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Prince William EA Weighs In on Pay Plans

Teacher turnover is often higher at schools serving large proportions of students who live below the poverty line, speak English as a second language, or who have been identified as disabled. Will a system of bonuses for teachers working in such schools increase teacher retention and help raise student achievement?

That's the question being asked in Prince William, where the school board Dec. 16 approved a proposal to pay bonuses to teachers who work in such schools if those schools meet certain benchmarks for student progress. The program would launch only if funding could be obtained from a federal program, the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF).

The Prince William Education Association (PWEA) serves on the Teacher Incentive Performance Award committee tasked with developing options, and PWEA's involvement helped to improve the framework, says PWEA President Bonnie Klakowicz. The Prince William school board last spring ordered the superintendent to recommend a "merit pay plan for instructional leaders and teachers based upon performance."

The framework now under consideration focuses more narrowly on high-needs schools, and, as PWEA called for, the proposal would direct funds more broadly to school staffs. Under the initial proposal, only teachers of SOL-tested subjects could have received a bonus. In addition, the proposal calls for measures of success in addition to SOL pass rates, suggesting such measures as student attendance, teacher observations, and others. PWEA had argued a broader "growth model" for success was needed, says Klakowicz. And it wanted assurances that the bonus program was separate from the school division's salary schedule.

The school board concurred with PWEA's recommendations and agreed that the plan will only go forward if TIF funds underwrite it. "All the things we've said needed to be in the grant are being considered," Klakowicz says. "The school board chairperson thanked PWEA for being diligent in bringing forth member concerns, and the superintendent echoed that. But most importantly, member involvement helped make a difference." Sixty members turned out to speak up and support PWEA at school board meetings on the plan, she points out. "These are small but powerful accomplishments for PWEA."


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