Paying Tulsa Teachers For Performance Proposed

Sunday, August 2nd 2009, 11:31 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK --  Tulsa Public Schools has submitted a $55 million grant proposal to the "Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation."

The school district is asking for the organization's support to put an effective teacher in every single classroom.

The massive plan would revolutionize how TPS would recruit, retain, train, evaluate, pay and fire teachers. There are new details out about the most expensive, and possibly the most controversial, part of the plan, paying teachers for their performance.

A big part of TPS's plan to raise teacher effectiveness is to raise their salaries. But this extra money comes with serious strings attached and serious consequences.

Read the proposal online.

"Come teach with us. Come here and we're going to start with a lot more money," said Dr. Keith Ballard, Tulsa School Superintendent.

But more money will come at a price. Right now, teachers are paid based on two things: advanced degrees and experience. TPS would scrap that in favor of paying for performance.

"If they're achieving at the performance standards that we expect them to achieve at, everybody will earn more money, so the teachers in Tulsa will be very well compensated," Dr. Ballard said.

Core subject teachers, like math and reading teachers, could earn big bonuses. The bonuses would be based on an evaluation done by a principal, how much their students' test scores improve in a year and how much their school as a whole improves for a total of up to $24,000 in bonuses.

8/2/2009 Related story: TPS Superintendent Seeks $55 Million From Gates Foundation

The emphasis is on gains, not overall scores so the teachers who instruct students who have the potential to gain the most will likely be rewarded the most.

Not all bonuses are created equal either. Those teaching key testing areas in key grade levels stand to make the most.

But, Ballard said teachers in less challenging schools or in non-tested areas, like art and music, won't be excluded.

"I mean the way that the evaluation system is designed, they can do quite well also. Now, they're not on the frontlines of the testing so they may not do quite as well, but it doesn't leave anybody out," Dr. Keith Ballard said.

If you don't make the grade, you won't just lose out on a bonus. TPS said they're serious about showing ineffective teachers the door. Current teachers can choose to opt out of the new system, but new teachers will automatically be enrolled.

Dr. Ballard said this new standard of paying for performance goes all the way up to principals and district-wide administrators.