Attracting High Quality Teachers to DC Schools That Need Them Most
Should DC try to recruit talented teachers to low-performing schools though financial incentives? A teacher incentive bill introduced in November by Chairman Kwame Brown, The Highly Effective Teacher Incentive Act of 2011, would do just that on a pilot basis. It was discussed this week in a public hearing, drawing valuable feedback on the structure and rollout of the program.
Too often, urban school districts like DC face the challenge of attracting and retaining high quality teachers to public schools plagued by high poverty rates and limited resources. Brown’s bill proposes a three-year pilot program to place a maximum of 20 teachers in four high-need schools with the following incentives:
- A bonus of $10,000 per year each year that the teacher remains in the high-need high school (in addition to any IMPACT bonuses);
- Homebuyer and other housing assistance;
- Tuition assistance;
- Loan repayment assistance; and
- Income tax credits.
Both DCPS and public charter schools would be eligible for the program, if passed.
The Office of the State Superintendent for Education reported that 38 of the 218 DC schools are currently identified as high-need, which is defined as schools of 200 or more students that have been in existence five or more years, where less than 40% of their students meet reading and math proficiency and more than 75% of students qualify for Free and Reduced Price Lunch. Earlier this week, Bill Turque noted the uneven distribution of effective teachers – of the 663 teachers deemed highly effective on the latest IMPACT evaluations, only 71 work in the 41 schools in Wards 7 and 8, while 135 teach in the 10 schools in Ward 3.
IMPACT, DC’s existing teacher evaluation system does reward highly effective teachers with bonuses up to $25,000 and base salary increases up to $20,000, but does not directly address the distribution of high quality teachers. DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson expressed support for the pilot program, after a provision to exempt participating highly effective teachers from IMPACT evaluations was removed. She and other witnesses pointed out that incentives alone do not cut it — that teachers also need a supportive environment with good principal leadership and parent engagement. Henderson also noted DCPS’ recent efforts to lure effective principals back from Montgomery County by adjusting their pay scale.
Some witnesses expressed concern that the IMPACT system is being used as the basis to identify highly effective teachers for the program, given its controversial nature in DC; others thought the timeline for the pilot program may be too short to see results in student performance.
It is becoming increasingly clear that effective teachers play a critical role in bridging achievement gaps and that the lack of a high quality teacher can adversely affect student success when stacked against poverty and other socio-economic factors. Whether or not financial incentives alone are the answer remains unclear, but it is good that DC’s leaders are thinking about how to address this important issue.