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February 25, 2013
As evaluations impasse grinds on, a new way to reward teachers
The Department of Education's new awards program will recognize ten top teachers this spring. New York City might not have a new teacher evaluation system yet, but new efforts are underway nonetheless to reward the city's best teachers. The Department of Education announced today the creation of the "Big Apple Awards" program to identify and honor teachers who make an "exceptional impact" on student performance. Ten teachers will win cash prizes and classroom grants when the winners are announced in June. In a statement today, Chancellor Dennis Walcott encouraged parents, administrators, students, educators, and community members to nominate teachers. Teachers can also nominate themselves. Top nominees will be invited to submit formal applications, and department officials will visit the finalists' classrooms before selecting the winners. The new model of rewarding a small number of teachers based on community nominations is a far cry from the merit pay system the Bloomberg administration had hoped to be implementing by now.
December 4, 2012
Schools and teachers collect prizes for math, science instruction
PHOTO: Scott ElliottMichelle Persaud of Murry Bergtraum High School of Business Careers is one of seven math and science teachers to win an annual award for their work. A leading nonprofit thinks one of the city's very best science teachers works at one of the city's most struggling high schools, and it's putting its money where it's mouth is. For the fourth straight year, the Fund for the City of New York and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation are giving city teachers awards for excellence in teaching science and mathematics. One of the seven winners is Michelle Persaud, whose school, Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers in Manhattan, received a "D" from the city last week. The honorees were nominated by students, parents, colleagues, and administrators and then selected by a committee made up of representatives from local science museums and universities, based on their students’ achievement, their involvement in extracurricular activities, and their efforts to promote math and science inside and outside the classroom. Schools with winning teachers each receive $2,500 to support their math and science programs. They are honoring their winning teachers in a series of assemblies today and Wednesday, and the teachers will receive their prizes — $5,000 to $7,500 each — at an award ceremony on Wednesday. Here are this year’s recipients, along with a highlight about each that we pulled from longer biographies compiled by the Sloan Awards:
March 27, 2012
Teacher group: Reward top-rated teachers with more pay, duties
Sketch of a teacher "career ladder" from Educators 4 Excellence's new report on teacher pay. (Click to enlarge) Teachers should be paid more — but they should have to prove their value before getting big raises or better positions. That's a central idea of a paper about teacher pay released today by the teacher advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence. The group convened a 16-teacher policy team last fall to study past and current experiments in teacher pay, survey city teachers about their views, and come up with recommendations about how to change the way city teachers are paid. Currently, city teachers earn a starting salary of $45,530 and see their pay rise in small increments each year and as they accumulate additional credentials such as a master's degree. Large salary jumps come late in teachers' careers or when they move into administrative positions. The group's recommendations include increasing the starting salary by a third; creating a "career ladder" so teachers can be rewarded for strong performance without leaving the classroom; introducing bonuses for teachers who receive top ratings on new teacher evaluations; and paying more to draw teachers to hard-to-staff subjects, such as science or special education. Educators 4 Excellence is aligned with school reform groups that have battled the teachers union in the past, and some of the group's previous reports have influenced city and state policy proposals. But the teacher pay report does not side neatly with either Mayor Bloomberg or the UFT. It does not call for merit pay tied to student test scores, which Bloomberg has supported and the city teachers union has said it would never accept, nor does it support Bloomberg's recent proposal to offer permanent pay raises to teachers who earn top ratings on new evaluations. But it also does not call for union-backed school-wide bonuses of the type distributed under a city program that was aborted after it did not lead to increases in student performance. "We are not interested in replicating failed experiments. As teachers, we already work hard, and we know that more pay will not make us work harder," reads the report. "But we do want to be recognized for our successes. We want to build up our supply of excellent teachers by recruiting and retaining professionals who might otherwise choose other fields."
