D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown has formally introduced legislation for a pilot program of bonuses, income tax credits and other incentives to lure good teachers to low-performing schools.
“The Highly Effective Teacher Incentive Act of 2011,” filed Thursday, is a modestly-scaled three-year experiment that would involve four high-needs schools and a maximum of 20 teachers. DCPS educators eligible to apply must be rated “highly effective” under IMPACT teacher evaluations, while public charter school teachers will have to meet an equivalent standard established by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and the charter community.
The schools selected must have D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS) proficiency rates of under 40 percent in reading and math, and a population where 75 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. Two of the schools would be middle schools.
Like many urban school systems, the District has its top teaching talent in its lowest-needs schools. Of the 663 teachers deemed “highly effective”on the most recent round of IMPACT evaluations, just 71 work in the 41 schools in Wards 7 and 8, while 135 teach in the 10 schools in Ward 3.
“Teachers often hesitate to teach in low-performing schools,” Brown said in a statement, “because they worry about teaching students whose skills are significantly below grade-level and about challenges with classroom discipline. But this is exactly why we need experienced, effective teachers in those classrooms – teachers who already have a track record of success.”
The proposed incentives are:
— A $10,000 annual bonus (over and above any IMPACT bonuses) for every year the teacher stays in a high-needs school.
— Homebuyer and housing assistance, including access to subsidized rental housing units; forgivable loans for a downpayment of up to 10 percent of the median home price in the District, and access to low-interest mortgage loans.
— Tuition assistance, including reimbursement for specific courses that lead to certification in high-demand subjects such as math and science.
— Loan repayment assistance for existing education loans.
— Income tax credits.
There are several reasons that teachers avoid more challenging schools. Some say IMPACT is a major disincentive because an “ineffective” rating can lead to dismissal. Brown had initially floated the idea of waiving annual evaluations for highly effective teachers willing to make the jump. The legislation instead directs Mayor Vincent C. Gray--and presumably Chancellor Kaya Henderson-- to analyze the waiver of IMPACT requirements for those in the pilot. Teachers would still be subject to evaluation, but would not risk losing their “highly effective” status.
“Let me be clear,” said Brown, “I support IMPACT as an evaluation system, and I believe that any teachers participating in this program should still be subject to evaluation. I also believe that we should strongly consider the strategy of allowing teachers to keep their ‘highly effective’ status as an incentive for teaching in a high-need school.”