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As evaluations impasse grinds on, a new way to reward teachers

New York City might not have a new teacher evaluation system yet, but new efforts are underway nonetheless to reward the city’s best teachers.

The Department of Education announced today the creation of the “Big Apple Awards” program to identify and honor teachers who make an “exceptional impact” on student performance. Ten teachers will win cash prizes and classroom grants when the winners are announced in June.

In a statement today, Chancellor Dennis Walcott encouraged parents, administrators, students, educators, and community members to nominate teachers. Teachers can also nominate themselves. Top nominees will be invited to submit formal applications, and department officials will visit the finalists’ classrooms before selecting the winners.

The new model of rewarding a small number of teachers based on community nominations is a far cry from the merit pay system the Bloomberg administration had hoped to be implementing by now. Last year, Mayor Bloomberg proposed giving raises to teachers who posted two straight years of top ratings on a new evaluation system based on student progress and principal observations. But the city and teachers union have not yet agreed to adopt such a system, and the teachers union has also said that even when an evaluation system does go into effect, it would not agree to raises based on ratings.

According to Connie Pankratz, a department spokeswoman, funding for the new prizes will come from private donors, and the size of the grants has not yet been determined.

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