To qualify for State Performance Incentive Program awards, schools must either show significant improvement or maintain exceptional performance, said Eric Fry, spokesman for the Department of Education and Early Development.
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"We don't require proficiency of the students. We require growth," Fry said. "We wanted incentive for improvement."
The incentive plan includes two ways of measuring teachers, assigning values to students by a combination of how well they do on the state's Standards Based Assessments test and how much they improve.
A school gains additional points when a student performs beyond expectations.
"Improvement means more than the expected one year's growth in a year," Fry said.
The number of points needed to qualify for an award was set somewhat arbitrarily, said Les Morse, director of assessment, accountability and information management.
"We picked what we thought would be reasonable, yet challenging," he said, while also considering the amount of money available from the Alaska Legislature.
The incentive program also has another innovation, something that more and more testing programs are doing. It tracks individual students, even if they move from school to school, rather than just whomever happens to be in a particular school in a particular year.
And the federal No Child Left Behind program tracks only whether a student meets proficiency or not. Alaska's program instead gives additional points when students who meet a standard one year go on to do exceptional work the next.
And not only teachers stand to benefit, Fry said. All staff who make schools successful will participate in the award program with smaller amounts of money.
"The custodians, the lunch ladies, everyone," he said. "They all help to create a climate for learning."
A smaller amount of money, $88,000 statewide, will go to districtwide employees that also help the winning schools to their jobs.
The state isn't done perfecting the program, either, Morse said.
"We're going to revisit the value table, and make sure we picked up the right schools," he said. "We'll be analyzing the schools that got it and the others that didn't."
More said he said he expects only "minor tweaks" will need to be made.
Read more in the related article: "Teacher incentives draw criticism".
Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.