Saturday, May 22, 2010

$437 Million to Fund Performance-Based Compensation for American Teachers

Teachers, principals and other school personnel who agree to participate in performance-based compensation systems (PBCSs) can help their state or school district win funding under the newly opened $437 million Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced today.

"Schools have a lot of flexibility in how they create these programs," ED Secretary Arne Duncan said in a conference call announcing the funding availability. "They can reward individual teachers and principals or the entire school, including librarians, custodians and cafeteria workers."

PBCSs generally provide school personnel with additional money - bonuses or higher salaries - as well as professional development support for raising student achievement at the school or classroom level.

TIF started in 2006 and currently supports 33 grant sites in 18 states. For instance, the Weld County School District in Fort Lupton, Colo., established the Fort Lupton Teacher Incentive Fund in 2007. It provides school-wide bonuses to staff based on district schools' progress on state-administered math, reading and writing tests. Philadelphia launched its TIF grant program in 2006 to provide performance-based staff development and compensation systems for teachers and principals tied to student achievement growth and classroom evaluations.

(A full list of grantees and project descriptions, and other information, is maintained by the Center for Educator Compensation Reform)

Officials say funding under this latest TIF competition - dramatically expanded beyond the planned 2010 level with additional money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - will be awarded to PBCS programs that:

* Reward teachers and principals who improve student achievement using fair and transparent evaluations based on multiple measures that include student growth;

* Demonstrate a high level of local educator support and involvement;

* Plan for financial sustainability after the five-year grant ends;

* Implement PBCS as part of a "coherent and integrated strategy" for bolstering the education workforce; and

* Serve high-need schools.

From 40 to 80 TIF winners will receive grants of $5 million to $10 million each, officials said. Proposals are due July 6.

A TIF evaluation component will also be funded. TIF applicants that agree and are selected to participate in the evaluation can win another $1 million over the five-year grant period, officials said.

According to a notice of final requirements, which summarized changes from a previously released set of proposed priorities, ED adjusted the program in several ways. For instance, ED originally sought to restrict current TIF grantees from applying. ED now will give extra points to currently funded nonprofit TIF grantees who apply if they propose to work with a new group of state or local educational agencies, as long as those agencies are not TIF grantees.

In another change from the earlier notice of priorities, current TIF grantees are permitted to apply to cover new categories of staff so "current TIF grantees whose projects focus only on principals could seek TIF funding to expand their PBCSs to teachers and other personnel ... as well," officials say in the final notice of requirements, which will be published in the Federal Register May 21.

New applicants, however, will also receive extra points for that fact alone as will applicants that design programs to attract teachers to hard-to-staff subjects or specialty areas or to serve high-need students at high-need schools. Extra points will also be given to programs that use a "value-add" measure - a broader way to track student achievement beyond simply looking at test scores - to assess teacher and/or principal impact on pupils' academic growth.


Why I've left the teaching profession - by a disillusioned British teacher..

"What is the nicest leaving present a secondary school English teacher could hope for on departing from her school for a change in her career? A small thank-you card? A box of tempting chocolates? A bunch of flowers (preferably not nicked)? Or, for her mobile phone to be stolen from her deliberately unappealing and scruffy backpack? Well, as you can probably guess, it was the latter that was gifted to me in the last week of my teaching career. And despite later receiving some wonderful cards and even flowers from a rather sweet year 11 boy (definitely not nicked, I hope), it was the taste of that last bit of criminal activity that I can’t quite get out of my mouth.

I've been a teacher for just six years, so it does feel a bit premature of me to bemoan of the falling standards of young people, the dearth of the teaching profession and schools in general. However, I must admit to having seen first-hand such seriously shocking and disrespectful behaviour displayed by pupils and even some adults (senior management included), that it is hard for me to comprehend that teaching was once a respected profession. Did we really once have the right to tell a child who was being really rude to “shut-up!”?

