Teacher bonus inequity shouldn’t be a surprise

State legislators suggest they’re shocked – shocked! – to learn the $40 million Teacher Performant Grant program they created is mostly rewarding teachers who work in wealthy school districts.

“The original concept was to recognize outstanding teachers, not just outstanding districts,” House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, told the Indianapolis Star. “When we drafted it we didn’t think the gap would be as large,” Sen. Ryan Mishler, R- Bremen, who helped create the program, told WFYI News.

Really? Because it was entirely predictable that this would happen.

Gov. Mike Pence proposed the program, and legislators approved the formula that spells out how the grants are distributed. The primary way that schools qualify for the grants is if at least 75 percent of their students pass the state’s ISTEP exams. If at least 90 percent of students pass, they get larger grants. If schools qualify, they get money for each student who passes a test.

We’ve known for a long time that passing rates on standardized tests are much higher in affluent schools than in schools that serve lots of poor students. For high-poverty Indiana schools, a 75 percent passing rate is something to dream about – especially since ISTEP got a lot tougher in 2014-15.

Schools can also qualify on the basis of graduation rates or year-to-year improvement in ISTEP passing rates. Using improvement is supposed to help equalize funding, but it doesn’t have much effect. Continue reading

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Indiana teacher grants comfort the comfortable

You hear a lot about the idea that teachers should be rewarded with higher pay for agreeing to work in the most challenging school districts, the ones with the highest percentages of poor children.

We do things differently in Indiana. Under the state’s Teacher Performance Grant program, created by the legislature and included in state law, we are rewarding teachers in low-poverty schools.

It probably wasn’t intentional, but it’s worked out that way. The grants are awarded to school corporations according to a formula that includes the passing rate on ISTEP exams, high school graduation rates and year-to-year improvement on both.

In practice, the more affluent schools – which tend to have higher test scores and graduation rates – get the bigger grants. The school corporations decide how to divvy up the money among teachers who are rated highly effective or effective.

The Indiana Department of Education informed schools of this year’s calculated performance grants in February. Based on a little sorting, here are some trends: Continue reading