This will sound complicated, so let's make it simple.
Indiana's teacher bonus scheme has the perverse effect of rewarding teachers in wealthier schools (with less challenging students) and, at the same time, producing a costly disincentive for teaching in high needs schools.
That's the take away from Eric Weddle's story from Indy Public Media. The headline says it all "Much Of $40 Million In Teacher Bonuses Going To Wealthiest Schools."
Teachers in some of the state’s richest school corporations can expect $1,000 or more in bonuses, while many of their counterparts in urban schools will receive far less. The state is required by law to hand out $40 million in teacher bonuses, and, this year, much of that money is heading to Indiana’s wealthiest districts.
Wayne Township Superintendent Jeff Butts said it’s frustrating that performance grants are determined by ISTEP pass rates, an exam not intended to evaluate teachers. This grant is the Department of Education’s second largest funding allocation, aside from general school funding.
“The intent was to reward high-performing teachers and those making a difference in the classroom,” he said. “And we have yet to find that measure that determines a high-performing teacher.”
Butts, who is also president-elect of Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, said the amount of funding correlates closely with the number of poor students in a district — the higher the poverty, the lower the grant.
Out of the 38 corporations in the Indiana Urban Schools Association, 24 were in the bottom third of funding levels, Butts said.
Wayne will receive the second lowest amount funding out of 283 school corporations — just $47,216, or $42 per teacher.
Indianapolis Public Schools, the largest district in the state, will get just $330,875, or $128 per teacher, to reward its top educators.
The spirit of policies meant to reward effective teachers is sound. At it's basis is the idea that hard work and achieving results with students matters.
Yet, shouldn't rewards be tilted toward those who are faced with the hardest work, teaching in schools where students have greater needs and fewer resources?
That would be fair. Let's hope changes to the formula for rewarding teachers does a better job of recognizing those who are effective in the toughest classrooms.