I loved teaching, although I did find it really hard, like many others I know, to balance work and life. As an English teacher (the worst subject for marking) and a bit of an overplanner anyway I felt the weeks and months slipping by too quickly, without seeing friends or family. Sometimes I cried in the loos out of the frustration that you can work so so hard for some pupils and/or staff and yet there's always more to do and abuse to take. Often you're dealing with kids who have no understanding of anything outside their little world.

When my phone was stolen I can honestly say that I wasn’t expecting much of a fuss - though I did hold out some hope that it might be found. Unlike my previous school, a brilliant but bonkers place, this school in a leafy area had a few more bob [more money], which meant decent CCTV and a possibility of catching the culprit. Sadly I was swiftly informed by management that there were actually “no cameras” covering this area - why would there be when there were 10 valuable computers nearby?

A few “trustworthy” pupils were questioned by management but “unfortunately” nothing turned up. Perhaps they could have tried the less-trustworthy ones? But that was that. Sadly I just felt it was another sign that teaching can be a woolly world, and that some schools are the kind of odd institutions which forget to look after its people on the front line, the teachers.

It is not that I hate teaching or kids at all, in fact I have really enjoyed my time and maybe one day I’ll be back. But, reflecting on my first day today at my new company, I am pleased and surprised that it did not include being verbally abused. Not at all, not once, not even in 8 hours. Of course I don’t mean to sensationalise the mental and sometimes physical torment that teachers endure daily (!) but teachers spend longer in the toilets than they should, either crying or trying to control their physical reaction to the nerves that period 2 with a group of Year 10s bring on. So, my message to parents is, please teach your children to respect their teachers, even if they seem annoying or petty or a bit panicked, because teachers are in some cases a dying breed, myself included."


Australia: Bureaucracy eats third of school-building funds

Victoria is just as bad as NSW

ONE dollar in every three spent under the Building the Education Revolution scheme is being frittered away on needless bureaucratic costs, onerous documentation requirements and expensive building materials.

A preliminary assessment by Melbourne quantity surveying firm Swift Construction of the template library and classroom building used by the Victorian Education Department says the project management system for primary schools "ensures added cost for no discernible value adding to the project".

The report also says builders are required to hire a professional photographer to document every stage of construction.

The assessment of the template building intended for Berwick Lodge Primary School, in Melbourne's southeast, was handed to the head of the federal government's BER Implementation Taskforce Brad Orgill on a visit to the school yesterday. The school hired its own project management firm and, through it, commissioned an independent quote for the project and an assessment of the value for money of the template building it is receiving.

The report by Swift Construction claims the documentation required for primary school buildings under the BER is at a level required for $50 million projects, not $3m classrooms, causing "hurt money" to be added to the costs.

While the NSW government releases estimated costs for all its BER projects, the Victorian government has been criticised for its lack of transparency, and the Education Department failed to appear before the Senate inquiry into the program earlier this week.

Principal Henry Grossek has been a vocal critic of the BER program, and was one of the first to raise concerns about waste and inflated costs.

The school received $3m in the first round of the BER and successfully opposed the state Education Department to secure approval for a library and six classrooms, rather than an unwanted gymnasium, after the intervention of federal Education

Mr Grossek said the preliminary report from Swift Construction describes the template as "an architectural wank". Given the present management structure, onerous documentation requirements and the design and materials used in the template, the firm doubts the building can be completed for $3m.

But the report says the school could save $1m and complete the building for $2m by reducing bureaucracy and documentation and simplifying the template.

"The level of documentation associated with P21 (the Primary Schools for the 21st Century building program) is more in keeping with $50m projects rather than $3m projects and is either frightening off prospective builders and subcontractors or resulting in what in the industry is referred to as 'hurt money' costs being built into quotations, leading to overpricing," the report's summary says.

Examples of waste in the template identified by the quantity surveyor include the concrete slab costing twice what it should, unnecessary external recesses in the brick wall, stepdowns in toilets that are not needed, and nine different cladding systems when two or three would be adequate.

Mr Grossek said the report showed $1 in every $3 spent under the BER was being wasted and he called on Ms Gillard to freeze all projects yet to be tendered.


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