State-Run School System Could Start Handing Out Big Bonuses

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Teachers and principals at schools the state has taken over could earn big bonuses if they bring the schools up to certain standards.

The Recovery School District, which is running more than 30 public schools in New Orleans, could dole out bonuses of up to $3,000 to teachers and up to $5,000 to principals under the pay-for-performance plan largely based on test scores, officials said Wednesday.

The RSD took over many poorly performing public schools in New Orleans. It has turned some over to charter organizations and is running 34 itself.

See Also
See other stories on education issues in Louisiana. See data on Louisiana's public school system. Also read New Orleans Schools: Recovery and Reform.

Under the plan, which still needs appoval from district officials, staff at elementary schools would get the bonuses if the school posts a state performance score—which is based on test scores, attendance and dropout rates — above 60, or a state assessment index—derived from test scores that make up the bulk of the performance score—above 55.

For high schools, the district sets the bar lower, at a performance score above 50 or an assessment index above 45.

Those scores represent the minimum the state expects from all schools; any school with a performance score below 60 falls into the state's "academically unacceptable" category. Last year, the state didn't award RSD schools a performance score because many couldn't produce reliable dropout and attendance data. So the state instead released the "assessment index," based only on test scores.

The state also did not reward or sanction any schools in hurricane-affected parishes, as it had previously done under its statewide accountability system.

Under the new plan from Recovery District Superintendent Paul Vallas, principals would receive up to $5,000. Assistant principals, along with reading and math coaches, would receive up to $4,000; teachers up to 3,000; and support staff up to $1,500 if the school achieves a certain performance score or assessment index. The state also plans a slightly lower scale of bonuses for schools that show at least 10 points of improvement, but only if the gains push the school's score above 45 for elementary schools and above 40 for high schools.

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