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August 22, 2014

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District seeks grant to implement pay-for-performance plan for teachers

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Steve Marcus

First grade teacher Judith Alfaro, a New Teacher of the Year award winner, cleans her classroom on the last full day of class at Sewell Elementary school in Henderson Wednesday, June 6, 2012. The school has two “new teachers of the year” whose jobs are in jeopardy because of budget cuts and an arbitration decision that forces the school district to pay raises.

The Clark County School District is applying for a federal grant to develop and implement a pay-for-performance system for teachers at 11 low-performing schools.

The U.S. Department of Education announced the latest round of applications for the $285 million Teacher Incentive Fund program in June.

Through a competitive grant process, school districts across the nation were invited to apply for five-year grants to implement teacher evaluation systems, which would give raises to teachers at schools demonstrating improvements in student performance.

The School Board unanimously approved the district’s application for a five-year, $48.5 million grant on Thursday.

If awarded, the grant will fund $9 million to the district to implement its pay-for-performance plan for one year starting in October. Funding for the subsequent years of the grant is contingent upon congressional action and how well the district executes its plan.

In its application, the School District proposes that the majority of the first-year grant money — $5 million — be used for additional salary and benefits for teachers working in the district’s “Turnaround Zone.” The rest of the grant would be spent on school supplies and purchased services, such as consultants.

There are 11 schools in this newly created “Turnaround Zone,” which includes both federal “turnaround” schools receiving School Improvement Grant money and schools rated one star in the district’s school rating system.

Those schools are Canyon Springs, Chaparral, Mojave, Rancho and Western high schools; O’Callaghan Middle School; and Carson, Elizondo, Hancock, Roundy and Sunrise Acres elementary schools.

The application allows for other high-need schools in the district to be added to the Teacher Incentive Fund grant program in the future.

The federal grant would help schools in the “Turnaround Zone” to increase their retention rate of effective and highly effective teachers and motivate high-performing teachers to transfer to low-performing schools.

The grant would also help these schools implement a new evaluation rubric for teachers and principals using multiple performance indicators, such as student growth on standardized tests, and an increased number of observations from school administrators.

A new teacher “career ladder” pay scale would also be developed using the grant money.

Local teachers union President Ruben Murillo said he hopes the School District will continue to collaborate with the Clark County Education Association to develop a new teacher evaluation and pay-for-performance system.

“We expect teachers to be involved,” Murillo said. “We want to make sure the evaluation system will improve student and teacher performance by being supportive of teachers. It’s not a tool to be vindictive and get rid of teachers.”

The governor-appointed Teachers and Leaders Council is working on developing and recommending a statewide performance evaluation system that is rigorous, fair and measures teachers using a variety of factors.

The council — which includes teachers, administrators, school board members, a parent and superintendent — is scheduled to present its final report on its recommendations in December.

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  1. So what would stop an unscrupulous teacher (whose pay bonuses just happen to be based on the scores the students get)from giving the students the answers before every test?

  2. I thought under Obama's education plan there would much less emphasis on standardized test scores. This merit system of pay would force teachers to 100% teach to a standardized test. Who is going to get hurt by this: the students.