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WCPS chosen for federal money for teacher incentives

Fountaindale, Winter Street and Salem Avenue elementary schools and Northern and Western Heights middle schools will be covered

September 23, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
  • Dale Bannon
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Washington County Public Schools was chosen for $7.4 million in federal grant money to create an incentive program for teachers and administrators at schools serving students from low-income families.

The grant covers a five-year period, but money only is available for the first two years for now.

Washington County's program will cover five schools with high Free and Reduced Meals (FARM) rates, a measure of poverty -- Fountaindale, Winter Street and Salem Avenue elementary schools and Northern and Western Heights middle schools.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the district already has differentiated pay for principals based on the schools where they work, and has talked for years about a wider program.

New mandates in the federal Race to the Top program and the Maryland Education Reform Act of 2010 are directing the school system to tie together pay and performance, she said.

The 2010 state act calls for 50 percent of teacher evaluations to be based on student progress.

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Washington County Public Schools -- proposing a program called Performance Outcomes with Effective Rewards, or POWER -- was one of 62 recipients of federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants announced Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Education received 96 applications, press secretary Sandra Abrevaya said.

The five-year, $1.2 billion 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 success," according to a department press release.

Only the first two years of funding, or $442 million, is available to start.

Abrevaya said Washington County Public Schools will get $816,884 the first year and $1,871,482 the second year.

The department expects Congress will approve funding for the final three years, she said.

Dale Bannon, director of system development for Washington County Public Schools, said the first year will be spent planning. The school system will work on a performance-based compensation system to be used the subsequent four years.

Bannon said the Washington County Teachers Association has endorsed the idea and will be part of the planning.

"This is a topic that we're comfortable exploring," said Denise Fry, president of the teachers association.

She said the association likes that teachers will work with the school system to determine the incentive system.

Washington County currently has incentives for teachers in "bits and pieces," such as at Western Heights Middle School and Antietam Academy's middle and high schools, Fry said.

Bannon said the grant also includes "a significant amount" of professional development for the five schools with high FARM rates, aside from the incentive component of the program.

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