If strong, experienced teachers are the ‘solution’ to improving academic skills of at risk students, then there is a logic to providing a bonus program for teachers. In order to be effective, school days and years may have to be longer. Teachers may need smaller classes and tutoring help along with behavioral and other support services. The danger is that, in order to keep costs down, only part of the needed services are funded. Often, these infusions of funds are only a temporary palliative to more systemic problems. School grades go up and fall back down as we heard in testimonies during the trial.
The mantra is that effective teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s progress. This is no doubt partially true. The percentage of student achievement in gain scores is actually very low about 10%. Which school a child attends is equally important. Taken together, however, these two variables only account for 25% of student achievement gains. The rest is a myriad of social and economic factors outside control of a school. See VAM: Teachers are More than a Number. Think about it! Well, I know you have. Seventy-five percent of the students’ achievement scores are related to factors other than the school and the teacher. We need a sound bite for that piece of information.
Here are the bonus program summaries posted in the Tampa Bay Times article:
- Teachers in struggling schools may earn up to $25,000 in bonuses in Pinellas. The Tampa Bay Times published a story on how this works. 37
- Teachers in the program will face a longer day (9.5 hours), participate in the Summer Bridge program, have 36 hours in ELP, participate in 30 hours of additional training,
- There will be a $5,000 recruitment bonus and a $2,000 performance bonus if schools improve.
- Clearly, the actual amount a teacher receives will vary. According to the Times article, the range may go from $18,000 to $25,000.
Pasco County has determined that its three year trial bonus program did not work. Pasco has four failing schools and is working on another approach to helping the schools.
Duval County has launched a private fund raising drive to help struggling schools. This fund Quality Education for All now has received 37 of the 50 million dollars expected from the community donors. The money will be allocated to attract teachers and principals through $17 to $20 thousand dollar bonuses. The fund will also support technology upgrades.
The federal Department of Education has a Teacher Incentive Fund grant program to support districts that are designing performance based compensation plans for struggling schools. These grant programs do not provide funds to sustain these programs once they are implemented.
The reform movement is based on turning around schools and turning out teachers. Recruiting strong teachers is only one of the requirements to help schools. Even the best teachers cannot do it alone. These bonus programs must have a broader focus. Expecting low income districts to come up with the money to help, is a fantasy.