bonus points

City, union agree to performance pay deal for struggling schools

The city and the teachers union have struck a performance pay deal that will tie some teachers’ salaries to a range of measures of their effectiveness, including their students’ test scores.

The deal is part of a federal grant program to “turn around” the city’s most struggling schools. It also builds on a teacher evaluation agreement reached between the union and state education officials last month. According to the deal, 34 schools that have been designated as persistently lowest achieving will be able to pay model teachers significantly more money to take on greater responsibilities. Deemed the best-of-the-best, these teachers will mentor their colleagues, write curriculum, and open their classrooms to teachers who want to watch a lesson.

City officials have decided that 11 of these 34 schools will undergo the transformation model beginning next September. This means they can get support services, have an extended school day or an entirely new schedule, and can keep the teachers they have. In some cases, the city may decide to replace these schools’ principals.

The other 23 schools will experience one of three other plans offered by the federal government: turnaround (in which all teachers are excessed and only half can be re-hired and the principal is replaced); restart (in which a charter school replaces the district school); or closure. Department of Education officials have yet to decide which of these schools will go through which models.

Deputy Chancellor John White said the city would inform the 34 schools whether they will go through the transformation model or not in the next 24 hours.

Under the new performance pay agreement, teachers will apply to be “turnaround teachers” or “master teachers,” at both turnaround and transformation schools. With these new titles, and accompanying bonuses, city officials believe they can draw great teachers to these schools and make sure the good ones who are there, stay put.

Turnaround teachers will teach a full course load — in high schools that’s five classes — while spending at least 30 hours a year helping their colleagues in the school. That could mean helping another teacher plan his lessons, or demonstrating a model lesson. As a reward, these teachers will receive bonuses of 15 percent of their salaries.

One step up from that is the master teacher position, for which a person must teach at least four classes a day. An additional two periods must be used to train other teachers either through one-on-one mentoring or by running professional development seminars. Master teachers’ bonuses will be 30 percent of their salaries.

“It’s groundbreaking because 30 percent is meaningful, 15 percent is meaningful,” White said. “A 1,000 or 2,000 dollar bonus will have some effect on people’s lives, but it won’t compel the kind of transformation that will 15 and 30 percent increases.”

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said the deal to create the bonus program doesn’t mean the union had agreed to a merit pay system for individual teachers (the current program is school-wide).

“It’s a career ladder,” he said. “Merit pay is based entirely on test scores. If you’re doing more work, you should be compensated. It’s not a shiny new merit pay system.”

Teachers who apply to be turnaround or master teachers next year will be vetted by a committee composed of four teachers union representatives and two Department of Education employees. Piloting the new teacher evaluation system, the committee will rate teachers, with 40 percent of the evaluation based on their students’ test scores and 60 percent on performance reviews, attendance, and other factors.

Principals will hire master and turnaround teachers from this pool of vetted candidates. By 2011, the city expects to do way with the committee screening process and rely on the teacher evaluation system to separate teachers into four categories: highly effective, effective, developing, and ineffective.

How long the city will be able to offer these bonuses is uncertain. Over the course of the next three years, each of the 34 schools will receive $6 million in federal stimulus money — $2 million per year — that will pay for the bonuses. At the end of that time period, the bonuses could become part of the teachers contract and be paid by the city.

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.