Educators to get cash for boosting grad rates-WEB ONLY

High schools that achieve the biggest
graduation rate increases between now and next spring could receive up to
$20,000 – money that would be split among each school’s principal and select
staff members.




State Superintendent of Schools Tony Bennett said today the goal of the new
program is to push public high schools to find the most innovative ways to
graduate more students by encouraging would-be dropouts to stick with their
studies and get their diplomas.

Under the program, 10 high schools with at least 300 students will get $20,000
each. Two other schools with enrollments under 300 will receive $10,000 each.

The 12 schools getting the money will be those that demonstrate the largest
increases in their graduation rates between the current 2008-09 school year and
the 2009-10 school year.

Each school’s principal will get up to $5,000 of the money for his or her
personal use. The remainder will be split up among those teachers, counselors
or others determined to have played the biggest role in boosting graduations.

“This is whoever the principal and the district superintendent believe are
the key contributors to improving graduation rates,” Bennett said during a
Statehouse news conference. “We want to award performance. We want to pay
for results.”

Although it will be up to principals and
superintendents to tell the state which staff members should get the money, and
how much, he said he doesn’t want the schools to divide the money among all
their teachers equally.

Instead, Bennett said the cash should go to the staff “who got the best

Department of Education spokesman Cam Savage said the program will be the first
time the agency has offered “performance awards” to reward school
staffs for doing a good job.

five-year graduation rate – calculated just for informational purposes – is
about 77 percent. Last year, nearly 23,000 students failed to graduate from Indiana‘s high schools, according to a recent study by
the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance
for Excellent Education.

Bennett said high school dropouts who don’t get their general equivalency
diplomas have limited employment opportunities and are more likely to end up in
jail or prison.

The $220,000 for the program is coming from savings the state Department of
Education has realized through cost controls and efficiency efforts Bennett has
implemented since taking office in January. Bennett said he hopes money will be
available to continue the program.

The Indiana State Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, has
numerous concerns about the new performance pay program, said Mark Shoup, an
ISTA spokesman.

Shoup said the ISTA is worried the program is a form of “merit pay”
that teachers unions have traditionally opposed because they do not want pay
raises tied to student performance.

He also said the program would circumvent school improvement committees – the
panels of administrators, teachers and other stakeholders who help determine
each school’s policies.

“These committees have been an intricate part of decision making in
individual schools and this proposal delves them out of that decision
making,” Shoup said.

He said the program also raises concerns that it might lead to a one-time
graduation rate spike or that some schools might graduate sub-par students in their
quest for the money.

Bennett said that his agency would conduct a thorough audit of each school’s
graduation rates, taking into account the numerous factors that influence those
rates before deciding which schools have the highest rates and will get the

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