U.S. ED Unveils $290 Million in Performance-Pay Grants

By Stephen Sawchuk — September 27, 2012 2 min read
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The U.S. Department of Education today unveiled its fourth batch of Teacher Incentive Fund grants, a program that supports differentiated compensation systems.

TIF has had more makeovers than Madonna since its 2006 inception, so if you haven’t paying attention, there are a few tweaks to this round worth noting.

First, the program has expanded to include career ladders, whereby teachers get additional professional responsibilities, not just higher pay, as part of the programs. Second, grantees had to secure more support from teachers’ unions and others up front, rather than during a planning year. (This isn’t exactly easy to do; read more about that from colleague Jackie Zubrzycki’s recent story). And finally, the competition paid special attention to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields.

Overall, the Obama administration has attempted to move the program from one focused mostly on pay to a broader strategy for improving teaching that puts evaluation systems at its core. (It echoes the approaches taken in the Race to the Top program and the the ESEA Flexibility waivers.)

A few of the new winners are worth noting.

• New Haven Public Schools will use its grant to build on its teacher evaluation system. It will explore ways of creating career ladders for top-performing teachers. When I reported on New Haven’s new system last year, a few folks in the Connecticut district told me they hadn’t quite worked out what extra opportunities they’d create for teachers with the best scores. Perhaps this will be one way of finding answers.
• Los Angeles, Calif., a district that has been mired in controversy between union and district over teacher evaluations, won one grant.
• Hillsborough County, Fla., is famous because of the strong relationship between those two partners, which already won it major support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
• Harrison District 2, in Colorado Springs, will expand its teacher pay system—one of the first in the nation to do away with steps and lanes completely—to administrators.
• The Santa Monica, Calif.-based National Institute for Excellent in Teaching, a nonprofit which runs the TAP school improvement model, once again expands under the competition. By my count, it’s either the grantee or a partner in at least five of the new grants, which will involve schools in Tennessee, Minnesota, Texas, Iowa, and South Carolina.
• Quite a few charter school chains or projects also won grants. They include the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Aspire Public Schools, and Green Dot public schools, all in California; Breakthrough Charter Schools in Ohio; and the Center for Educational Innovation/Public Education Association, which will use its grant to fund differentiated-compensation pilots in New York and New Jersey.

You can read the full list of winners here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.