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Schools position funded by grant to develop programs

March 20, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education has voted to appoint a teacher to a new $85,894 grant-funded position to help develop programs that will provide monetary awards to teachers and administrators deemed effective and highly effective at five schools.

The school system was awarded a $7.4 million federal grant last September to develop a pilot program through which  effective and highly effective classroom teachers in schools that have a high number of students from low-income families would be compensated, said Mike Markoe, assistant superintendent for student and staff support.

President Obama’s education reform initiative, Race to the Top, calls for recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most. The Maryland Education Reform Act of 2010 states data on student progress shall be “a significant component” in evaluating certified teachers and principals.

The incentive stipend takes evaluating teachers based on student growth to another level, but doesn’t mean the compensation will become part of a statewide model, said Donna Hanlin, assistant superintendent for curriculum, school administration and improvement.

Teachers and administrators are hashing out the amount of bonuses for teachers deemed effective and highly effective, Markoe said.

They’ll also talk about what would happen when teachers are deemed ineffective. The school system already provides assistance for teachers who are struggling in the classroom, Markoe said.

The stipends and overtime pay, for participating teachers who would stay late for training, would come from the federal grant, Markoe said.

Working out details

School system officials are pursuing an ambitious schedule that could have the pilot program start as early as the beginning of next school year at Fountaindale, Salem Avenue and Winter Street elementary schools, and at Northern Middle and Western Heights Middle schools, Markoe said.

Those schools were chosen because they have high rates of students who receive free or reduced-priced meals, a measure of poverty. While many of the schools’ current students will, because of redistricting, attend other schools in the next school year, those five schools are still expected to have high rates of students who get free and reduced-price meals, Markoe said.

Officials still have several things to work out.

The next step is to create, in the schools involved, small teams that would determine how to attract teachers to the voluntary program and give them a say in how effectiveness would be measured, Markoe said.

Similar discussions will be held with administrators, including principals, because the program also would reward administrators deemed effective and highly effective, Markoe said.

Program costs

During Tuesday’s school board meeting, the board voted 6-1 to approve personnel moves that included hiring Stacy J. Henson as manager of the Teacher Incentive Fund Project.

The salary and benefits for Henson, who had been a Title 1 family curriculum specialist, will be paid through the grant, said Donna Newcomer, director of human resources.

Board member Donna Brightman cast the dissenting vote for the personnel moves. She said in a phone interview Wednesday that she had concerns about creating a full-time position with a tentative funding source. Should the funding dry up, there is a question of whether the school system could continue to pay for the position, she said.

An option would have been to hire a contracted employee, she said.

At this point, funding is available for the first two years of the five-year grant program — $816,884 for this fiscal year and $1,871,482 for the next fiscal year.

In addition to hiring the manager, the school system hired a consultant to create training sessions on topics such as engaging students, classroom management and instruction techniques, Markoe said. That contract is for up to $45,000.

School system officials have met, and will meet again, with a national consultant who has done research into teacher effectiveness, Hanlin said.

Markoe said the cost of meeting with that consultant will probably be up to $5,000.

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