McDonnell launches teacher pay initiative

Bob McDonnell
Teachers at nine Henrico public schools may be eligible to receive $5,000 performance-pay bonuses, as part of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's "Opportunity to learn" education initiative, which he officially launched today.

The initiative offers 57 school districts in Virginia the opportunity to provide the incentives to new or current teachers at schools within their districts that are hard to staff. In Henrico, the nine schools eligible for the program are the 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.

Statewide, 169 schools are eligible, including one in Chesterfield County and 23 in the City of Richmond.

The initiative, which provides $3 million in state funding, is designed to help attract and retain experienced, fully licensed teachers to the eligible schools. It was approved by the 2011 General Assembly
 
“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.
 
Schools receiving funding through the competitive-grant program must implement a comprehensive teacher-evaluation system aligned with performance standards and model evaluation systems approved by the Board of Education. At least 40 percent of teacher evaluations must be based on student academic growth, including, when available and appropriate, student-growth data provided by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).
 
“The evaluation guidelines and performance standards awaiting final approval by the Board of Education on April 28 will ensure that performance-pay decisions are fair for all teachers and based on objective criteria," Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said. “Administrators in the participating divisions will be trained in the implementation of the board’s performance standards and evaluation criteria.”
 
In applying for funding, school divisions may designate all teachers within a hard-to-staff school as eligible for performance pay or limit eligibility to specific groups of teachers, such as teachers in reading and mathematics. The maximum amount a teacher may receive is $5,000.
 
In addition, federal support for performance-pay programs is available through the $59.8 million School Improvement Grant the commonwealth received in April 2010 to fund “turnaround” plans and other reforms in low-achieving schools. Schools receiving funds through the federal grant must implement teacher-evaluation systems that include student growth as a significant factor and have the option of applying for funding to support performance-pay plans.
 
“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 initiative, a school must meet at least four of eight criteria associated with schools that have difficulty recruiting and retaining effective teachers. The criteria are related to these factors: accreditation, average attendance, percentage of students in special education, percentage of limited-English proficient students, 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.

A request for proposals from divisions with eligible schools to participate in the state-funded Virginia Performance-Pay Incentives initiative was posted last week on the VDOE website. Completed applications from interested divisions are due on June 15, and award amounts will be announced during the summer before the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year.
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