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By Adam Offitzer February 22, 2012

Federally funded programs are underway

Establishing the education reform program, Race To The Top, over two and a half years ago, President Barack Obama called for innovative ways to reward the most effective teachers.

In our last update on this promise, we found that developing new ways to compensate teachers was one criteria for winning a Race To The Top grant. Now, grants have been given out, and there are multiple winners that have initiated new methods of rewarding teachers. States including New York, Ohio, Florida and Rhode Island are developing new ways to measure teacher effectiveness.

In addition to creating the Race To The Top, President Obama successfully expanded and revised the Teacher Investment Fund (TIF). The TIF was established by President George W. Bush in 2006 to provide grants to schools that utilize merit-based salary plans for teachers and principals.

Obama increased funding for TIF (from $97 million in fiscal year 2009 to $400 million in fiscal year 2010 – and $200 million more from the stimulus) and also altered the criteria for grant recipients to place "more emphasis on teacher evaluations and professional development," according to Education Week.

In September 2010, the Department of Education gave out $442 million worth of TIF grants to 62 schools across the country. Winners of the funds demonstrated a commitment to new methods of rewarding teachers.

For instance, at least five school systems included mentor programs into their proposals. One was the REACH initiative in the Austin Independent School District, in Texas, which hires 32 full-time mentors whose "sole job is to support novice teachers," said David Lussier, the district"s Executive Director of Educator Quality. Each mentor works with a group of 8 to 10 new teachers. Both the mentors and the teachers receive extra incentives and compensation for improvements in performance. Lussier said TIF funds have been "vital" to increasing teacher salaries in his district and have also been "a catalyst for a lot of the innovation that has taken place around educator quality."

Lussier added that the TIF grant has been used not just for expanding the mentoring program, but also for developing new teacher evaluation practices. "We"ve been developing multiple measures of performance for all teachers, we've been using value-added data...we've been providing more targeted professional development, [and] we've been rewarding high-quality principals, not just teachers," he said.

Obama recently included a $5 billion proposal in his 2013 budget, released Feb. 13, 2012, targeted at more innovation in teaching. The initiative, called RESPECT (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching), is another competitive grant program that focuses on professional development, as well as "recognizing, rewarding, and learning from great teachers and principals," as Arne Duncan put it in a town hall meeting two days after the budget was released. The latest budget also includes a "$100 million increase to the nearly $300 million Teacher Incentive Fund," according to Education Week.

The Obama administration has hit some bumps in the road on this promise. In the 2012 fiscal year appropriation, funding for TIF took a hit, dropping from $400 million to around $300 million. Jo Ann Webb, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, says the Department currently has $284 million that "will go towards new awards." Webb said applications for the grants will be invited in late May.

Additionally, in the deal reached on the fiscal 2012 spending bill, the administration failed in a bid to restructure the teacher-quality programs into three new competitive programs, according to an account in Education Week. Obama has included similar proposals in his 2013 budget, but, as Education Week noted, "Any new spending program—particularly one with a $5 billion price tag—isn't likely to become a reality."

Obama hasn't gotten everything he has proposed in to promote improved teacher performance, but he has put programs in place toward that end. We rate this a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Dept. Unveils Revamped Rules for Teacher-Pay Fund, Education Week:

Changes on the Horizon for TIF, Education Week:

Teacher Incentive Fund Fact Sheet, Department of Education:

U.S. Department of Education Announces $442 Million in Teacher Incentive Fund Grants, Dept. of Ed. Press Release:

"The Obama/Biden Plan,"

"Teacher Incentive Fund Awards, Department of Education:

Program Plan for TIF,

"Fiscal 2012 Budget: Teacher Quality Programs," Education Week:

FY 2011 ED Budget Summary, Dept. of Education:

"Obama"s Teacher Plans Stress Competitive Grants," Education Week:

Interview, Jo Ann Webb

Interview, David Lussier

Arne Duncan February 15 Town Hall

"Obama Budget Touts Selective Boosts In Ed. Funding":
Page 20. Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Summary.

Robert Farley
By Robert Farley November 9, 2009

Grants to encourage rewards for good teachers

President Obama has packed a number of his campaign promises related to education into his "Race to the Top" program, which seeks to encourage innovative approaches to teaching and learning by having states compete for $4.35 billion worth of grants from the Department of Education. The program was funded through the Obama-backed economic stimulus package approved by Congress in February.

In a July 24, 2009 op-ed piece for the Washington Post -- under the headline "Education Reform's Moon Shot" -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan said states seeking grants under "Race to the Top" guidelines will be pressed to implement four core reforms.

Creating better ways to reward good teachers was one of them.
To boost the quality of teachers and principals, especially in high-poverty schools and hard-to-staff subjects, states and districts should be able to identify effective teachers and principals -- and have strategies for rewarding and retaining more top-notch teachers and improving or replacing ones who aren't up to the job," Duncan wrote.
In a speech in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 4, Obama formally announced the criteria for states to win the grants.

One of those is to encourage the reward of effective teachers and provide incentives to keep those teachers in struggling schools that so desperately need them. 

"We know that from the moment our kids enter a school, the most important factor in their success -- other than their parents -- is the person standing in front of the classroom, the teacher," Obama said. "The second measure is whether a state is committed to putting effective teachers in its classrooms and effective principals at the helm of its schools.

"Now, it's time to start taking this commitment seriously. We've got to do a better job recruiting and preparing new teachers.  We've got to do a better job of rewarding outstanding teachers.  And I've got to be honest, we've got to do a better job of moving bad teachers out of the classroom, once they've been given an opportunity to do it right.

"And that means creating alternate pathways to teaching for talented young people by expanding programs like the one used in Boston, where aspiring teachers work side-by-side with effective mentors in a year-long residency," Obama said. "It means bringing quality teachers in -- it means bringing quality teachers to the neighborhoods that need them the most, because right now a lot of what happens is, is that some of the best teachers, as they get seniority, they move on to the places -- the school districts that pay better and, frankly, are easier to teach.  And we've got to give them some incentives to stay so that the kids who need the most help are getting some of the best teachers."

That rhetoric was backed up in the Notice of Priorities for the "Race to the Top" grants, which talks about "ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals."

According to the notice inviting applications, rewarded will be "the extent to which the State has a high-quality plan  and ambitious yet achievable annual targets to increase the number and percentage of highly effective teachers and principals in high-poverty schools, and to increase the number and percentage of effective teachers teaching hard-to-staff subjects including mathematics, science, special education, English language proficiency, and other  hard-to-staff subjects identified by the State or LEA (local educational agencies). Plans may include, but are not limited to, the implementation of incentives and strategies in areas such as recruitment, compensation, career development, and human resources practices and processes."

Competition for the grants will be conducted in two rounds -- the first starting this month and the second in June of next year -- with winners announced in April and September 2010.

In his July op-ed piece, Duncan said the $4.35 billion available in "Race to the Top" program "easily outstrips the combined sum of discretionary funds for reform that all of my predecessors as education secretary had" and marks "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" for the federal government to encourage far-reaching improvements.
We think it is certainly enough to move this Obama promise to In the Works.

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