State rewards efficient teachers

Teachers whose students scored high on ISTEP tests, end-of-course assessments and who graduated on time are getting a reward from the state: cash.

The state is giving schools throughout Indiana $30 million in school performance grants, which are meant to be given to highly effective and effective teachers as bonuses for their performance, an Indiana Department of Education news release said.

More than $945,000 of that money is coming to Johnson County schools. The amount schools received varies, based on 2014 ISTEP and end-of-course assessment passing rates, and graduation rates. Schools also had to conduct teacher evaluations last school year to qualify for the money, according to the news release.

Center Grove High School received the highest grant amount from the state at $74,800.

Three local schools, Sawmill Woods Elementary in Whiteland, Edinburgh Community Middle School and Indian Creek Elementary School did not get any money from the state.

How much teachers will get depends on multiple factors. For example, Center Grove High School has about 140 teachers who could share the nearly $75,000 from the state, but the money won’t be split evenly.

In order to get a bonus at all, teachers must have received highly effective or effective ratings from their school. Teacher evaluations for the 2013-14 school year haven’t been released to the public yet, but, for example, all Center Grove teachers received effective or highly effective ratings during the 2012-13 school year, according to the school district.

At Johnson County’s six public school districts, 468 teachers received highly effective ratings, and 807 received effective ratings. A total of eight teachers from Clark-Pleasant, Edinburgh, Greenwood and Indian Creek schools were told they needed to improve, and one Clark-Pleasant teacher received an ineffective rating.

State law requires teachers to be evaluated annually, and those evaluations are based on scheduled and unscheduled classroom observations, students’ performance on standardized tests and the achievement of goals set between the teacher and their principal.

Along with the effectiveness rating, the state bonuses are also calculated based upon the passing rates and growth rates on ISTEP and end-of-course assessments, and on graduation rates. So if one teacher’s students score better on ISTEP, he or she could be eligible for a higher bonus. The bonuses are also subject to bargaining, meaning school districts and teachers unions have a say in how the money is awarded, according to the department of education.

This year is the first year for the grants, which state lawmakers included in the 2013 budget. The state’s goal was to reward high performing teachers, and state lawmakers will have to decide during the upcoming budget year whether to continue funding the grant.

Any bonuses teachers receive will be in addition to any salary raises from their schools. Under state law, teachers also have to earn effective or highly effective ratings to qualify for raises from their school districts.