The much-awaited—by Teacher Beat anyway—proposed regulations for the Teacher Incentive Fund grant have finally been released by the Education Department.
They are much more newsworthy for what’s NOT explicitly stated than what they actually lay out.
The teachers’ unions have said that any federal performance-pay program should require grantees to collectively bargain the terms of the grant with the local union, or to use another adoption mechanism, such as a teacher vote.
The notice dodges that issue almost entirely. Although the regulations would require all applications to engage stakeholders, per this addition in last year’s budget bill, there is barely any mention about collective bargaining. Here’s the extent of the language. Applications must demonstrate that their plan:
Has the involvement and support of teachers, principals, and other certified personnel (including input from teachers and principals in the schools and [districts] to be served by the grant) and the involvement and support of unions in participating [districts] where they are the designated exclusive representatives for the purpose of collective bargaining that is needed to carry out the grant."
There are a few additions to the program, such as a requirement that grantees update their teacher evaluations, that would probably require bargaining. But this is still a far cry from giving teachers a formal vetting process over the grants.
To be funded, applications must meet three “absolute” priorities. All grantees must explore either individual or group-based awards or some combination of the two and measure teachers on both student growth and on observations; show evidence of fiscal sustainability; and show “programmatic” sustainability by being aligned with other strategies for increasing teacher effectiveness.
Applications will earn additional competitive points for exploring value-added measures of achievement based on test scores, and designing innovative ways to use the grants to increase recruitment and retention in low-income or hard-to-staff schools.
The most interesting feature, besides the issue on collective bargaining, is that some of the new grantees will be required to participate in a random-assignment study of schools to gauge whether the programs help to improve teacher recruitment and retention and student achievement. That language was added to comply with new language in the economic-stimulus bill, as I reported here.
UPDATE: Per the above paragraph, some grantees can receive additional funding if they agree to participate in the evaluation part of the program, but not all grantees are required to do so. I apologize if this wasn’t clear. (Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader for pointing this out.)
Comments on the regs will be accepted until March 29.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.