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Friday, November 20, 2009

Gates Foundation Gives Teachers a $335M Raise

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation announced this week that it will grant one of the largest privately sponsored school improvement programs in recent memory -- several teacher performance improvement initiatives in more than four states.

The program will focus on efforts to improve teacher's results rather than simply compensate them on "educational qualifications."

Announced on Thursday, the $335 million investment will benefit teacher effectiveness, funding experiments in tenure, evaluation, compensation, training and mentoring in several large school districts and a handful of charter schools.

The area schools receiving the most funding include:
- Hillsborough County Florida schools from the Tampa area: $100 million;
- Memphis Tennessee schools: $90 million;
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania schools: $40 million;
- Five charter school networks in Los Angeles, California: $60 million.

The awards will help revamp systems and reward teachers based on student results. For instance in the Hillsborough system, the award there will help administrators revamp teacher annual reviews so that student performance accounts for 40 percent of the educators' reviews instead of the current 7 percent contribution.

The initiatives are proving that it isn't just about single student tests, but facilitating multiple ways to evaluate student and teacher performance.

Federal stimulus dollars are also in play. A $4.35 billion school-reform grant competition also stresses teacher effectiveness coupled with student achievement. The Gates foundation award is striving to help states fund the preparation of applications for those larger Federal grant awards.

On Thursday Ms. Gates said, "We have been in this work for almost a decade now and we've learned a lot about what works. . . . Let's focus on the thing that actually matters the most, which is the teacher."

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