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WCPS to pay teachers, administrators nearly $1 million in bonuses

$7.4 million federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant covers most of the cost of evaluation pilot program

July 18, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Schools will pay almost $1 million to 148 teachers and school administrators who participated in the first year of an evaluation pilot program and were deemed to be effective or highly effective, according to Program Manager Stacy Henson.

A total of $944,250 in bonuses will be paid to all participants in the program, Henson said. The average bonus for the teachers will be $6,046, she said.

Most of the cost of the pilot program, which includes considering student academic growth, is covered by a $7.4 million federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant.

The bonuses could be paid as early as the first August paycheck, Assistant Schools Superintendent Mike Markoe said.

Some teachers earned the largest bonus possible for the first year of the program ($7,000), and some school administrators earned the largest bonus possible for the first year ($10,000), Henson said.

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Of the 134 teachers who completed the first year, 51 percent were deemed to be highly effective and 49 percent were deemed to be effective, Henson said. Participants could be deemed to be ineffective, effective or highly effective.

Hearing those percentages Tuesday, Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said he wasn’t part of the rating system so it was a little premature for him to comment.

“My initial reaction would be that while there’s a lot of good work going on at the schools, I would wonder about any assessment system that actually had that many people rated so highly, given the room that we have for academic improvement,” Wilcox said after Tuesday’s school board meeting.

One of the measures for participating teachers was being observed in the classroom by a supervisor such as a principal, Henson said.

She said 74 percent of the teachers in the pilot program showed improvement in the classroom from the beginning of the 2011-12 school year to the end.

The purpose of the evaluation is to improve instruction, so if the pilot program is doing that, that’s a good thing, Wilcox said.

Other factors taken into consideration are whether the participant completed the first year and whether students showed academic growth, Henson said.

School system officials are seeing student improvement across a number of measures, Wilcox said.

All of the participating schools showed improvement in the percentage of students who scored at least proficient in at least one subject area — math or reading — for the assessment tests students took this past school year. That data was released by the Maryland State Department of Education last week.

The pilot program, which participants volunteered for, is in place at Northern and Western Heights middle schools, and at Fountaindale, Salem Avenue and Winter Street elementary schools.

The participating schools were chosen because of their high Free and Reduced-Price Meals, or FARM rates, a measure of poverty.

The school system will need to implement a new teacher evaluation system that takes into account student achievement to comply with mandates in the federal Race to the Top program and the Maryland Education Reform Act of 2010.

On Tuesday, the Washington County Board of Education approved a memorandum of understanding between the board, the school system and the Washington County Teachers Association that allows the school system to issue the bonuses.

That memorandum of understanding was necessary because the bonuses were not part of the negotiated contract with the teachers union, Markoe said.

Because there are 140 teaching slots for the program, the school system will add six teachers to the pilot program for the upcoming school year, Henson said.

Fourteen school administrators, including principals, assistant principals and an administrative intern, participated in the pilot program, Henson said.

Administrators are evaluated based on evaluations, how they did with eight leadership goals, and how the administrator’s school fared with attendance and suspension rates.

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