February 15, 2012
More than $5 million in bonuses given to leaders at 275 schools
The principals of top-ranking city schools got their annual bonuses today, adding as much as $25,000 to some school leaders' pay. The bonuses, guaranteed under a city agreement with the principals union, went to administrators at schools with the highest scores on the city's progress reports. A total of 275 principals and their assistant principals received bonuses totaling more than $5 million. The bonuses went to the principals of some of the city's most selective schools, such as the Anderson School for gifted students and Staten Island Technical High School, one of the city's specialized high schools. But they also went to administrators at schools that serve low-performing students, including eight transfer high schools, which had their own bonus division. In at least a couple of cases, the bonuses went to principals who have gotten into hot water. Darlene Miller, the principal of the NYC Museum School, received a bonus despite being arrested for driving drunk over winter break, as did Ling Ling Chou, who was removed as the Shuang Wen School's principal last summer amid multiple investigations.
February 8, 2012
Poll: NYers don't trust Bloomberg to protect students' interests
New York City residents won't be appointing Mayor Bloomberg as students' chief lobbyist any time soon. Nearly twice as many New Yorkers trust the teachers union to protect students' interests than they do Bloomberg, according to a new poll out of Quinnipiac University. Bloomberg's approval rating on schools has hovered around 25 percent since early 2011, according to the poll. The poll, conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 5, found that 56 percent of registered voters in New York City say they trust the union more to go to bat for students. Less than a third, 31 percent, said they trust Bloomberg more. (The poll of 1,222 registered voters had a margin of error of 2.8 percent.) Among households containing public school students, the split was even more pronounced. Just 21 percent of those voters picked Bloomberg, and 69 percent chose the teachers union. Parents' backed the union more often than even households with union members. The news comes in an education-packed poll conducted after a month in which in a showdown over new teacher evaluations led Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo each to ratchet up rhetoric against teachers and their unions. The poll found that the percentage of New Yorkers with favorable opinions of teachers had fallen, from 54 percent last March to 47 percent now. But while a different poll earlier this week found high approval for Cuomo's school policies, a set of questions designed to assess New Yorkers' feelings about a slate of policy initiatives Bloomberg proposed during his State of the City address last month elicited mixed results.
November 16, 2011
Annual awards fete math, science teachers at array of schools
At a time when the Obama administration is rewarding efforts to improve math and science instruction, seven city math and science teachers are being lauded for the work they already do. For the third straight year, the Fund for the City of New York and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation are giving city teachers awards for excellence in teaching science and mathematics. The teachers will receive their prizes — $5,000 each — at an award ceremony tonight and their schools will celebrate the awards, and the $2,500 that their math and science programs receive, at a series of assemblies tomorrow. The teachers were nominated by students, parents, colleagues, and administrators and then selected by a committee made up of representatives from local science museums and universities, based on their students' achievement, their involvement in extracurricular activities, and their efforts to promote math and science inside and outside the classroom. The recipients’ high schools range from the city’s highest-performing to some of the weakest, including one that the city is trying to turn around using federal funding. Here are this year’s recipients, along with a highlight about each that we pulled from longer biographies compiled by the Sloan Awards: Teacher: Kate Belin School: Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School Subject: Geometry, Functions Why her school thinks she’s great: Belin makes math relevant and interesting for students at Fannie Lou Hamer, where 90 percent of entering freshman are below grade level in math or English, by connecting math to the world outside the classroom.
July 18, 2011
Pension changes could be enduring effect of merit pay pilot
The full impact of the city's short-lived experiment in teacher performance pay could still be felt. The Department of Education confirmed today that it has ended a three-year-old school-wide bonus program that was called "transcendant" when it was introduced. The decision, spurred by a RAND Corporation report that was commissioned by the Department of Education's private fundraising wing, follows a previous study that found no performance boost for participating schools. We reported in March that the city had quietly suspended the bonus program. (Read the complete RAND report.) The city will save money this year by not disbursing the bonuses, which it says cost $56 million over the life of the initiative. (The previous report, which the city did not commission, put the costs even higher, at $75 million.) But the long-term effect could come from a pension sweetener introduced to get the teachers union on board with the controversial program. Then-UFT President Randi Weingarten hinged her support for the bonus program on a change in the law that would allow teachers to retire early, starting at 55 instead of 62, without taking a hit to their pensions.
