Friday, September 2, 2011

School board approves pay-for-performance model

System may help district recoup some state money

Express Staff Writer

John Blackman

It won't directly affect any of the current salary systems for teachers in the Blaine County School District, but a newly developed "pay-for-performance" model may help the district recoup some of the money the state of Idaho won't be doling out for teacher salaries over the next few years.

The district board of trustees unanimously approved the model at a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, in time to meet a State Department of Education deadline on Thursday.

Basically, the pay-for-performance system will financially reward schools, teachers and other certified staff who can demonstrate student academic growth through standardized testing.

The pay-for-performance program is now required by school districts because of education reforms advocated by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and approved earlier this year by the Idaho Legislature.

Blaine County School District Assistant Superintendent John Blackman explained Wednesday that the pay-for performance system doesn't represent any new money to Idaho schools. Instead, it will be funded by the 1,100 teaching jobs statewide that the state will stop funding over the next two years.

"They're just taking it from Peter to pay Paul," Blackman said.

To the Blaine County School District, the revenue loss over the next two years will be between $1.2 million and $1.3 million, Blackman said.

School districts aren't required to develop their own pay-for-performance models. If they don't, then they will be subject to a state model that measures student academic growth only through Idaho Standard Achievement Testing, typically referred to as ISAT.

Blackman worked with members of the Blaine County Education Association, the so-called teacher's union, to develop what the district believes is a model better suited for the Blaine County School District.

The model, at least for this year, will only use spring ISAT test comparisons to measure high school academic growth.

For grades four through eight, the model relies on the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program, typically referred to as STAR, which measures growth in reading and math through testing done at the beginning and end of a school year.

For kindergarten through third grade, the model will use Idaho Reading Indicator scores. The tests are given to students at the beginning and end of each school year to measure growth in reading.

Blackman said the district will use the measurements this year, but that any funding for the pay-for-performance system won't be available until fiscal 2013.

Schools and teachers with students who show growth, depending on how much, may qualify for bonus checks next year.

Blackman said all certified staff, including principals, vice principals, counselors and librarians are qualified for a bonus. Not qualified are administrators and noncertified staff such as secretaries, cooks and custodians.

Through a complex formula, Blackman said, the state will dole out the most funding to schools that show the most student academic growth.

He said Blaine County Schools are at a disadvantage to receive the funding because they are already averaging about 90 percent proficiency in ISAT scores. Lower-performing schools have an advantage because they have more room for growth.

"They're trying to get low-performing schools to perform better," Blackman said.

Terry Smith:

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