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January 16, 2013

Eastern receives $198,750 in state grants

Corporation to use money to reward top teachers

GREENTOWN — Eastern Howard School Corp. received $198,750 in state grants Monday to reward its top-performing teachers.

It was among 40 districts across Indiana to receive a share of $10 million in the second round of Excellence in Performance for Teacher’s grants from the Indiana Department of Education.

More than 100 school districts applied for this round of funds.

Both Western School Corp. and Peru Community Schools received money in the first round of grants.

The money Eastern received will be divided among the corporations’ best teachers.

“This is a nice reward for all the hard work the teachers have done,” said Eastern Superintendent Tracy Caddell.

Eastern teachers can earn a bonus by being rated “effective” or “highly effective” on the new teacher evaluation system the district implemented.

A state law that went into effect this school year mandates evaluations that link a teacher’s rating to student performance.

The law also requires that teachers’ pay be linked to their evaluations.

Most local schools aren’t implementing that part of the law for at least two years, though, because teacher salaries are already locked in by contract, officials said.

Eastern was among those districts – until it found out it was receiving this grant.

“This will be a good step for the teachers to see how the compensation model will work,” Caddell said.

The district will be awarding teachers up to $2,500 in bonuses based on this year’s evaluations. Teachers rated “highly effective” will earn $2,250, and those considered “effective” will receive an extra $2,000.

Those teachers will receive another $250 if they have at least a 95 percent attendance rate at school, Caddell said. Research shows that teachers who are in the classroom more often have students who achieve higher, he said.

The money likely won’t be handed out until October, though, the superintendent said.

Because the evaluations have to be linked to student performance, they can’t be completed until the results of state assessments like ISTEP come back in the fall, he said.

Caddell said his teachers have worked hard to adjust to the new evaluation system.

It took them a lot of time at the beginning of the year to set student learning objectives, he said. They had to determine what their kids knew and how they would get them to master a year’s worth of material before the school year ended.

Then they have to sit in on meetings with their principal both before and after all of the classroom observations to discuss what they did well and how they can improve.

And they’re constantly analyzing data under the new evaluation system, Caddell said. Right now, teachers are looking at school-wide assessment data to see what concepts they need to work on with their classes to prepare for the upcoming ISTEP.

“It’s just been a lot on their plates,” Caddell said.

Teachers don’t join the profession for the money, Caddell said, but this bonus will be nice for them.

“The process of adjusting to a new evaluation is stressful,” he said. “They’ve handled it very well.”

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