June 17, 2011
This week's teaching & learning tidbits
Study: More college freshmen feel "above average" - Fort Collins teachers vows to fight CSAP cheating allegations - Dougco considers teacher performance pay - Eagle schools give teacher bonuses amid cuts.
March 18, 2011
This week's teaching & learning tidbits
The latest school budget news - Parents clamor for vouchers in Dougco - Fla. replaces teacher tenure with merit pay - Cherry Creek eyes stimulus money for iPod language program.
March 7, 2011
Study: $75M teacher pay initiative did not improve achievement
New York City's heralded $75 million experiment in teacher incentive pay — deemed "transcendent" when it was announced in 2007 — did not increase student achievement at all, a new study by the Harvard economist Roland Fryer concludes. "If anything," Fryer writes of schools that participated in the program, "student achievement declined." Fryer and his team used state math and English test scores as the main indicator of academic achievement. Schools could distribute the bonus money based on individual teachers' results, but most did not. Most teachers received the average bonus of $3,000. The program, which was first funded by private foundations and then by taxpayer dollars, also had no impact on teacher behaviors that researchers measured. These included whether teachers stayed at their schools or in the city school district and how teachers described their job satisfaction and school quality in a survey. The program had only a "negligible" effect on a list of other measures that includes student attendance, behavioral problems, Regents exam scores, and high school graduation rates, the study found. The experiment targeted 200 high-need schools and 20,000 teachers between the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 school years. The Bloomberg administration quietly discontinued it last year, turning back on the mayor's early vow to expand the program quickly. The program handed out bonuses based on the schools' results on the city's progress report cards. The report cards grade schools based primarily on how much progress they make in improving students' state test scores. A so-called "compensation team" at each school decided how to distribute the money — a maximum of $3,000 per teachers union member, if the school completely met its target, and $1,500 per union member if the school improved its report card score by 75%.
September 24, 2010
Study: No link between test scores and incentive pay for teachers
The Washington Post reported on a study this week that found no correlation between financial incentives for teachers and improved test scores. Specifically, the Vanderbilt University study found that offering teachers incentives of up to $15,000 to improve student test scores produced no discernible difference in academic performance. The findings are likely to add fuel to the current debate over merit pay programs.
September 24, 2010
Jeffco launches teacher performance pay
The state's largest school district wins $32.8 million to pilot alternative pay as district and union leaders urge teachers to participate. Video
July 7, 2010
A city private school fumbles in its merit pay experiment
Much of the debate about merit pay for teachers has focused on theoretical arguments. But for Robin Aufses, the English department chair at a…
July 7, 2010
Testing the Murky Waters of Merit Pay, With Mixed Results
Last spring I took a position as English department chair at a New York City independent school, giving me a chance to work in the city after many years in suburban schools. The head of my new school told me that he and the board planned to launch a performance-based compensation system and asked me to help administer it. Like many teachers, I object to being paid based on student test scores, but after learning that wasn't the plan at my new school, I found myself intrigued. I admit it: I believe in merit pay, performance-based compensation, or whatever you want to call it. I've been in education too long not to be frustrated with the lock-step salary system: No matter how hard a teacher works, she's paid the same as everyone else who started the same year she did and has the same number of postgraduate credits she does. While no one goes into teaching for the money, we're also not volunteers. And why shouldn't great teachers make more than mediocre ones? So in I jumped, working with a formula that the department chairs, grade leaders, and heads of the secondary and primary schools had created. We made classroom observations and assessed each teacher's collegiality, commitment, and participation in activities outside the classroom. Teachers were scored 1 to 4 in 20 different categories. The categories were weighted, producing final scores that fell into four ranges. Teachers who fell into three of the ranges would — when the plan went into full effect — receive bonuses. Good thing it turned out to be a pilot program. We made some mistakes; we learned a lot; and we saw hope for the future.
January 22, 2010
District walks the talk on performance pay
Harrison District 2 Superintendent Mike Miles is launching a merit pay plan for teachers that is markedly different than other efforts in Colorado.
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