Feds award grants to overhaul teacher compensation systems

The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday winners in the $1.2 billion Teacher Incentive Fund grant program that includes four entities in California.

The program's goal is to help spur development of new teacher and principal compensation systems that are tied to student test scores that ultimately will improve student performance.

Announcement of the 62 grant winners nationwide comes in the wake of a study released earlier this week that found a three-year experiment in the Nashville city schools with teacher pay-for-performance - the largest program in the U.S. to date - didn't improve test scores.

Because of the widespread focus on the Nashville results there had been some speculation that U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan would reconsider the awards or at least delay the announcement.

But Duncan said in a statement that the program will ultimately benefit students.

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 Duncan.

The program funding will go out over five years; the department said Thursday they were awarding $442 million now that represents the first two years.

The winners were selected through an independent, expert peer review process with points awarded on the basis of developing, rewarding and supporting effective teachers and principals in high-need schools.

The four winners from California are:

- The College-Ready Promise, a coalition of charter management organizations who will receive $11 million to "establish tools and processes for improving the evaluation of educators and for better delivering support, growth opportunities, and differentiated compensation based on these evaluations."

- The Northern Humboldt Union High School District, who will receive $4.6 million to "demonstrate how a strong partnership between the district, the teacher's union and its members, and site-based administrators can implement a rigorous program which uses extensive professional development, ongoing, standards-aligned formative assessment, state exam results, regular observations and frequent teacher evaluations to determine performance-based bonuses up to 8 percent of an average teacher's salary."

- The Lucia Mar Unified School District, located on the Central Coast, which will receive $7.1 million. The Lucia district will partner with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching "to implement an accountability system for teachers and principals that includes: a clear definition of effective instruction; comprehensive professional development that is explicitly connected to effective instruction; multiple career paths that provide teachers career growth via new roles and responsibilities; and frequent, relevant evaluations."

- ARISE High School, part of a consortium of charter schools in Alameda County, will get $7 million. Their project will use "valid, reliable, and value-added performance measures" to evaluate teachers and improve student achievement.

A list of TIF winners can be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/teacherincentive/awards.html

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