On Thursday, the state announced the awarding of $30 million to more than 1,300 schools to reward high-performing teachers in the first such distribution of teacher performance grants. But because the Wawasee Community School Corp. does not have its new teacher pay system in place, it was not eligible to receive any of the state funding.
“We are in the final year of a contract with our teachers,” said Dr. Tom Edington, superintendent of WCSC. “We will get together with our teachers during the first half of next year and develop a future pay plan based, in part, upon teacher evaluations and test scores of students. When our new teacher pay system is in place, Wawasee will be eligible for the state incentives.”
Teacher performance grants were awarded to schools, including some in Kosciusko County, with students earning ISTEP+ or end of course assessment passing scores of 72.5 percent or above with a 5 percent or more growth in graduation rates from the previous year. Bonuses will be awarded to teachers who are rated effective or highly effective under Indiana’s teacher evaluation system for the 2013-14 academic year.
A trend at the state level has been to link teacher pay to evaluations and test scores and Gov. Mike Pence recently announced as part of his 2015 legislative education priorities the intent to expand the performance-based university funding model. But Edington is not in agreement with this trend and said the Center for the Evaluation of Educational Progress at Indiana University completed a study on the effectiveness of basing teacher pay on evaluations and test scores and came to the conclusion it doesn’t work well in any state it has been tried.
“There are four reasons for this,” he said. “One is that the tests given students in Indiana are in academic areas which affect only half of the teachers. How do you fairly attach student scores to the other half of the teachers who are not in those grades or areas? Then, teacher evaluations, try as you might, can be judged as subjective, especially when pay is attached to them. Another reason pay for scores doesn’t work is that Indiana state testing, scoring and grading has been an unreliable system, a mess really, of political favors for certain schools and companies profiting off of our kids by over testing.
“The final reason paying teachers under the new Indiana laws won’t work well is that teachers can take an entire 40-year career to reach a decent living wage, if they are compensated only for student performance. Good, hard-working teachers who relish working with the most needy students will grow weary of a lower standard of living than teachers used to have.”
Edington also noted in some school districts in Indiana, such as the Indianapolis metro area, kids are more often in preschool or nursery school by the time they are 2 or 3 years old and already have a head start on reading when they start kindergarten. But in Wawasee, with the high number of students receiving free or reduced price lunches, fewer students can do this.
But Wawasee will eventually take the state grants for teachers because with no increases in state funding for several years, “we are not left with many options,” Edington said.