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Some Oregon schools testing teacher bonuses

Jan 25, 2013


By The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — In the past six months, seven Oregon school districts have paid about $3 million in bonuses to teachers and principals who were rated highly in districts that improved student test scores.

The performance bonuses are a federally funded project to determine whether cash rewards can boost student achievement, The Oregonian reported.

The program is run through the Portland-based nonprofit Chalkboard Project in six districts: Salem, Bend, Redmond, Crook County, Lebanon and Albany. Oregon City was going to take part, but it backed out after the teachers’ union balked. The McMinnville district is in the program independently.

Top-rated teachers and principals at schools with big achievement gains got checks as large as $4,200. The average hovered around $2,000.

The Obama administration has awarded grants to districts, nonprofits and state education departments in 26 states to test paying by performance rather than tenure.

Some teachers and principals at Oregon schools that paid bonuses say they're enthusiastic about the new evaluation system — not the money.

“The incentive money, to be honest, is just a bit offensive to many of us — like dangling this extra money in front of me would make me do something I wasn't already,” said Elizabeth Hendrie, a reading specialist at Yoshikai Elementary in Salem. “I'm already working as hard as I can.”

All six Oregon districts in the Chalkboard Project consortium gave teachers a big say in how they're evaluated. And all decided to judge teachers based on entire schools’ test score gains, not those of the particular students each taught.

Some of what the districts learn could shape the way all Oregon school districts respond this fall as they introduce teacher evaluations required by the state.

Gains in student achievement, including state test scores, must be a factor.

Districts won't have to pay bonuses based on classroom-level gains. But students’ academic growth must count toward at least 10 percent of every teacher's rating by 2014-15, said Heidi Sipe, Oregon's assistant superintendent for improvement and innovation.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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