Bonuses for Austin educators continue to rise as program expands
Summer bonus checks were doled out Wednesday to Austin educators who participate in the district's merit pay program.
The district paid out $6.8 million in bonus checks for July, a 33 percent increase from the same time last year. Bonuses paid so far for 2011-12 under the Reach program total $8.9 million, an average of $5,394 among the 1,650 teachers and administrators, who were rewarded for meeting goals in staff retention, professional development or student learning objectives.
The learning objectives are targets for students' academic growth that teachers set at the beginning of the school year and aim to achieve by the end.
Teachers can receive a maximum of $11,500 per year, and principals can get up to $21,500. In September, the educators will get another round of bonuses based on meeting schoolwide goals.
The district expanded the program in 2011-12 from 19 to 27 of the district's 112 traditional schools.
The Reach program, which just completed its fifth year, is largely paid for through a $62 million five-year federal grant that is dependent on state and local matches. The district just completed its second year of the grant and received $1.9 million from the state for the Reach program.
For 2012-13, the district will expand the program to 36 campuses, including all schools that feed into high schools in East Austin. The exception is Allan Elementary, which will no longer participate because it is becoming an in-district charter school run by IDEA Public Schools.
"We're really excited about the opportunity this program offers teachers to improve their instructional practice," said Joann Taylor, assistant director of strategic compensation.
The program is going in the right direction, said Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, the labor group that represents about 3,000 teachers and other district employees.
"The Reach program addresses the fundamental needs in education that teaching to the test doesn't necessarily address because education is more than a test score," he said.
An important part of the program, Zarifis said, is the professional development unit, in which educators collaborate to study research and best practices. "This is another aspect of Reach that is very powerful as we begin to build collaborative spaces and cultures in classrooms," he said. "Teachers can't just go into the classroom, shut the door and stay there."