Teachers at ‘hard to staff’ schools may get bonuses

Danny Rathbun

Capital News Service

Gov. Bob McDonnell has announced a salary bonus plan to help attract and retain teachers at low-performing, hard-to-staff schools.
The Performance-Pay Incentives initiative will give $3 million in state funding to teachers in designated schools who earn exemplary ratings during the 2011-2012 school year. A teacher could receive a reward of up to $5,000.
“Teachers who make a commitment to students in hard-to-staff urban and rural schools, despite circumstances that often prompt colleagues to seek assignments elsewhere, deserve our admiration, and when they succeed in raising the achievement of students in these schools, their performance should be rewarded,” McDonnell said.
But some groups, like the Virginia Education Association, don’t think this will be enough to fix the problems in troubled schools.
“The VEA is not convinced that any research has been offered that would substantiate that it’s a worthy idea or that there’s any validity to it at all,” said Kitty Boitnott, president of the group, which represents the state’s teachers.
“The whole notion that the teacher is the only variable that makes any difference in these low-performing schools is also a flawed argument. The neighborhood needs to be supported; the community needs to be involved … it’s not just a classroom issue – it’s a community issue.”
The Performance-Pay Incentives initiative was approved by the 2011 General Assembly. It is a centerpiece of McDonnell’s “Opportunity to Learn” education agenda.
The governor said teachers at 169 schools in 57 schools divisions across the state will be eligible for the program.
Before a school can receive funding from McDonnell’s initiative, it must implement a teacher-evaluation system focused on student growth, with approval from the Virginia Board of Education. At least 40 percent of teacher evaluations must be based on student academic growth.
Next week, the Board of Education will consider evaluation guidelines and performance standards for the program, said Patricia I. Wright, Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction. She said the rules “will ensure that performance-pay decisions are fair for all teachers and based on objective criteria.”
Besides offering state funding, Virginia has received almost $60 million in federal support for performance-pay programs. That money funds “turnaround” plans and other reforms in low-achieving schools.
“All told, the funding available for performance pay represents an opportunity to provide meaningful incentives and rewards for exemplary teachers in a significant number of Virginia schools, and, in the long term, the results of these pilot programs will tell us a lot about the potential for performance pay to improve teacher quality and raise student achievement,” McDonnell said.
To participate in the state-funded Virginia Performance-Pay Incentives plan, a school must meet at least four of eight criteria associated with difficulty recruiting and retaining effective teachers.
The criteria relate to accreditation, attendance, percentage of students in special education, percentage of students with limited English proficiency, percentage of teachers with provisional licensure, percentage of special education teachers with provisional licensure, percentage of first-year teachers and the number of first-year teachers in a critical-shortage area.

Schools eligible for performance-pay incentives:

Richmond – Albert Hill Middle, Armstrong High, Bellevue Elementary, Binford Middle, Chimborazo Elementary, E.S.H. Greene Elementary, Elkhardt Middle, Fairfield Court Elementary, Fred D. Thompson Middle, G.H. Reid Elementary, George Mason Elementary, George W. Carver Elementary, George Wythe High, Henderson Middle, Huguenot High, John Marshall High, Lucille M. Brown Middle, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle, Miles Jones Elementary, Richmond Alternative, Summer Hill/Ruffin Road Elementary, Thomas C. Boushall Middle and Thomas Jefferson High

Chesterfield County – A.M. Davis Elementary

Henrico County – Academy at Virginia Randolph, Baker Elementary, Fairfield Middle, Highland Springs Elementary, Highland Springs High, L. Douglas Wilder Middle, John Rolfe Middle, Skipwith Elementary and Varina High

Petersburg – Peabody Middle and Vernon Johns Junior High

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