised the prospect that the union — and thus the district — could withdraw from the program.

“Oregon City would not use the money for teacher incentives,” Nancy Noice said. “There’s no way that Oregon City is going to go there.”

– The Oregonian

MPS’ proposal includes implementing a program called TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement in 16 high-needs schools. The TAP program is in 11 other states; the closest district to Milwaukee implementing the model is Minneapolis Public Schools.

“The proposed programming encourages and strengthens teacher performance through meaningful evaluation systems that will differentiate levels of teaching efficacy to identify opportunities for professional development,” says a letter from the state Department of Public Instruction, which supported the application from MPS.

The DPI said Milwaukee will use a value-added system to measure the contributions of teachers and schools to students’ achievement during a school year, which will allow the school and the teacher “to see how well they are teaching, rather than how advantaged or disadvantaged their students were at the beginning of the school year.”

– Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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