To the Editor:
Three urban districts may be returning their Teacher Incentive Fund grants before even starting their projects, as described in “Districts Abandon Grants Targeting Teacher Quality,” (Aug. 22, 2012) but we are one of the more than 60 recipients in 2010 using TIF grants to make substantial changes in teaching and learning.
Located in rural northeast Arkansas, Cross County doesn’t have the teacher-recruitment pool of an urban area. We have used our TIF grant to develop a comprehensive and long-term approach focused on attracting high-quality new teachers and retaining our highly effective teachers who have been with us for many years.
While pay is an important part of our approach under TIF, performance-based compensation is based on multiple measures of effectiveness, not single tests. For example, we conduct four observations of classroom performance for every teacher as well as look at student growth at the classroom and school levels.
A cornerstone of our success has been the creation of new roles and responsibilities for teachers, allowing them to become master and mentor teachers. These roles allow us to provide specific support to improve teacher practice and student learning, making the connection between evaluations, support, and learning for both the teacher and the students. These teacher-leaders join administrators in a leadership team that takes explicit responsibility for driving improvements in teaching, learning, and transforming the school culture to create reflective teachers and administrators who consistently strive to improve.
The teacher-effectiveness challenge in rural areas is acute, and TIF is enabling us to take a new and innovative approach that is making a difference for our students.
Cross County School District
Cherry Valley, Ark.
A version of this article appeared in the September 19, 2012 edition of Education Week as Positive Experience in Rural Arkansas