Teacher incentive watch: why Prince George's County matters
I'm not used to seeing good ideas coming out of Prince George's County, Md., the most troublesome of the Washington area's suburban school districts. When superintendent John Deasy, a very creative educator, left Prince George's last year for the big bucks and power of the Gates Foundation, the district's reputation took another blow. But my colleague Nelson Hernandez reveals that Deasy left behind him a remarkably clever plan for teacher and principal bonuses, something those of us uncertain about this latest hot fad should be watching carefully for the next few years.
Deasy's chosen successor, Bill Hite, has preserved the FIRST (Financial Incentive Rewards for Supervisors and Teachers) plan and announced the initial round of $1.1 million in bonuses. The money went to 279 employees in 12 schools, the teacher bonuses averaging around $5,000 each.
What I find most appealing about FIRST is that it is voluntary---only teachers who want to participate have to. (For principals, the choice part is trickier, since they have to do the special evaluations for their participating teachers even if they don't want to try for the money themselves.) Also, for those of us who don't like the idea of bonuses based on an individual teacher's success in raising test scores, FIRST puts more emphasis on other factors.
I like plans that reward everyone in the school for the school's success, and in this case teachers and principals are rewarded if their campus meets test-score targets. Teachers also get more money for teaching subjects that are hard to staff, for doing well on evaluations of their classroom skills and for engaging in professional development and activities outside the classroom, Hernandez reveals.
The program has a good looking Web site that identifies the 12 schools involved in the program last year and the 12 that have joined this year. It does not appear to reveal (I am old and sometime miss the key link) how well those first dozen did on the Maryland tests, and other measures, but that is something that they can add, and one year results aren't that important anyway.
Hite is a very smart and engaging educator whom many people, including me, are rooting for. He had a rough school opening, with a class scheduling computer system that went haywire, but this sensible attempt to address the incentive issue looks good to me. Let me know what you think of it, and let's keep an eye on it to see where it goes.
| December 2, 2009; 11:35 AM ET
Categories: Jay on the Web | Tags: Bill Hite, FIRST program, John Deasy, Prince George's County, principal incentives, teacher incentives
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